Dr Zoe Mildon

Dr Zoe Mildon

Lecturer in Earth Sciences

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Zoe can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Earthquakes
  • Geohazards
  • Natural disasters
  • Plate tectonics
  • Women in science

I have been at the University of Plymouth since 2018 as an academic member of staff teaching on the geology programmes. My research is focussed on understanding tectonics, active faulting and earthquakes, particularly focussing on earthquake dynamics and interaction.

Since February 2021, I am UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and my project is "Quake4D - building physics-based, geologically-rich models for investigating earthquake interaction and seismic hazard", which will run for the next 4 years. This project will combine high-quality geological data with start-of-the-art computer simulations to generate a new approach to simulating synthetic earthquakes and quantifying seismic hazard.


2021 - 2025: UKRI Future Leader Fellow Quake4D project

2018 - present: Lecturer in Earth Sciences

2013 - 2017: PhD at University College London, Thesis title: "The link between earthquakes and structural geology; the role of elapsed time, 3D geometry and stress transfer in the central Apennines, Italy", NERC funded, supervised by Prof Gerald Roberts, Dr Joanna Faure Walker, Prof Peter Sammonds.

2009 - 2013: MSc Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, 1st class. Dissertation title " Microseismicity within the Krafla caldera, north east Iceland: Seismicity within a cluster and non-double-couple events" 

Roles on external bodies

Associate editor for Basin Research, 2021 - present.

Topical editor on Structural Geology and Tectonics for Solid Earth EGU journal, 2020 – present.

Early Career Representation for the Tectonics Studies Group (a Specialist Group of the Geological Society of London) 2020 - present.

Scientific Officer for Tectonics and Structural Geology division, European Geosciences Union, 2019 - present.

Teaching interests

I teach on the following modules:

GEOL3003 Geophysics

GEOL3005 Tectonics

Research interests

My PhD research focussed on the central Apennines of Italy, which is one of the most seismically active areas in Europe. I used a combination of structural geology, numerical modelling and geochemistry to investigate historical earthquakes, fault interaction and earthquake dynamics. During my PhD, I spent 4 months in Japan (as part of my JSPS fellowship), hosted by Proj Shinji Toda, developing a new approach to modelling Coulomb stress changes resulting from earthquakes. 

My Future Leaders Fellowship builds on the research from my PhD and the understanding I have developing of the natural variability of faults and earthquakes. The motivation for my project is that seismic hazard assessment is currently reliant on present-day measurements of slip rate and historical records of past earthquakes. However, recurrence times of large earthquakes often exceed the available historical record, and slip rates vary through time, which makes the current approach to seismic hazard assessment flawed. To rectify this, as it is not possible to gain more historic observational data, we must instead make use of simulations of synthetic earthquakes. Quake4D will be a geologically-rich physics-based fault model and produce a synthetic catalogue of earthquakes by simulating every stage of the earthquake cycle over many millennia. This synthetic model will be validated against data from natural fault systems and used to extract information that is pertinent to probabilistic seismic hazard assessment. This will drive a step-change in our understanding of the variability of earthquakes over time.

I have also worked on earthquakes in the UK (Hicks et al., 2019), faults in California (Hughes et al., 2020) and earthquakes in Japan (Toda et al., 2016).

Research groups

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

I currently supervise one PhD student:

Manuel Diercks (primary supervisor): Fault interaction and seismic hazard in Western Turkey 

Grants & contracts

October 2020: UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship 2021 – 2025. Project title “Quake4D - building physics-based, geologically-rich models for investigating earthquake interaction and seismic hazard”. Value £1.4million

May 2018: Geological Society (Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust and Mike Coward Fund) funding to conduct 1 week of fieldwork in the central Apennines of Italy, September 2018. Value £1,220.

August 2015: JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) Short-Term Fellowship, February to June 2016. Four months at International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS), Tohoku University, Japan, working with Prof.Shinji Toda (who co-wrote Coulomb 3.4, USGS program). Value £8,500.


