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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

Office: Science II 127


Office Hours:


M    2:00pm-5:00pm (Online)


F     2:00pm-4:00pm (Online)

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 Subduction Zone Geology and Tectonics (Fall 2016). I also filled in and taught igneous and metamorphic petrology (EES 101) in Spring 2008 and 2016. 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

My research has spans many subdisciplines in geology with the unifying theme of tectonics. Graduate students and undergraduates are involved in all aspects of my research (see student research page). My active tectonic research includes work on tectonic geomorphology (studies in the Sierra Nevada, California Coast Ranges), and active faulting/seismic hazards of coastal California and the Sierra Nevada regions. I have an interest in the long-term evolution of strike-slip fault systems (including the San Andreas fault system). Much of my research involves studies of basement tectonics, with emphasis of the rock record of subduction processes; the Franciscan Complex has been and will probably always be my favorite geologic unit. Basement tectonic research includes studies of the rock record of subduction initiation, the generation and emplacement of ophiolite complexes, the relationship between metamorphic pressure-temperature (P-T) paths and tectonics, and the exhumation of high-P rocks. I have also conducted research in environmental and engineering geology, particularly in the field of ambient (naturally occurring) metals of environmental concern in rocks and soil, and the engineering significance of melanges. I have tended to focus on process-oriented problems in my research, but my research also has a strong local or regional flavor in that nearly all of my research to date has taken place in the California Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada. A notable exception has been my recent field research in subduction-related metamorphism and tectonic evolution of Calabria (southern Italy). For details on my research activities with undergraduates and masters students, see student research. For a complete list of publications related to my research see the c.v. linked below (that includes pre-1996 publications as well as abstracts, with some citations linked to pdfs). 

Student Research

Selected publications ( *denotes student advisee at time research was conducted):

pdfs available on email request.

(For a complete list of publications see: Complete CV)

  • Wakabayashi, J., in press, Field and petrographic reconnaissance of Franciscan Complex rocks of Mount Diablo, California: Imbricated ocean floor stratigraphy with a roof exhumation fault system: Geological Society of America Memoir

  • Wakabayashi, J., 2020, Clastic sedimentary rocks and sedimentary mélanges: Potential NOA Occurrences (Amphibole and Serpentine): Environmental & Engineering Geoscience, v.XXVI, p. 15-19,  doi: 10.2113/EEG-2267

  • 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.

  • 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, doi: 10.1016/

  • 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

  • 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. doi: 10.1111/iar. 12205

  • 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., doi: 10.1186/s40645-017-0132-y

  • 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. doi.10.1016/j. gr. 2015.04.004

  • 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. doi.10.1080/00206814.2016.1219679

  • 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. doi:10.1080/00206814.2015.1020453

  • 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. doi:10.1080/00206814.2014.998728.

  • 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. doi: 10.1002/tect.20078.

  • Wakabayashi, J., 2013, Paleochannels, stream incision, erosion, topographic evolution, and alternative explanations of paleoaltimetry, Sierra Nevada, California: Geosphere, v. 9, p. 192-215, doi:10.1130/GES00814.1

  • 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. doi: 10.1130/L222.1

  • Osozawa, S., and Wakabayashi, J., 2012, Exhumation of Triassic HP-LT rocks by upright extrusional domes and overlying detachment faults, Ishigaki-jima, Ryukyu Islands: Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, v. 59, p. 70-84 doi:10.1016/j.jseaes.2012.04.001.

  • 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. doi: 10.1016/j.tecto.2012.05.018

  • 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. doi: 10.1016/j.tecto.2011.12.006

  • Wakabayashi, J., 2012, Subducted sedimentary serpentinite mélanges: Record of multiple burial-exhumation cycles and subduction erosion: Tectonophysics, v. 568-569, p. 230-247.  doi: 10.1016/j.tecto.2011.11.006

  • 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, doi.10.1080/00206814.2011.567087

  • 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. doi: 10.1130/2011.2480(05)

  • Dumitru, T.A., Wakabayashi, J., Wright, J.E., and Wooden, J.L., 2010, Early Cretaceous (ca. 123 Ma) transition from nonaccretion to voluminous sediment accretion within the Franciscan subduction complex: Tectonics, v. 29, TC5001, doi: 10.1029/2009TC882542

  •  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 doi: 10.1130/B30017.1

  • Snow, C.A., Wakabayashi, J., Ernst, W.G., and Wooden, J.L., 2010, SHRIMP-based depositional ages of Franciscan metagraywackes, west-central California: Geological Society of America, v. 122, p. 282-291; doi:10.1130/B26399.1

  • 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, doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2009.06.012

  • Wakabayashi, J., 2008, Franciscan Complex, California: Problems in recognition of melanges, and the gap between research knowledge and professional practice: Proceedings of the 2008 Conference of the American Rock Mechanics Association, San Francisco (published online): available at 

  • Wakabayashi, J., and Dumitru, T.A., 2007, 40Ar/39Ar ages from coherent high-pressure metamorphic rocks of the Franciscan Complex, California: Revisiting the timing of metamorphism of the world's type subduction complex: International Geology Review, v. 49, p. 873-906.

