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Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professor Pluhar

Christopher J Pluhar

Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2003

Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences 
California State University, Fresno
2576 E. San Ramon Ave., Mail Stop ST-24 
Fresno, CA 93740 

Tel(559) 278-1128 
Fax. (559) 278-5980 

Science II 126

Office Hours:
W:   2:00-3:00pm EES 201 (Online)
F:    11:00-12:00pm EES 30 & 1:00-2:00pm EES 30 (Online)



Teaching Interests and Philosphy

Currently I teach Natural Disasters and Earth Resources (GEOL1), Introductory Field Methods (GEOL30), Engineering Geology (GEOL114), and Paleomagnetism & Geomagnetism (GEOL130T). My teaching interests are broad, spanning survey courses for non-scientists to graduate level courses, theoretical as well as applied subjects, qualitative as well as quantitative material.

My teaching goals for non-scientists are to develop in students an understanding of the scientific method and couple that with practical information that the student will use again in the future such as: how to minimize one's exposure to natural hazards through one's lifestyle choices (e.g. not buying a house on the flood plain), what to do during natural disasters. where our natural and energy resources come from and their limits, what's all the fuss about climate change anyway, what's all the fuss about evolution and the age of the Earth anyway, etc.

My teaching goals for future Earth and environmental scientists is to provide them a firm foundation in the course material being covered and to help the students develop the scientific reasoning and quantitative competence that is sought after in the job market. In addition, I strongly believe in teaching students some practical occupational skills that will result in job offers after graduation.

In my classes I include project-based curriculum – where students work collaboratively to conduct short original research projects. My courses also rely upon field trips to help students take their textbook knowledge and apply it in the real world. Throughout my courses I try to inject alternative teaching methods, such as techniques to encourage collaborative learning, student-led interludes, and project-based teaching.


My research interests span several themes in Earth and environmental science.

I have a long-standing interest in late Cenozoic tectonics of western North America . My research topics include: 1) working out the timing of initiation of the Walker Lane belt/Eastern California shear zone, 2) testing hypotheses for Sierra Nevada uplift timing and mechanisms and what this reveals about uplift processes and the life cycle of the lithosphere, 3) formulating models for understanding rotation of fault bounded blocks of lithosphere and the progressive cataclasis of the lithosphere during tectonic deformation, and 4) the relationship between volcanism, a nascent metamorphic core complex and geothermal resources at the Coso Volcanic Field . Future directions will include work on the kinematics and deformation history along the San Andreas fault system.

I also have a continuing interest in unraveling the paleoclimatic signal contained within Pleistocene Missoula Flood and other glacial cataclysmic flood sediments of Washington and Oregon using magnetostratigraphy and cosmogenic burial dating. My previous work in collaboration with scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory indicate that these events have recurred during glaciations since 1.1 million years ago.

Currently I am seeking graduate students to participate in research on:

  • Sierra Nevada uplift/Walker Lane tectonics
  • Improving understanding of San Andreas fault evolution by correlating units that have been offset by this fault
  • Working out the Paleocene-Eocene depositional history of the California Coast ranges near Fresno , including an analog period for current climate change – the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum.

Selected Publications

Pluhar , C.J., Coe, R.S., Lewis, J.C., Monastero, F.C., and Glen, J.M.G., 2006. Fault block kinematics at a releasing stepover of the Eastern California Shear Zone; partitioning of rotation style in and around the Coso geothermal area and nascent metamorphic core complex. EPSL, v.250(1-2), pp. 134-163.

Pluhar , C.J., Bjornstad, B.N., Reidel, S., Coe, R.S., Nelson, P.B., 2006. Magnetostratigraphic evidence from the Cold Creek bar for onset of ice-age cataclysmic floods in eastern Washington during the early Pleistocene. Quaternary Research, v. 65(1), pp. 123-135.

Busby, C.J., Wagner, D., Hagan, J., Putirka, K., Pluhar , C.J., Gans, P., Rood, D., and Skilling, I. , 2006, Mapping of Cenozoic volcanic rocks in the central high Sierra: Clues to understanding landscape evolution and range-front faulting. In: Geology of the Central Sierra, NAGT Far Western Section field trip guidebook, September 29 - Ocotober 1, 2006, Sonora California, pp. 1-53.

Pluhar , C.J., Coe, R.S., Sampson, D.E., Glen, J.M.G., Monastero, F.C., and Tanner, S.B., 2005. Lava fingerprinting using pa leomagnetism and innovative X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy; a case study from the Coso volcanic field, Californi a . Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v.6, Q04001, doi:10.1029/2004GC000707.

Pluhar , C.J., 2003 Paleomagnetic and Geochemical Applications to Tectonics and Quaternary Geology: Studies at Coso Volcanic Field, CA and the Channeled Scabland, WA. Ph.D. thesis University of California , Santa Cruz .

Bjornstad, B.N., Fecht, K.R. and Pluhar , C.J., 2001. Long History of Pre-Wisconsin, Ice-Age Cataclysmic Floods: Evidence from Southeastern Washington State . Journal of Geology, v. 109, no. 6, pp. 695-713.

Downey , D.C. , Pluhar , C.J ., Archabal, S.R., 1995. Performance and Cost Evaluation of Purus PADRE Regenerative Resin System for the Treatment of Hydrocarbon Vapors from Fuel-Contaminated Soils. Report to United States Air Force by Parsons Engineering Science Inc., Denver , CO , 30 pp.

Pluhar , C.J., Holt, J.H., Kirschvink, J.L., Beratan, K. and Adams . R.W., 1992. Magn etostratigraphy of the Plio-Pleistocene Lake Sediments in the Confidence Hills of Southern Death Valley , California . San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly, v. 39, no. 2, pp. 12-19. See

Pluhar , C.J., Kirschvink, J.L. and Adams . R.W., 1991. Magnetostratigraphy and Clockwise Rotation of the Plio-Pleistocene Mojave River Formation, Central Mojave Desert , California . San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly, v. 38, no. 2, pp. 31-42. See

Manuscripts in Press, Revision, or Review

Busby, C.J., Hagan, J., Putirka, K., Pluhar C.J., Gans, P., Rood, D., DeOreo, S., Skilling, I. And Wagner, D. 200x. The ancestral Cascade arc, central Sierra Nevada , California : implications for development of the Sierran microplate and tectonic significance of high K 2 O volcanism. Accepted to GSA special publication ed. Hopson.

Lewis, C.J., Twiss, R.J., Pluhar C.J., and Monastero, F.C., 200x. Multiple constraints on divergent strike-slip deformation along the eastern margin of the Sierran microplate, SE California . In press GSA special paper 434, Exhumation associated with continental strike-slip fault systems .

King, N.M., Hillhouse, J.W., Gromme, S., Hausback, B.P., and Pluhar , C.J., 200x. Stratigraphy, paleomagnetism, geochemistry, and anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility of the Miocene Stanislaus Group, central Sierra Nevada and Sweetwater Mountains , California and Nevada , submitted to Geosphere .

Complete CV (PDF file)