Key publications

Key publications are highlighted

Meschis M, Scicchitano G, Roberts GP, Robertson J, Barreca G, Monaco C, Spampinato C, Sahy D, Antonioli F & Mildon ZK 2020 'Regional Deformation and Offshore Crustal Local Faulting as Combined Processes to Explain Uplift Through Time Constrained by Investigating Differentially Uplifted Late Quaternary Paleoshorelines: The Foreland Hyblean Plateau, SE Sicily' Tectonics 39, (12) , DOI
Sgambato C, Faure Walker JP, Mildon ZK & Roberts GP 2020 'Stress loading history of earthquake faults influenced by fault/shear zone geometry and Coulomb pre-stress' Scientific Reports 10, (1) , DOI Open access
Hughes A, Bell RE, Mildon ZK, Rood DH, Whittaker AC, Rockwell TK, Levy Y, DeVecchio DE, Marshall ST & Nicholson C 2020 'Three‐dimensional structure, ground rupture hazards, and static stress models for complex non‐planar thrust faults in the Ventura basin, southern California' Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth , DOI Open access
Mildon ZK, Roberts GP, Faure Walker JP & Toda S 2019 'Coulomb pre-stress and fault bends are ignored yet vital factors for earthquake triggering and hazard' Nature Communications 10, (1) 0-0 , DOI Open access
Meschis M, Roberts GP, Mildon ZK, Robertson J, Michetti AM & Faure Walker JP 2019 'Slip on a mapped normal fault for the 28th December 1908 Messina earthquake (Mw 7.1) in Italy' Scientific Reports 9, (1) , DOI Open access
Villani F, Civico R, Pucci S, Pizzimenti L, Nappi R & De Martini PM 2019 'Publisher Correction: A database of the coseismic effects following the 30 October 2016 Norcia earthquake in Central Italy' Scientific Data 6, (1) , DOI Open access
Faure Walker J, Visini F, Roberts G, Galasso C, McCaffrey K & Mildon ZK 2018 'Variable fault geometry suggests detailed fault slip-rate profiles and geometries are needed for fault-based probabilistic seismic hazard assessment (PSHA)' Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 109, (1) , DOI Open access
Iezzi F, Mildon ZK, Faure Walker J, Roberts G, Goodall H, Wilkinson M & Robertson J 2018 'Coseismic Throw Variation Across Along-Strike Bends on Active Normal Faults: Implications for Displacement Versus Length Scaling of Earthquake Ruptures' Journal of Geophysical Research. Solid Earth 123, (11) 9817-9841 , DOI Open access
Villani F, Civico R, Pucci S, Pizzimenti L, Nappi R, De Martini PM, Agosta F, Alessio G, Alfonsi L & Amanti M 2018 'A database of the coseismic effects following the 30 October 2016 Norcia earthquake in Central Italy' Scientific Data 5, , DOI Open access
Civico R, Pucci S, Villani F, Pizzimenti L, De Martini PM & Nappi R 2018 'Surface ruptures following the 30 October 2016 Mw 6.5 Norcia earthquake, central Italy' Journal of Maps 14, (2) 151-160 , DOI Open access
Mildon ZK, Roberts GP, Faure Walker JP & Iezzi F 2017 'Coulomb stress transfer and fault interaction over millennia on non-planar active normal faults: the Mw 6.5–5.0 seismic sequence of 2016–2017, central Italy' Geophysical Journal International 210, (2) 1206-1218 , DOI Open access
Mildon ZK, Toda S, Faure Walker JP & Roberts GP 2016 'Evaluating models of Coulomb stress transfer: Is variable fault geometry important?' Geophysical Research Letters 43, (24) 12407-12414 , DOI Open access
Toda S, Kaneda H, Okada S, Ishimura D & Mildon ZK 2016 'Slip-partitioned surface ruptures for the Mw 7.0 16 April 2016 Kumamoto, Japan, earthquake' Earth Planets and Space 68, (1) , DOI Open access
Mildon ZK, Roberts GP, Faure Walker JP, Wedmore LNJ & McCaffrey KJW 2016 'Active normal faulting during the 1997 seismic sequence in Colfiorito, Umbria: Did slip propagate to the surface?' Journal of Structural Geology 91, 102-113 , DOI Open access
Mildon ZK, Pugh DJ, Tarasewicz J, White RS & Brandsdóttir B 2016 'Closing crack earthquakes within the Krafla caldera, North Iceland' Geophysical Journal International 207, (2) 1137-1141 , DOI Open access
Livio F, Michetti AM, Vittori E, Gregory L, Wedmore L, Piccardi L, Tondi E, Roberts G, Blumetti AM & Bonadeo L 2016 'Surface faulting during the August 24, 2016, Central Italy earthquake (Mw 6.0): preliminary results' ANNALS OF GEOPHYSICS 59, Author Site , DOI Open access
Wilkinson M, Roberts GP, McCaffrey K, Cowie PA, Faure Walker JP, Papanikolaou I, Phillips RJ, Michetti AM, Vittori E & Gregory L 2015 'Slip distributions on active normal faults measured from LiDAR and field mapping of geomorphic offsets: an example from L'Aquila, Italy, and implications for modelling seismic moment release' Geomorphology 237, 130-141 , DOI
Hicks S, Verdon J, Baptie B, Luckett R, Mildon Z & Gernon T 'A shallow earthquake swarm close to hydrocarbon activities: discriminating between natural and induced causes for the 2018–19 Surrey, UK earthquake sequence' , DOI Open access
Mildon Z, Roberts G, Walker J, Beck J, Papanikolaou I, Michetti A, Toda S, Iezzi F, Campbell L & McCaffrey K 'Earthquake clustering controlled by shear zone interaction' , DOI
Mildon Z 'Review for "Throw variations and strain partitioning associated with fault-bend folding along normal faults"' , DOI

