Photo of Bre

Dr. Breanyn MacInnes

Assistant Professor
Department of Geological Sciences, Central Washington University
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7418
Tel: 509.963.2827
fax: 509.963-2821


  • GEOL 108: Intro to Environmental Geology
  • GEOL 210: Intro to Field Methods (every Sept.)
  • GEOL 370: Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (every Spring)
  • GEOL 371: Paleobiology (Winter 2017)
  • GEOL 476/576: Advanced Sedimentology (Fall 2017)
  • GEOL 477/577: Tsunami Geology Seminar (Fall 2016)
  • GEOL 504: Graduate Student Seminar

Current Research Projects

  • NSF-funded Rapid: Illapel earthquake and tsunami – environmental impacts on the north central Chile coast: fieldwork was in January of 2016
  • NSF-funded Collaborative Research: The 2015 Taan Fiord landslide tsunami: An interdisciplinary study of cause & effect: fieldwork was in May and August of 2016
  • NSF-funded Collaborative Research: Application of Paleoseismic Evidence and Tsunami Simulations to Quantify Megathrust Rupture Characteristics, South-Central Chile: fieldwork in January 2017-2019

Past Research Projects

  • NSF-funded Prehistoric Resilience in the Islands of the Four Mountains, Aleutians: fieldwork in August of 2014
  • Tsunami Deposits in Saratoga Passage, Northeast Whidbey Island, funded and sponsored by the Central Whidbey and Coupeville Lions Clubs, and the Island County Department of Emergency Management: fieldwork in 2014 and 2015

Current Graduate Students

  • Andrew Raulerson, Thesis: "Tsunami deposits and tsunami modeling of the 900 AD Seattle Fault event in northern Puget Sound" Thesis proposal
  • Colin Bloom (finishing Spring 2017), Thesis: "Investigations of catastrophic landscape modification from massive landslide tsunamis, an example from Taan Fjord, Alaska"
  • Rebeca Becerra (finishing Spring 2018)

Finished Graduate Students

  • Alexandra Ruiz co-advised with Lisa Ely (finished Summer 2016), Thesis: "Investigating taphonomic changes of deposits and modeling of the 2010 earthquake and tsunami in South-Central Chile" Thesis proposal
  • Brian Ostrom (finished Spring 2016), Thesis: "Hazard Identification and Coastal Stratigraphy in Crescent Harbor, Northeast Whidbey Island" Thesis proposal
  • Frances Griswold (finished June 2015), Thesis: "Field Observations and Modeling of Tsunamis on the Islands of the Four Mountains, Aleutian Islands, Alaska" Thesis proposal

Research interests

  • Coastal geomorphology and stratigraphy

  • Tsunami sedimentology; paleotsunami stratigraphy; tsunami modeling

  • Active sedimentary processes

  • Subduction zone processes and neotectonics

My long-term research goal is to understand the effect of geologic catastrophes (such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions) on short-term and long-term coastal landscape evolution and maritime cultures, with a focus on island coastlines.

Coastal Geomorphology and Landscape Evolution: I am especially interested in studying how coastal landforms preserve the history of past events and how geological, marine and anthropogenic factors control the geomorphology of a coast. So far, the focus of my research is on geologic catastrophes, such as tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and coseismic land-level change. One major aim of my research is determining how tsunamis alter coastal landforms (such as beach ridge plains, Holocene marine terraces, coastal marshes, etc.) in a way that can be preserved and recognized.

Tsunami Geology/Paleoseismology: Studying paleotsunami deposits can help to estimate how often earthquakes occur along different subduction zones. I am trained to recognize tsunami deposits in settings around the north Pacific and I calculate recurrence intervals using tephrochronology and radiocarbon dating.

Geoarchaeology: I am interested in how maritime cultures (those reliant on boats and coastal resources) respond, mitigate, and reduce risk to geologic catastrophes. In particular, I work to to determine (1) if people occupied the islands during major events (or conversely, how often did major events occur while people occupied certain islands), (2) how, if at all, records of those events are preserved in archaeological settings, and (3) what effect geologic catastrophes have on local flora and fauna. I also work with archaeologists to help reconstruct Holocene landscape evolution.

Subduction-zone processes: I use tsunami models and onshore observations of tsunami (post-tsunami surveys, paleotsunami deposits, or historical records) to understand more about earthquake rupture processes. Variations in the runup of a tsunami onshore are effected by the amount and distribution of slip during an earthquake. Via tsunami computer models, I can use tsunami observations, or paleotsunami deposits, to determine patterns of slip during an earthquake.

