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Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professor Wakabayashi

John Wakabayashi

Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 1989

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

Tel(559) 278-6459
Fax. (559) 278-5980

Science II 127

Spring 2024 Office Hours:
M: 2:00pm-4:00pm (In-Person)
W: 11:00am-1:00pm (In-Person)
Th: 9:30am-10:30am (In-Person)
...and by appointment

Teaching Interests and Philosophy

Classes I teach include natural disasters/introductory geology (EES 1), a geologic field trip class (EES 3, structural geology (EES 106), geomorphology (EES 105), and advanced field methods (EES 107), a graduate level class on active faulting and seismic hazard analysis (EES 210), and various graduate topics classes (EES 250T), the most recent of which is Trench-Forearc Geology (F2021) and I am scheduled to teach a graduate class in advanced petrography (with emphasis on metamorphic and clastic sedimentary rocks as well as microstructures) in Fall 2022. I also filled in and taught igneous and metamorphic petrology (EES 101) in Spring 2008 and 2016 and am scheduled to teach that class in Spring 2023. I integrate my 16 years of industry experience as an engineering/environmental geologist, as well as my research, into the teaching of my classes, because the majority of geology graduates will be employed in engineering and/or environmental geology. I have developed lab exercises based on actual professional projects I have done. This helps make the course material more relevant and useful to students. I also integrate research into teaching to enhance classes in several ways including: (1) demonstrating by example the application of the scientific method in geology; (2) letting students know that so much is still not known and left for them to discover, and (3) keeping course material up to date. I strongly believe in the value of field trips and field exercises in teaching geology. In industry, I have found that the most successful geologists are those with strong field skills, and, more often than not these geologists graduated from programs with a strong field emphasis. The geologic curriculum in this department has a very strong field emphasis, so I expect CSU Fresno graduates to be very successful in their careers. I do not know of any fields in which professionals enjoy their work more than geologists do. Perhaps this is due to the uniqueness of work in the geological sciences. What other science requires the use of both the mind and body? In addition to being downright fun, geology is a field of crucial importance to humanity and demand for geologists has never been higher. Fun, fulfilling, and full employment is pretty hard to beat!

Research Interests and Philosophy

My research has spans many subdisciplines in geology with the unifying themes of mobile reference frames and tectonics. Graduate students and undergraduates are involved in all aspects of my research.  Teaching has inspired much of my research because it through teaching that I realize where some of the largest knowledge gaps are.  It goes without saying that teaching field classes directly leads to new observations that become points of departure in research too.  In addition, I believe that being in a teaching mindset facilitates better communication of research results, whether it be giving a talk or writing a paper. The main focus of my research is the geologic record of subduction and large-scale plate tectonic transitions.  I also conduct research in the evolution of strike-slip faults and strike-slip fault systems across a range of scales.  I also investigate long time and length scale geomorphic processes as well as the linkage between surface processes clastic sediments. I have also conducted research in environmental and engineering geology, particularly on the engineering significance of block-in-matrix assemblages (mélanges) and naturally-occurring asbestos.   Whereas I focus on process-oriented problems in my research, has has a strong local or regional flavor in that most my research to date has taken place in the California Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada. I have, however, been involved in research in southern Italy, Greece, Japan, Taiwan. For a complete list of publications related to my research see the c.v. linked below.  Most of these papers are available as pdfs by request (email me) or through ResearchGate at: 

Recent Selected Recent Publications (see cv for full publication list) *denotes student at time of research, **denotes student advisee at time of research:

  1. Wakabayashi, J., and Shimabukuro, D.H., in press, The contrasting geologic record of inferred 'hot' intraoceanic and 'cold' continental margin subduction initiation: in: From the Guajira desert to the Apennines, and from the Mediterranean microplates to the Mexican killer asteroid. In honor of Walter Alvarez. Geological Society of America Special Paper.


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2021c, Subduction and exhumation slip accommodation at depths of 10-80 km inferred from field geology of exhumed rocks: Evidence for temporal-spatial localization of slip: in Wakabayashi, J., and Dilek, Y., eds., Plate Tectonics, Ophiolites, and Societal Significance of Geology: A Celebration of the Career of Eldridge Moores. Geological Society of America Special Paper 552, p. 257-296. https//:


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2021b, Field and petrographic reconnaissance of Franciscan Complex rocks of Mount Diablo, California: Imbricated ocean floor stratigraphy with a roof exhumation fault system: in Sullivan, R., Sloan, D., Unruh, J.R., and Schwartz, D.P., eds. Regional Geology of Mount Diablo, California: Its Tectonic Evolution on the North American Plate Boundary. Geological Society of America Memoir 217. p. 155-178.