Reports & invited lectures

March 2021: Halstead lecture "Earthquake chasing around the world", Geologists Association

December 2020: American Geophysical Union annual conference. "

October 2020: Geological Society of America Annual Conference. “Linking field data, stress modelling and cosmogenic analyses to understand fault interaction and historical earthquakes in the Italian Apennines”

January 2020: Imperial College seminar "Lessons learnt from past earthquakes in Italy on seismic hazard and continental deformation"

January 2020: Invited speaker for 2020 Hokudan International Symposium on Active Faulting, Awaji Island, Japan

September 2019: Participant for "Hydro-geological Hazards and Resilient Urban Growth" UK-China workshop (funded by the British Council/Newton Fund), one week in Xi'an, China

July 2019: Invited speaker at International Nathiagali Summer College Advances in Geophysics, Islamabad, Pakistan

Conferences organised

January 2021: Tectonics Studies Group Annual Conference 2021 (virtual conference)

Other academic activities

Selected outreach/public engagement activities: 

Interviewed for “Deadly Disasters – Earthquakes” program, produced by CIC media. To be released in 2020/2021.

Girls into Geoscience, organised workshops on "predicting" earthquakes, 2018 - 2020

Speaker for Geohazards day, organised by University of Plymouth and aimed at A-level students. 2019 and 2021.

Interviewed live on the BBC World News Channel about Fuego volcanic eruption in Guatemala, June 2018.

Exhibitor at Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition with a stand entitled “Explosive Earth”, September 2016.

Additional information

Prizes awarded:

2020: Halstead Award for early career researchers, Geologists Association, cash prize £500.

2016: JpGU Student Outstanding Presentation Award, May 2016. Title “How variable normal fault geometry affects fault interaction and stress transfer, using examples from the Italian Apennines”.

2013: BGA Postgraduate Talk, 2nd prize. September 2013. Talk title “Non-double-couple earthquakes in Krafla volcano, Iceland”

2012: Paleontological Association Prize: Awarded to the highest palaeontology mark amongst third year undergraduates, University of Cambridge.


Website: http://zoemildon.weebly.com/
Twitter: @ZoeMildon