Melanie Michalak

Associate Professor

Melanie Michalak wearing a green shirt and tan hat smiling and posing in front of a rock outcrop of Morrison Fm.
(707) 826-4978
Founders Hall, Rm. 162

Mountains are a first-order expression of the forces associated with plate tectonics. As topography is created, it is simultaneously altered by interactions with Earth’s atmosphere. My research addresses the interactions between crustal exhumation, uplift, erosion and deposition in active orogens by drawing upon quantitative techniques including low-temperature thermochronology, detrital geochronology and cosmogenic radionuclides to quantify rates and timings of processes responsible for growth and decay in orogenic settings.

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor, Cal Poly Humboldt, 2015-present
  • Lecturer, Cal Poly Humboldt, 2013-2015

Specialty Area

Tectonics, Geomorphology, Geochronology


Ph.D., Earth & Planetary Sciences, University of California - Santa Cruz, 2013
M.S., Earth & Planetary Sciences, University of California - Santa Cruz, 2009
B.S., Environmental Earth Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006

Courses Taught

GEOL 100 - Stars to Rocks
GEOL 106 - Earthquake Country
GEOL 109 - General Geology
GEOL 110 - Geology of the Western US
GEOL 303 - Earth Resources and Environmental Global Change
GEOL 306 - General Geomorphology
GEOL 334 - Structural Geology
GEOL 335 - Field Methods I
GEOL 475 - Summer Field Camp Capstone
GEOL 486 - Research Methods
GEOL 524 - Methods in Geochronology
GEOL 700 - Finding Faults


*denotes student author

*Curran, M.C., Hales, G. Michalak, M.J., 2017. Ground Based Application of Structure From Motion (SFM) to Quantify Gravel Storage in Response to Gravel Augmentation on a High Gradient, Mountainous Stream, with no Access to the Global Positioning System (GPS), 35th Annual Salmonid Restoration Conference Proceedings, pg 81. 

*Gray III, S., Hall, S.R., Bailey, D.G., Michalak, M.J., 2017. New Geochemical and Geochronological Data from two granitic islands of Downeast Main: Mount Desert Rock and Great Duck Island, Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 49, No. 2
doi: 10.1130/abs/2017NE-291262 

Michalak, M.J., Hall, S.R., Farber, D.L., Audin, L., Hourigan, J.K., 2016. Late Miocene-Pliocene Accelerated Exhumation in the Northern Peruvian Andes, Lithosphere, v. 8, no. 2, doi:10.1130/L485.1 

*Crawford, B., *Vermeer, J. , Hemphill-Haley, M, Michalak, M.J., 2015, Analysis of Holocene Marine Terraces, Cape Mendocino to Mattole River, Northern California: Interpretations and Implications to Mendocino Triple Junction Tectonics. Eos Trans. AGU, Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract G11A-0473. Poster. 

Michalak, M.J., Hall, S.R., Farber, D., Hourigan, J.K. 2014, Cooling and Exhumation of the Coastal Batholith in the Peruvian Andes (5-12°S), Eos Trans. AGU, Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract EP21A-3528. Poster.

Michalak, M.J., 2013. “Exhumation Of The Peruvian Andes; Insights From Mineral Chronometers” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California Santa Cruz, 166p.,

*Hodson, K.R., Hall, S.R., Michalak, M.J., Farber, D., Hourigan, J.K., 2012, Holocene denudation and landscape deformation in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, Eos Trans. AGU, Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract T21E-2615. 

Michalak, M.J., Hall, S.R., Farber, D., and Hourigan, J.K., 2011, Late Cenozoic exhumation in the northern Peruvian Andes, EOS Trans, AGU, Fall Meeting Suppl., T14C-01. 

Michalak, M.J., Hall, S.R., Farber, D.L., Hourigan, J.K., and Rose, E.J., 2010. Evidencía para un Pulso Mioceno Tardio de Exhumación en los Andes Centrales Peruanos Usando Termochronolgía, Sociedad Geológica del Perú Publicación. 

Michalak, M.J., 2009. “Reconstructing erosion distribution during the early Holocene Indian summer monsoon in the NW Himalaya” M.S. Thesis, University of California, Santa Cruz, 74p., OCLC# 464696658