  1. Zhang, J., Chen, Y., Xiao, W., Wakabayashi, J., Windley, B.F., and Yin, J., 2021, Sub-parallel ridge trench interaction and alternative genesis of archipelago in the Silurian-Devonian Western Junggar and North-Central Tianshan in NW China: Earth Science Reviews. https//


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2021a, Architecture of an exhumed forearc region: Franciscan Complex, Coast Range ophiolite, and Great Valley Group of California: Chinese Journal of Geology, v. 56, no. 2, p. 1-41. 10.12017/dzkx.2021.021


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2020, Clastic sedimentary rocks and sedimentary mélanges: Potential NOA Occurrences (Amphibole and Serpentine): Environmental & Engineering Geoscience, v.XXVI, p. 15-19,


  1. Luo**, J., Wakabayashi, J., He, Z., Yun, J., Liu, Q., Li, T., Song, H., and Xiao, W., 2019, An upper crustal ophiolite remnant within the Feather River ultramafic belt, California: Tectonomagmatic origins and implications for its evolution: Journal of Earth Science, v. 30, p. 763-774.


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2019, Sedimentary compared to tectonically-deformed serpentinites and tectonic serpentinite mélanges at outcrop to petrographic scales: Unambiguous and disputed examples from California: Gondwana Research, v. 74, p. 51-67,


  1. Kuiper, Y. D., and Wakabayashi, J., 2018, A comparison between mid-Paleozoic New England, USA, and the modern western USA: subduction of an ocean ridge-transform fault system: Tectonophysics, v. 745, p. 278-292



  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2017c, Serpentinites and serpentinites: Variety of origins and emplacement mechanisms of serpentinite bodies in the California Cordillera: Island Arc, v. 26, issue 5. 12205


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2017b, Structural context and variation ocean plate stratigraphy, Franciscan Complex of California: Insight into mélange origins and subduction-accretion processes: Progress in Earth and Planetary Science 4: 18, 23p.,


  1. Luo**, J., Xiao, W., Wakabayashi, J., Han, C., Zhang, J., Wan, B., Ao, S., Zhang, Z., Tian, Z., Song, D., and Chen, Y,2017, The Zhaheba ophiolite complex in Eastern Junggar (NW China): Long lived supra-subduction zone ocean crust formation and its implications for the tectonic evolution of the southern Altaids. Gondwana Research, v. 43, p.17-40. gr. 2015.04.004


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2017a, Sedimentary serpentinite and chaotic units of the lower Great Valley Group forearc basin deposits, California: Updates on distribution and characteristics: International Geology Review, v. 59, p. 599-620. https//


  1. Wakabayashi, J. and Rowe, C., 2015, Whither the megathrust? Localization of large-scale subduction slip along a contact of a mélange. International Geology Review. v. 57, p. 854-870.


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2015, Anatomy of a subduction complex: Architecture of the Franciscan Complex, California, at multiple length and time scales: International Geology Review, v. 57, p. 669-746.


  1. Ghatak*, A., Basu, A.R., and Wakabayashi, J., 2013, Implications of Franciscan Complex greywacke geochemistry for sediment transport, provenance determination, burial-exposure duration, and chemical exchange with co-subducted metabasites: Tectonics, v. 32, p. 1480-1492. 10.1002/tect.20078.


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2013, Paleochannels, stream incision, erosion, topographic evolution, and alternative explanations of paleoaltimetry, Sierra Nevada, California: Geosphere, v. 9, p. 192-215,


  1. Shimabukuro*, D.H., Wakabayashi, J., Alvarez, W., and Chang, S.-c., 2012, Cold and old: The rock record of subduction initiation beneath a continental margin, Calabria, southern Italy. Lithosphere, v. 4, p. 524-532. https// 10.1130/L222.1


  1. Prohoroff**, R.E., Wakabayashi, J., and Dumitru, T.A., 2012, Sandstone-matrix olistostrome deposited on intra-subduction complex serpentinite, Franciscan Complex, western Marin County, California: Tectonophysics v. 568-569, p. 296-305. https// 10.1016/j.tecto.2012.05.018


  1. Hitz**, B., and Wakabayashi, J., 2012, Unmetamorphosed sedimentary mélange with high-pressure metamorphic blocks in a nascent forearc basin setting: Tectonophysics. v. 568-569, p. 124-134. 10.1016/j.tecto.2011.12.006


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2012, Subducted sedimentary serpentinite mélanges: Record of multiple burial-exhumation cycles and subduction erosion: Tectonophysics, v. 568-569, p. 230-247.


  1. Ghatak*, A., Basu, A.R., and Wakabayashi, J., 2012, Element mobility in Subduction metamorphism: Insight from metamorphic rocks of the Franciscan Complex and Feather River ultramafic belt, California: International Geology Review, v. 54, p. 654-685,


  1. Wakabayashi, J., 2011, Mélanges of the Franciscan Complex, California: Diverse structural setting, evidence for sedimentary mixing, and their connection to subduction processes: in Wakabayashi, J., and Dilek, Y. eds. Mélanges: Processes of Formation and Societal Significance, Geological Society of America Special Paper 480, p.117-141.


  1. Wakabayashi, J., Ghatak*, A., and Basu, A.R.,2010, Tectonic setting of supra subduction zone ophiolite generation and subduction initiation as revealed through geochemistry and regional field relationships: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 122, p. 1548-1568 https//


  1. Smart**, C.M., and Wakabayashi, J., 2009, Hot and deep: Rock record of subduction initiation and exhumation of high-temperature, high-pressure metamorphic rocks, Feather River ultramafic belt, California: Lithos, v. 113, p. 292-305,

Complete CV (PDF)