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Don Forsyth

Geological Sciences
Phone: +1 401 863 1699
Phone 2: +1 401 863 3339

I am a seismologist and marine geophysist. My research has developed along four major lines: ocean-bottom seismometer and marine geophysical studies of oceanic crust and upper mantle, isostasy of continents and oceans, lateral heterogeneities and azimuthal variations in seismic velocity in the mantle related to convection, and the dynamics of mid-ocean-ridge tectonics.


I majored in physics at Grinnell College. My graduate studies took place at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/MIT Joint Program, focusing on marine geophysics and seismology. After three years of post-doctoral research at Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University, I came to Brown as an assistant professor at the end of 1976 and have been here ever since. My interests are in the processes that create new seafloor at mid-ocean ridges, the properties of the lithosphere and asthenosphere, and the nature of small-scale convection beneath tectonic plates.


I am one of four geophysics faculty in the department. I was coordinator for the seismological phase of a project, the Mantle ELectromagnetic and Tomography (MELT) Experiment, that involved investigators from seven institutions across the country. I am currently chief scientist of the GLIMPSE (Gravity Lineations, Intraplate Melting, Petrology and Seismology Expedition) project which is exploring the origin of some enigmatic volcanic ridges in the Pacific Ocean that are clearly not of hotspot origin, yet are formed in the plate interior west of the East Pacific Rise.


Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


Phi Beta Kappa 1969
Sloan Foundation Fellowship 1977-1979
Visiting Scholar, Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst. 1977, 1982
Fellow, American Geophysical Union 1982
Macelwane Award, AGU 1982
Guggenheim Fellowship 1988-89
AGU Francis Birch Lecturer 1997
Green Scholar, IGPP 1999-2000
Special Creativity Extension, NSF 2000
George Woollard Award, Geological Society of America 2000
A.G. Huntsman Award for Excellence in Marine Sciences, 2002
Arthur L. Day Medal, Geological Society of America 2005
Elected to the National Academy of Sciences 2006


American Geophysical Union
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Seismological Society of America


GEOL 1560: Global Tectonics
GEOL 1610: Solid Earth Geophysics
GEOL 1650: Earthquake Seismology
GEOL 2630: Interpretation Theory in Geophysics
GEOL 2920: Marine Geophysical Techniques
GEOL 2920: Tectonics of the Western United States (w/K. Fischer)

Current Graduate Students:
Samuel Bell

Former Graduate Students:
Timothy Bechtel, Ph.D. '89
Donna Blackman, Ph.D. '91
Catherine Booth, Sc.M. '13
James Conder, Ph.D. '01
Michael Eberle, Ph.D. '97
Richard Ehrenbard, Sc.M. '80
Phyllis Friedemann, Sc.M. '84
Lisa Gaddis, Sc.M. '81
John Gephart, Ph.D. '86
Nicholas Harmon, Ph.D. '06
Shu-Huei Hung, Ph.D. '98
Ban-Yuan Kuo, Ph.D. '88
Eugene Lavely, Sc.M. '86
Gregory Neumann, Ph.D. '93
Clyde Nishimura, Ph.D. '86
Robert Pickle, Sc.M. '08
Roger Prince, Ph.D. '88
Ilene Samowitz, Sc.M. '80
Yang Shen, Ph.D. '95
Natsumi Shintaku, Sc.M. '13
Lee Silverman, Sc.M. '95
Mitchel Stark, Sc.M. '82
Dyanthie Weeraratne, Ph.D. '04
Yingjie Yang, Ph.D. '05
Weidong Yi, Sc.M. '91
Aileen Yingst, Ph.D. '98
Yun Wang, Ph.D. '11

Funded Research


NSF: PI Fischer/Forsyth. Understanding lithospheric suturing and passive margin development beneath the southeastern U.S.

NSF/MARGINS: PI Forsyth. Enhanced 3-D tomography of the crust and upper mantle beneath the Gulf Extensional Province and Baja California.

NSF: PI Forsyth. 3-D tomography of the crust and upper mantle beneath the Gulf Extensional Province and Baja, California.

NSF: PI Forsyth and collaborating institutions. Mantle dynamics and magmatism across the Basin and Range.

NSF: PI Forsyth and collaborating institutions. Depth distribution of anisotropic fabric in the oceanic mantle.

NSF: PI Forsyth/Saal. Sampling basalts in the Quebrada Discovery-Gofar transform fault system: Testing models of mantle flow and melt transport.

Web Links

Curriculum Vitae

Download Don Forsyth's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format