USC Urban Trees Initiative

The USC Urban Trees Initiative brings together faculty, staff, and student researchers to help the City of Los Angeles and local nonprofits grow an equitable and resilient urban forest.

To address environmental inequalities and prepare for a warming climate, the City of L.A. is planting 90,000 new trees in areas of greatest need. However, the tree-planting process is not simple. How do we identify areas of greatest need? What do we do when there’s no space to plant in those areas?

Since August 2020, USC experts in spatial mapping, landscape architecture, and air quality monitoring have been working with the City and local communities to answer challenging questions about where, how many, and what kinds of new trees to plant in areas of East and South L.A.


Program to Investigate Convective Alboran Sea System Overturn: A multi-disciplinary effort to understand the geodynamics of the westernmost margin of the Mediterranean based on geological and seismological imaging, petrology, and fluid dynamical modeling.

Crustal Strength

Aims to develop naturally constrained profiles of the strength of the lower continental crust near the brittle-ductile transition using paleopiezometry, geothermobarometry, thermochronology, and numerical modeling to understand the stress-temperature-depth evolution of exhumed mid-crustal rocks.

Deep Structure

Implications of the rheology of ductile shear zones for the width of plate boundary fault zones below the brittle-ductile transition.

Young Researchers

A six-week program that matches talented and motivated USC-area high school rising sophomores and juniors with USC research groups for a summer of research under the supervision of faculty and graduate students. Students get to experience first-hand the excitement of research in real university labs


Aims to investigate the tectonics of the San Andreas Transform system, primarily through the use of the geodetically-defined velocity field in California.  It has three main themes: Geodetic and seismotectonic constraints on the active tectonics of California, Analysis of the slip-rate distribution on SAF-related faults in California, and the Bookshelf slip on rotating panels of sinistral faults within the San Andreas Transform system.

Exhumation of High-Pressure Metamorphic Rocks in Accretionary Orogens

Aims to investigate some of the outstanding problems in the Franciscan Complex: California’s Mesozoic – Tertiary accretionary complex by a detailed structural analysis of the Paskenta – Covelo transect in the northern Coast Ranges. Some of these issues include: Origin of mud-matrix melanges, contractional deformation, exhumation of high-P metamorphic rocks, and the nature of the Coast Range Fault.

Banda Arc

The Banda Arc project is truly an intriguing scientific concoction dreamed up by a suite of researchers.  The USC component that secured funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation to make this all happen: Professor Meghan Miller (Tectonophysics/Seismology), Professor A. Joshua West (Geochemistry/geomorphology), Professor Thorsten Becker (Geodynamics).  The project will incorporate the analysis of Earth processes across a wide range of spatial scales – the uplift and erosion of the surface will be linked to the internal strength of the crust, which in turn will be linked to the large-scale flow of the underlying mantle.  Admittedly, these linkages are ambitious goals, but the Banda Arc region provides a suitable tectonic configuration to do so.