Lao Davila Research

Research Program

My research focuses on understanding the kinematics and strain along plate boundaries. Using structural geological techniques to analyze strain at all scales, I investigate the tectonic evolution of collisional plate boundaries and associated transpressional deformation zones.

The Caribbean-North America plate boundary has had a complex tectonic evolution since its formation in the Pacific Basin. It has evolved from an orthogonal subduction zone into a transpressional oblique subduction zone, with accretion of terranes into the North American Plate and formation of pull-apart basins in left-stepping transform boundaries. I have conducted research in the Puerto Rico region to determine the different tectonic events from the Cretaceous to the present on the Northeastern margin of the Caribbean Plate.

In addition, I am interested in the effects of pre-existing fabrics on the initial stages of continental rifting. The East African Rift is an exceptional place to study the processes that form continental rifts. I have teamed up with geophysical collaborators to investigate the role of pre-existing structures in the formation of new faults in the rift.

The study of strain and stress in a plate boundary zone is of great importance to the discipline of geology because of its implications for better understanding of plate interactions, strain localization, crustal strength, and tectonic evolution. These variables have a fundamental impact on the fields of seismic hazards and economic geology. I am also interested in research in the North American Mid-Continent region because it contains unexpected seismicity, and ancient rifts, subduction complexes, and intracratonic shear zones.




1. Laó-Dávila, D.A., Atekwana, E.A., and Ivey, T., IRES: Research opportunities in continental rift initiation for US undergraduate geoscience students in Malawi; NSF OISE-IRES; IIA-1358150; Total amount funded: $244,276 ($225,554 to Boone Pickens School of Geology); Award dates: 10/01/2014-01/30/2017. 
2. Anderson, T.H. and Laó-Dávila, D.A. "Structural processes recorded during emplacement of oceanic lithosphere above Late Cretaceous carbonate beds and reefs in southwestern Puerto Rico", Co-Principal Investigator, Funded by Exxon-Mobil, Total amount funded: $39,000; Grant Period: 2006-2008. 
3. Laó-Dávila, D.A., "Serpentinite Emplacement and Deformation in Subduction Zones: Example from Puerto Rico, Northeastern Caribbean", $1,000, Funded by Geological Society of America Graduate Student Grant, Grant Period: 2005.
4. Laó-Dávila, D.A., Geological Society of America Meeting Student Travel Grant, 2004 
5. Laó-Dávila, D.A., International Geologic Congress Student Travel Grant, 2004 
6. Laó-Dávila, D.A., "Neotectonics of western Puerto Rico; paleostress and paleomagnetic study", $1,600, Funded by Geological Society of America Graduate Student Grant, Grant Period: 2001 

Non-competitive awards 
1. Laó-Dávila, D.A., 20 MOVE Software Licenses for teaching and research; Donated by Midland Valley Exploration Ltd; 2012-2015; Estimated value of software: $164,000 per license per year. 
Internal Funded 
1. Laó-Dávila, D.A., Deformation of the upper crust in Oklahoma from Global Positioning Systems; Fall travel award: Total amount requested: $500; Duration: 08/2013-12/2013. 2. Laó-Dávila, D.A., Transpression of igneous intrusive bodies: a record of oblique convergence and magma flow kinematics; ASR +1: Total amount requested: Summer salary and $1,000 supplement; Duration: 07/2011-05/2012.

Student Opportunities

Ph.D. Projects
1. Age, transpression, and characterization of the Northern Puerto Rico Fault Zone - contact me for more information.
M.S. Projects
1. Transpression and emplacement of the Utuado Batholith: Key to understanding the Late Cretaceous deformation of the North America-Caribbean Plate Boundary Zone - contact me for more information.
2. Structural and textural analyses of the Mega Breccia along the Southern Puerto Rico Fault Zone - contact me for more information.
3. Fracture characterization of Mississippian carbonate reservoirs- contact me for more information.
4. Strain localization and partitioning during the early stages of continental rifting in Malawi- contact me for more information.
5. Using Lidar to characterize fracture patterns formed during serpentinization- contact me for more information.
B.S. Projects
1. Sedimentary analysis of clastic serpentinite deposits in western Puerto Rico - contact me for more information.

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