Gregory Davis

Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences
Email Office ZHS 305 Office Phone (213) 740-6726

Center, Institute & Lab Affiliations

  • Geology Program of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Collaborator and consultant with Prof. Wang Tao
  • Institute for Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Science (IGGCAS)s, Collaborator with Prof. Meng Qingren



Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0740

Greg Davis received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford University in 1956 and 1957, respectively, and a Ph.D. degree (Geology) from U.C. Berkeley in 1961. He has been on the faculty of U.S.C.’s Department of Earth Sciences since then; a Full Professor in the department since 1972, he served as its Chair from 1977-1981. In 1991, he received the A. S. Raubenheimer Distinguished Faculty Award from U.S.C.’s College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences for “outstanding contributions in the areas of teaching, research, and service.” During his tenure at U.S.C, he has advised approximately 45 graduate students, a number of whom are now faculty members at other institutions. In the 1990’s two of Davis’ former students, undergrad Brian Wernicke and grad An Yin, now Professors at Cal Tech and UCLA respectively, were among the first six recipients of the Geological Society of America’s Donath Medal (the Society’s “Young Scientist” award). In 1971, he was a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Washington. In 1999, Davis was appointed Guest Professor at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, where he began summer teaching in May, 2000; that appointment continues to the present.

Davis is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA) and a member of the American Geophysical Union. He was a Distinguished Lecturer on western U.S. tectonics for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 1974 and 1975. He is one of very few individuals who have served twice (1982-1983, 1998-1999) as Chair of the Cordilleran Section of the GSA. Davis was Chair of GSA’s Division of Structural Geology and Tectonics in 1987, served as Co-Editor of the Division’s Newsletter from 1991 to March of 1999, and completed ten year’s of service on the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Structural Geology in 1998. He is a former Associate Editor of the Geological Society of America Bulletin, and is a current overseas member of the Editorial Board of Earth Science Frontiers, a leading Chinese journal. For several years in the mid-1980’s he was appointed as a GS-15 Geologist in the U. S. Geological Survey. Davis received the Career Achievement Award of GSA’s Division of Structural Geology and Tectonics for the year 2003; only one recipient of this international award is chosen for each year.

Davis’ research efforts are primarily in the area of tectonics and are largely field-based, although he has co-written (variably, with B. C. Burchfiel, Darrel Cowan, Jim Monger, Gordon Lister, and Zheng Yadong) multiple syntheses of Cordilleran and North China tectonic evolution. He and his students have undertaken field mapping in widespread areas throughout the western U.S. and, since 1987, in northern China. Topics of special interest to Davis include the structural geology and tectonics of metamorphic core complexes, the nature and origin of low-angle extensional (detachment) faults, and the Cordilleran foreland fold and thrust belt. He is at present continuing a multiyear-long study of the Jura-Cretaceous Yinshan-Yanshan orogenic belt of northern China. Much of his research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation. [8/2007:, (213) 740-6726; (818) 761-0501]


  • Ph.D. Geology, University of California, Berkeley, 1/1961
  • M.S. Geology, Stanford University, 1/1957
  • B.S. Geology, Stanford University, 1/1956
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Asst., Assoc., Full Professor, University of Southern California, –
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Professor Davis’ current research is focused on the tectonic evolution of northern China (with emphasis on the Yanshan fold and thrust belt), metamorphic core complexes, origin of low-angle extensional faults and gravity glide structures, regional tectonics of northern China and western United States. For the past six years he has undertaken field research in western Liaoning province that has dramatically changed the traditional Chinese understanding of the Yanshan fold and thrust belt in northern China — the so-called “Cradle of Chinese Tectonics”. The first three seasons of fieldwork led to the publication “Triassic and Jurassic tectonics in the eastern Yanshan belt, North China: Insights from the controversial Dengzhangzi Formation and its neighboring units” (Earth Science Frontiers, 1009, v. 16, #3). That work and a companion paper based on the last 3 field seasons that is now in progress (“The Early Mesozoic history of Liaoxi: Insights from the Early Jurassic Guojiadian Formation”). Collectively, this research indicates a much greater complexity of alternating extensional and contractional Yanshan deformation, and has yielded new radiometric dating and age controls on early Yanshan deformation.

    Research Keywords

    structural geology, regional tectonic studies, cordilleran orogen, extensional tectonics, u.s. and china, plate tectonics interpretations, Yanshan fold and thrust belt, North China, metamorphic core complexes

    Detailed Statement of Research Interests

    My current research is centered on the Phanerozoic evolution of northern China. It involves both field studies, primarily in the E-W Yanshan and Yinshan fold and thrust belts north of Beijing, and tectonic syntheses based on fieldwork and library research (principally from Chinese sources).  I have been involved in a  research program funded by the  China University of Geosciences/Beijing involving  field investigation of the tectonic history of a complexly deformed region in western Liaoning and eastern Hebei provinces. Funding for this research comes from a special grant to me alone, which to my knowledge is the only occasion when a foreign scientist has been give China government funds to work on a project strictly of his choosing and without the participation of Chinese colleagues. Results of this from 2006-2008 were published in May, 2009, and the results of field studies from 2009-2011 are currently being written up.

  • Other Presentations

    • “Yanshan allochthon, northern China:> 40 million years of mid-crustal detachment “, Invited lecture, Beijing, China 6/2013, 2012-2013
    • “Yanshan allochthon, northern China:> 40 million years of mid-crustal detachment”, Invited lecture, Beijing, 5/2013, 2012-2013
  • Journal Article

    • Davis, G. A. (2006). Some thoughts on Chinese Earth Sciences. Chinese Journal of Geological Education.. Vol. 10, pp. 1-8.
    • General Education Teaching Award for 2005, College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, Fall 2005
    • Achievement Plaque in Structural Geology and Tectonics from the China University of Geosciences/Beijing , Fall 2003
    • Career Contribution Award from the Structural Geology/Tectonics Division of Geological Society of America, 2003
    • USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, 1991