Danica Roth, phd

Assistant Professor

Department of geology and geological engineering

Department of Geophysics (courtesy joint appointment)

Hydrologic Science and Engineering Program

Hi! I’m a physicist/astrophysicist-turned-planetary-scientist-turned-geomorphologist/geophysicist with broadly interdisciplinary research interests. At this point, the best label I can come up with for my work is process bioecogeomorephysiseismology.

As an undergrad at UC Berkeley, I started out wanting to research black holes and galaxy formation, but eventually realized I would be happier using physics to contribute more tangibly to science that intersects with climate change and global environmental justice. I transitioned into geoscience by way of planetary science and a summer internship at SETI, where I mapped river networks on Titan but, unfortunately, encountered neither extraterrestrial life nor Jodie Foster. During my PhD at UC Santa Cruz, I developed the use of seismometers to monitor coarse sediment bouncing along river beds during transport. Sediment transport is crucial to a wide range of fields and topics, but also incredibly challenging to measure with traditional techniques because most sediment moves during floods, when rivers can become extremely dangerous. As a grad student, I also became deeply involved in STEM activism and education through the Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators’ Professional Development Program, as VP and Outreach Coordinator for Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), and by helping to found the WiSE Up Reading Group and Geoscientists Encouraging Openness & Diversity in the Earth Sciences (GEODES). After grad school, I spent two years as a NSF postdoc at the University of Oregon, where I threw 1000 rocks down very steep hills to develop a mathematical model for the statistics of long-distance particle motion over varying topography (in this case, densely vegetated and recently burned by wildfire).

My current research interests center on quantifying and relating active surface processes to landscape form and evolution across scales. Common themes in my work include examining feedbacks and morphodynamics in complex Earth surface systems, linking empirical observations and applications to the development of physically-based theory, and looking for signals in the noise of geomorphic data.

Back when I had more free time (pre-pre-tenure), I was an avid rock climber, world traveler, foodie, gardener, baker and occasional metalsmith. I plan to someday be all of those things again. Regardless of free time, I am always committed to engaging my intersecting passions for equity and education through outreach, advocacy, mentorship and building inclusive and supportive communities.


Faculty page  |  CV  |  google scholar  |  github

Current Group Members

Caroline Bedwell

MS Student – Geological Engineering

Caroline is a MS student interested in how climate impacts post-wildfire soil hydrology. She finished her BS in Geology at Indiana University in 2018 and has previously researched the effects of sediment deprivation on the Mississippi River Delta. She has a minor in French literature and an interest in GIS. Contact her about your post-fire infiltration datasets!

Claire Vavrus

MS Student – Geology

Claire Vavrus is a MS student in the Geology Department interested in erosional features that develop in burned landscapes. She is currently working on assessing methods for mapping rill networks that develop following wildfire in the western United States. She earned her BS in Geology and Geological Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018, where she conducted an undergraduate research project on glacial chronology in the Beartooth Mountains in southwestern Montana.

Hayden Jacobson

PHD Student – Geology

Hayden is a Geology PhD student interested in studying the relationship between geologic hazards, environmental changes, and land use. He completed his BS in Geological Sciences at the University of Oregon in 2017 and has experience in geotechnical engineering. His other interests include aviation, photography, and the wide variety of outdoor activities Colorado offers. 

Mel Zhang 

(pronounced “jhong”)

PHD Student – Geophysics

Mel has had what can be considered an “interdisciplinary” approach to academia (and life in general), and believes that categorizations are largely illusionary. After getting her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from U.C. Santa Barbara, she graduated to teaching and performing the art of circus, with emphases in aerial and fire dance. She recently turned her pursuits towards earth science and obtained her master’s degree in geology from C.U. Boulder, where she focused on seismology of shallow subduction zones. She currently studies surface processes using geophysical techniques (aka environmental seismology) and has a keen interest in progressing academia and science towards equitable access, representation, and inclusivity. On weekends, she can be found juggling, rock climbing, or hanging upside down from something.

Past Group Members

Thomas Busath, BS 2020 – Mines Undergraduate Research Fellow (2019-2020)


Alex Coronado, BS 2021 – Mines Undergraduate research fellow (2020-2021), Geologist with Freeport McMoran