Neotectonics: Marine terraces and other indicators of vertical displacement were my first love. Sea-level is a fantastic horizontal datum to understand active tectonics in the Quaternary. Coastal features can be used in all sorts of ways to recognize recent or ongoing horizontal and vertical displacement. My research interests include Holocene and Quaternary marine terraces, fault scarps and offsets, sag ponds, and any other aspect of tectonic geomorphology observable in coastal settings.

Sediment transport and erosion: I use sediment transport equations to understand how tsunamis erode, transport and deposit sediment. Sediment grain size and grain-size distribution can reflect characteristics of the flow of a tsunami wave. I also am interested in how sediment transport results in bedforms and other sedimentary structures.

Tephrochronology: Tephra makes telling time easier. I correlate tephra between excavations using description and chemical analyses. One tephra from a known eruption found in multiple excavations means I can draw a timeline between these excavations without having to obtain radiocarbon dates from each place.

Selected Publications

  • MacInnes, B., Kravchunovskaya, E., Pinegina, T. and Bourgeois, J., 2016, Paleotsunamis from the central Kuril Islands segment of the Japan-Kuril-Kamchatka subduction zone, Quaternary Research, v. 86, p. 54–66, doi: 10.1016/j.yqres.2016.03.005
  • MacInnes, B.T., Fitzhugh, B., and Holman, D., 2014, Controlling for Landform Age When Determining the Settlement History of the Kuril Islands: Geoarchaeology: An International Journal, v. 29, no. 3, p. 185-201, doi: 10.1002/gea.21473.
  • MacInnes, B.T., Gusman, A.R., LeVeque, R.J., and Tanioka, Y., 2014, Comparison of earthquake source models for the 2011 Tohoku event using tsunami simulations and near field observations: BSSA, doi: 10.1785/0120120121.
  • Gusman, A.R., MacInnes, B.T., Tanioka, Y., and Tsushima, H., 2014, A Methodology for Near-Field Tsunami Inundation Forecasting: Application to the 2011 Tohoku Tsunami, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 119, doi:10.1002/2014JB010958.
  • Arcos, M.E.M., MacInnes, B.T., Arreaga, P., Rivera-Hernandez, F., and Weiss, R., 2013, A meter-thick sedimentary package caused by the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in El Garrapatero, Galapagos, A record of sedimentary deposition enabled by tsunami erosion: Quaternary Research, v. 80, p. 9-19, doi: 10.1016/j.yqres.2013.04.005.
  • Pinegina, T.K., Bourgeois, j., Kravchunovskaya, E.A., Lander, A.V., Arcos, M.E.M., Pedoja, K., and MacInnes, B.T., 2013, A nexus of plate interaction: Vertical deformation of Holocene wave-built terraces on the Kamchatsky Peninsula (Kamchatka, Russia): Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 125, no. 9/10, p. 1554-1568, doi: 10.1130/B30793.1
  • Lynett, P., Weiss, R., Renteria, W., Morales, G.D.L.T., Son, S., Arcos, M.E.M. and MacInnes, B.T., 2012, Coastal Impacts of the March 11th Tohoku, Japan Tsunami in the Galapagos Islands: Pure and Applied Geophysics doi10.1007/s00024-012-0568-3.
  • MacInnes, B.T., 2010, Bridging seismology and geomorphology: investigations of the 2006 and 2007 Kuril Island tsunamis. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle. 177 pp.
  • MacInnes, B.T., Weiss, R., Bourgeois, J., and Pinegina, T.K., 2010, Slip Distribution of the 1952 Kamchatka Great Earthquake Based on Near-Field Tsunami Deposits and Historical Records: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, v. 100, no. 4, p. 1695-1709, doi: 10.1785/0120090376.
  • Bourgeois, J., and MacInnes, B.T., 2010, Tsunami boulder transport and other dramatic effects of the 15 November 2006 central Kuril Islands tsunami on the island of Matua: Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, v. 54, no. 3, p. 175-195.
  • MacInnes, B.T., Bourgeois, J., Pinegina, T.K., and Kravchunovskaya, E., 2009. Tsunami geomorphology: erosion and deposition from the 15 November 2006 Kuril Island tsunami: Geology, v. 37, p. 995-998.
  • MacInnes, B.T., Pinegina, T.K., Bourgeois, J., Razhegaeva, N.G., Kaistrenko, V.M., and Kravchenovskaya, E.A., 2009, Field survey and geological effects of the 15 November 2006 Kuril tsunami in the middle Kuril Islands: Pure and Applied Geophysics, v. 166, no. 1/2, doi: 10.1007/s00024-008-0428-3.