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Dr. Breanyn MacInnes

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


  • GEOL 210: Intro to Field Methods (every Sept.)
  • GEOL 203: Earth History (every Spring)
  • GEOL 370: Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (moving to Fall in 2021)
  • GEOL/BIOL 371: Paleobiology (every Winter)
  • GEOL 472/572: Coastal Geomorphology (alternating Springs)
  • GEOL 477/577: Tsunami Geology Seminar (alternating Falls)
  • GEOL 504: Graduate Student Seminar
  • GEOL 476/576: Advanced Sedimentology (on hiatus)

Current research projects where I'm looking for graduate students

Note to prospective graduate students: no previous modeling or computing experience necessary to learn tsunami modeling

  • Paletosunami deposits and modeling tsunamis in Chile
  • Paletosunami deposits and modeling tsunamis in Puget Sound

Funded Research Projects (Past and Present)

  • NSF-funded Collaborative Research: Application of Paleoseismic Evidence and Tsunami Simulations to Quantify Megathrust Rupture Characteristics, South-Central Chile: fieldwork in January 2017-2019 and hopefully 2022
  • 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 Rapid: Illapel earthquake and tsunami – environmental impacts on the north central Chile coast: fieldwork was in January of 2016
  • 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
  • NSF-funded Prehistoric Resilience in the Islands of the Four Mountains, Aleutians: fieldwork in August of 2014

Current Graduate Students

  • Anthony Joyce
  • Lindsey Holdener, co-advised with Pat Lubinsky, "Testing Geophysical Survey Effectiveness on an Archaeological Site in the Tidal Flats of Willapa Bay, Washington"
  • Lourdes Garcia, "Was There an Earthquake on the Southern Whidbey Island Fault ~1000 Years Ago?"
  • Trent Adams

Finished Graduate Students

  • David Bruce (finished Spring 2020), Thesis: "Mapping and Modeling the Seattle Fault Tsunami Inundation in Puget Sound"
  • Rachelle Reisinger (finished Summer 2020), co-advised with Walter Szeliga, Thesis: "Modeling of Potential Historical Tsunamis from Large Earthquakes in the Izu-Bonin Mariana Subduction Zone"
  • Alex Dolcimascolo (finished Spring 2019), Thesis: "Uncovering pre-20th century earthquake rupture parameters through combining finite-slip models and paleotsunami deposits, south-central Chile"
  • Pedro Matos-Llavona (finished Summer 2019), co-advised with Lisa Ely, Thesis: "Characterizing Tsunami Deposits in a New Site in Queule, South-Central Chile, Using Forward Tsunami Numerical Simulations and Inverse Sediment Transfer Models"
  • Catherine Jeffries (finished Spring 2018), co-advised with Tim Melbourne, Thesis: "Tsunami Excitation Estimation From Real-Time GNSS"
  • Rebeca Becerra (finished Spring 2018), Thesis: "Assessing the Use of Tsunami Simulations as a Tool to Predict Source Magnitudes and Locations of Paleoearthquakes in Chile"
  • Colin Bloom (finished Spring 2017), Thesis: "Investigations of catastrophic landscape modification from massive landslide tsunamis, an example from Taan Fjord, Alaska"
  • Alexandra Ruiz (finished Summer 2016), co-advised with Lisa Ely, 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 Spring 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

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.

Selected Publications

  • Bloom, C.K., MacInnes, B., Higman, B., Shugar, D.H., Venditti, J.G., Richmond, B. and Bilderback, E.L., 2020. Catastrophic landscape modification from a massive landslide tsunami in Taan Fiord, Alaska. Geomorphology, 353, p.107029.
  • Griswold, F., MacInnes, B., 2019, Tsunami-Based Evidence for Large Eastern Aleutian Slip During the 1957 Earthquake, Quaternary Research. doi:10.1017/qua.2018.39
  • Hatfield, V., Nicolaysen, K., West, D., Krylovich, O., Bruner, K., Savinetsky, A., Vasyukov, D., MacInnes, B., Khasanov, B., Persico, L., Okuno, M., 2019, The stratigraphy and archaeology of Tanax^ Agunax^ and Ulyagan, archaeological village sites located in the Islands of Four Mountains, Aleutians, Alaska, Quaternary Research
  • Higman, B., Shugar, D., Stark , C., Ekström, G., Koppes, M., Lynett, P., Dufresne, A., Haeussler, P., Geertsema, M. , Gulick, S., Mattox, A., Venditti, J., Walton, M., McCall, N., McKittrick, E., MacInnes, B., Bilderback, E., Tang, H, Willis, M., Richmond, B., Reece, R., Larsen, C., Olson, B., Capra, J., Ayca, A, Bloom*, C., Williams, H., Bonno, D., Weiss, R., Keen, A., Skanavis, V., Loso, M., 2018, Glacier retreat and the largest landslide-triggered marine tsunami since 1958, Scientific Reports, 8, Article number: 12993
  • 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.