Oberlin College Geology  
Steven Wojtal

Steven Wojtal

Professor of Geology

On the Oberlin College faculty since 1979. Office phone is (440) 775-8352

Areas of Interest

  • structural geology and tectonics
  • computers in geology

Educational Background

  • B.S., Brown University, 1974
  • M.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1976
  • Ph. D., Johns Hopkins University, 1982

Courses Taught During 2002-2003

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

  • "Marine Science" - team-taught with Karla Parsons-Hubbard (GEOL 161)
  • "Modern Geologic/Geographic Mapping and Analysis" - team-taught with Laura Moore (GEOL 190)

Other Courses Taught In Previous Years

  • Mineralogy (GEOL 201)
  • Advanced Seminar: "Convergent Plate Margins" (GEOL 425)

Current research projects

I am interested in determining tthe mechanical behavior of the earth's crust. I examine naturally-occurring rock structures in light of experimental data on the physical properties of crystals, crystalline aggregates, and continuous media, and use the principles of continuum mechanics to guide my inferences. Projects on which I am currently working include:

  • With Basil Tikoff and Chuck DeMets at the University of Wisconsin and Bernie Housen at Western Washington University, I am working on a project to assess the relative magnitudes of recoverable and permanent deformation adjacent to the active San Andreas fault. As part of that project, I have been remapping deformed, very young sedimentary rocks adjacent to the southern termination of the San Andreas fault deform and working at determining the geometry and mechanisms by which these rocks deformed. I have been assisted in this work by Oberlin students Luke Jensen, currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California, and Sarah Titus, currently a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin.
  • With Gwyneth Hughes, a former Honors student who is currently engaged in the Teach for America Program , I have been examining ways to describe and then analze the shapes of folds. This work is part of a larger project intended to determine and analyze the three-dimensional shapes of small and large natural folds with the aim of detecting any systematic differences in their shapes.
  • I continue to examine the rocks found within natural fault zones, particularly the fine-grained 'fault rocks' along fault surfaces. I am interested in determining what mineralogical and chemical changes occur within fault rocks, what processes lead to those changes, and how those processes affect the development, evolution and strength of fault zones. One aspect of this work is an examination of fault rocks from the Moine thrust zone in Scotland. I am undertaking the Moine thrust work with former Honors student Matt Strine, currently a graduate student at the University of Rochester, and Gautam Mitra from the Unversity of Rochester.
  • I am also interested in assessing the local directions, magnitudes, and timing of crustal shortening in the western Valley and Ridge Province of the central Appalachians. This work grew out of a project completed with Michelle Markley, a former Honors student who is now teaching at Mount Holyoke College. That work documented a change in the azimuth of shortening in the Valley and Ridge Province in Maryland. In subsequent work, I have found that this change in shortening direction is common throughout the Maryland Valley and Ridge Province. R. P. Nickelsen, Emeritus Professor of Geology at Bucknell University, has extensive and convincing documentation for a comparable change in shortening directions in the Valley and Ridge Province in Pennsylvania.




The most recent update was Tuesday, 04/01/2003