  • Wakabayashi, J., 2007, Step-overs that migrate with respect to affected deposits: Field characteristics and speculation on some details of their evolution: in Cunningham, W.D., and Mann, P., eds. Tectonics of strike-slip releasing and restraining bends in continental and oceanic settings.  Geological Society of London Special Publication 290, p. 169-188

  • Wakabayashi, J., and Medley, E.W., 2004, Geological characterization of melanges for practitioners: Felsbau v. 22, no. 5, p. 10-18.

  • Wakabayashi, J., 2004, Tectonic mechanisms associated with P-T paths of regional metamorphism: alternatives to single-cycle thrusting and heating: Tectonophysics, v. 392, p. 193-218.

  • Wakabayashi, J., Hengesh, J.V., and Sawyer, T.L.,2004, Four-dimensional transform fault processes: progressive evolution of step-overs and bends: Tectonophysics, v. 392, p. 279-301.

  • Harrison, S., Safford, H., and Wakabayashi, J., 2004, Does age of exposure of serpentine explain variation in endemic plant diversity in California? International Geology Review, v. 46, p. 235-242.

  • Wakabayashi,J., and Dilek, Y., 2003, What constitutes "emplacement" of an ophiolite?: mechanisms and relationship to subduction initiation and formation of metamorphic soles: in Dilek, Y., and Robinson, P.T., eds., Ophiolites in Earth history, Geological Society of London Special Publication 218, p. 427-447.

  • Moores, E.M., Wakabayashi, J., and Unruh, J.R., 2002, Crustal scale cross-section of the US Cordillera, California and beyond, its tectonic significance, and speculations on the Andean orogeny: International Geology Review, v. 44, p. 479-500

  • Wakabayashi, J., and Sawyer, T.L., 2001, Stream incision, tectonics, uplift, and evolution of topography of the Sierra Nevada, California: Journal of Geology, v. 109, p. 539-562.

  • Wakabayashi, J., and Dilek, Y., 2000, Spatial and temporal relations between ophiolites and their subophiolitic soles: A test of models of forearc ophiolite genesis: in Dilek, Y., Moores, E.M., Elthon, D., and Nicolas, A., eds., Ophiolites and oceanic crust: New insights from field studies and ocean drilling, Geological Society of America Special Paper 349, p. 53-64.

  • Wakabayashi, J., and Sawyer, T.L., 2000, Neotectonics of the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Nevada-Basin and Range Transition, California, with field trip stop descriptions for the northeastern Sierra Nevada: in Brooks, E.R., and Dida,  L.T., eds., Field guide to the geology and tectonics of the northern Sierra Nevada, California Division of Mines and Geology Special Publication 122, p. 173-212.

  • Wakabayashi, J., 1999, Distribution of displacement on, and evolution of, a young transform fault system: the northern San Andreas fault system, California:  Tectonics, v. 18, no. 6, p. 1245-1274

  • Wakabayashi, J., 1999, Subduction and the rock record: Concepts developed in the Franciscan Complex, California: in Sloan, D., Moores, E.M., and Stout, D. eds., Classic Cordilleran Concepts: A View From California, Geological Society of America Special Paper 338, p. 123-133.

  • Wakabayashi, J., 1996, Tectono-metamorphic impact of a subduction-transform transition and implications for interpretation of orogenic belts: International Geology Review, v.38, p. 979-994.

  • Wakabayashi, J., and Unruh, J.R., 1995, Tectonic wedging, blueschist metamorphism, and exposure of blueschist: are they compatible?: Geology, v. 23, p. 85-88

  • Wakabayashi, J., 1992, Nappes, tectonics of oblique plate convergence, and metamorphic evolution related to 140 million years of continuous subduction, Franciscan Complex, California: Journal of Geology, v. 100, p. 19-40

  • Wakabayashi, J., 1990, Counterclockwise P-T-t paths from amphibolites, Franciscan Complex, California: metamorphism during the early stages of subduction: Journal of Geology, v. 98, p. 657-680.

Complete CV (PDF)