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

Rahul Kaushal 

Postdoctoral Researcher

Rahul is currently contributing his expertise as a postdoctoral fellow at the Colorado School of Mines. Hailing from India, he previously held a postdoctoral position at Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad. He did his Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from IIT Gandhinagar. He is a geomorphologist who has a wide range of interests across a variety of active earth surface processes operating at different scales. In his research, he aims to understand the intricate links and feedback mechanisms among climate, tectonics, and surface processes that control and shape the evolution of landscapes at various spatio-temporal scales. His research tools include multidisciplinary approaches by combining quantitative geomorphology, geochronology (such as Optically Stimulated Luminescence and terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide dating), remote sensing, GIS, hydrology, hydraulics and structural geology. This comprehensive approach integrates extensive laboratory work, both basic numerical and physical modeling, as well as meticulous field investigations. Currently, one single phrase can summarise his primary research interests and that is – ‘tectonics, climate and erosion: sediment transfer from source to sink’ in a variety of geomorphic settings. Such a mechanistic approach is necessary to better understand the interactions between surface and subsurface processes. If we know why and how a landscape changes, we can use that knowledge to develop effective and sustainable management strategies, where instead of working against nature, we can work with it to make things better for the well-being of society.

Beyond the academic sphere, Rahul finds pleasure in reading, traveling, spending time with family & friends, cooking delicious Indian food and discovering picturesque outdoor locations to roam around.

Mel Zhang 

(pronounced “jhong”)

PHD Student – Geology

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.

Cornelis Reijm


Cornelis has bounced around from country to country and place to place for a while, so it’s no surprise that he eventually managed to bounce his way into Colorado. Hailing from Florida, Cornelis is a Geological Engineering MSc student interested in the interactions of groundwater and rock masses and soil systems. He is particularly interested in geohazards such as landslides and debris flows and how physio-chemical interactions initiate these geohazards. He completed his BSc in Applied Earth Sciences at the Delft Institute of Technology (colloquially known as TU Delft) in 2022 and wrote his BSc thesis on characterizing discrete fractures in argillaceous rock using morphological descriptors. When he isn’t working, you’ll find him soaking in the sunshine and looking at the birds.

Samantha Burton

undergraduate research Fellow, Geological Engineering

Eliza Ross

undergraduate research Fellow, Geophysical Engineering

Isaac Pope

undergraduate researcher, Geological Engineering

Stephen Gialamas

undergraduate research Fellow, Geological Engineering

Oliver Noyes

undergraduate researcher, Mechanical Engineering

Past Group Members

Caroline Bedwell, MS 2021 – Geological Engineering (2019-2021), US Forest Service


Claire Vavrus, MS 2021 – Geology (2019-2021), Wright Water Engineering


Natalie Lasater, BS – Mines Undergraduate research fellow (2021-2022)


Seunghoo Kim, BS – Mines Undergraduate research fellow (2021-2022)


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


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