GFZ German research centre for geo sciences

Dr. Luca Malatesta

Group Leader
Dr. Luca Malatesta
Building A 27, Room 101 (Büro)
14473 Potsdam

Function and Responsibilities:

senior scientist in climatic and tectonic geomorphology.

Group leader of Earth Surface Signal in section 4.7

Research Interests:

Earth Surface Signal working group

current members:

  • Dr. Tetiana Amashukeli [scientist]: in charge of maintenance and modernization of the seismic network of Ukraine. Awardee of a Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellowship [attached to NAS Kyiv]
  • Ruth Asiedu [Uni Potsdam MSc thesis & research assistant]: Global analysis of the controls on closed basins stability & Analysis of lithology and marine terrace distribution in Japan
  • Dr. David Litwin [postdoc]: The role of groundwater fluxes in modulating landscape evolution. Focus on drainage capture enhanced/inhibited by groundwater flow
  • Saki Minami [PhD student at Kyoto University]: landscape evolution and mountain building around very young intrusions in the Japan arc [starting in mid April 2023]

Former members and mentees are listed below under "Projects"

Current research

  • TEMARI: Tectonic and wave controls on the generation and preservation of marine terraces, DFG-funded project (no. 524080107).
    [with Sumiko Tsukamoto (LIAG Hannover), Shigeru Suoka (JAEA), Yuki Matsushi (Kyoto University), Kim Huppert (CUNY), and Noah Finnegan (UC Santa Cruz)].
  • The role of groundwater fluxes in modulating landscape evolution
    [led by David Litwin].
  • Exhumation of very young intrusions in the Japanese backarc and the impact of landscape dynamics on thermochronological ages
    [led by Saki Minami (Kyoto University), and Takahiro Tagami (Kyoto University)].
  • Modelling of landscapes with non-monotonic fluxes of water (evaporation/infiltration) and sediment (lakes).
    [with Boris Gailleton and Jean Braun]
  • Long-term deformation and landscape building in seismogenic zones
    [with Lucile Bruhat (AXA), Jean-Arthur Olive (ENS Paris), Bar Oryan (ENS Paris)]


Jan. 2020 - present

GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences Potsdam
Senior Research Scientist in the Earth Surface Modelling Section

Sept. – Nov. 2021

Nagasaki University
Visiting scientist

Sept. 2018 - Dec. 2019
University of Lausanne

Maître Assistant (lecturer) at the Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics

Mar. 2017 - Aug. 2018
UC Santa Cruz
SNSF Postdoctoral fellow; Project: Transient eustatic forcing of coastal bedrock rivers with Noah Finnegan

Oct. 2016 - Feb. 2017
University of Geneva
Visiting scientist in the group of Sébastien Castelltort


California Institute of Technology, PhD in Geology
Thesis: Impact of climate and tectonics on the morphodynamics of alluvial piedmonts, implications for sediment transfer and the stratigraphic record.
Supervisor: Jean-Philippe Avouac; Co-supervisor: Michael P. Lamb

ETH Zurich, MSc in Geology
Thesis: Landscape Evolution and Lateral Growth of the SW Tian Shan, Uzbekistan.
Thesis supervisors: Sébastien Castelltort, Vincenzo Picotti, Susan Ivy-Ochs

ETH Zurich, BSc in Earth Sciences


Students and postdocs I have (had) the opportunity to work with:

  • Nina-Marie Weiß: topographic analysis of tectonically active coastlines in Japan [now BSc student in Earth Sciences at Uni Potsdam]
  • Dr. Anne-Morwenn Pastier for her postdoctoral fellowship on the creation and preservation of corral reef terraces under varying tectonic and climatic conditions (2020-2022, co-advised with Kim Huppert)
  • Dr. Boris Gailleton for the development of a new Landscape Evolution Framework, CHONK (2020-2022, Now a postdoctoral fellow at University of Rennes [])
  • Caroline Brand, BSc student at University Bremen, for an internship co-supervised by Kim Huppert about the relationship between sea cliff retreat and wave power on the southeastern England coast
  • Sonia Flückiger for her BSc thesis at the University of Lausanne about quantitative constraints on glacial lake outburst floods from fluvial deposits (2020), now MSc student in climate science at the University of Bern
  • Andreas Ruby for his research internship (MSc) on the distribution of marine terraces  across the Japanese archipelago as a function of local uplift rates (2020), Now PhD student at GFZ.
  • Emily Carreño for her undergraduate senior thesis at UC Santa Cruz on the sampling bias in global uplift rates derived from marine terraces (2018), now professional geologist in the Bay Area, CA


Graphic Design for Science Visualization (short course at GFZ, Nagasaki University, ITN doctoral school)

Introduction to Numerical Modelling on MATLAB (BSc, UNIL, 2018-2019)

Erosion, Tectonics, and Climate (BSc, UNIL, 2018-2019)

Dates and Rates in the Landscapes (MSc, UNIL, with G. King, 2019)

Introduction to Alpine Geology (BSc UNIL, 2019)

Creation of a Google Earth based field guide for the Spanish Pyrenean excursion "sedimentary rocks in the field" led by Sébastien Castelltort at ETH Zurich (2011)

Research Boards and Committees:

Academic services

Reviewer for American Journal of Science, The Depositional Record, Ecological Processes, EPSL, ESPL, E Surf D, Geomorphology, JGR Solid-Earth, JGR Earth Surface, Quaternary International, Quaternary Research, Scientific Reports, Tectonics, Tectonophysics, Terra Nova.

Organizer of the Steepest Descent Meeting at the EGU General Assembly, 2017-2020.

Convener and chair of geomorphology and tectonics sessions at EGU 2016-2020.

Co-initiator of the Swiss Geoscience Master Congress (SGMC) and committee member of the first edition in November 2011


2023 DFG-funded project TEMARI (Tectonic and wave controls on the generation and preservation of marine terraces) co-PI Sumiko Tsukamoto [520k€]

2021 Outstanding Reviewer Award for the AGU journal Tectonics, nominated by the Editors

2018 Basin Research Early Career Award (IAS) for the article “Lag and mixing during sediment transfer across the Tian Shan piedmont caused by climate-driven aggradation–incision cycles” (Malatesta et al., Basin Research, 2017)

2017 Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) award at EGU 2017 for “A model to quantify mixing across alluvial piedmonts with cycles of aggradation and incision”

2017 Early Postdoc.Mobility Fellowship (1.5 year) from the Swiss National Science Foundation for the project “Transient eustatic forcing of coastal bedrock rivers”

2015 Doc.Mobility Fellowship (1 year) from the Swiss National Science Foundation for the project “Nucleation of waterfalls at intermittently shielded fault scarps”

2011 Swiss Geological Society Award for the “most outstanding Master's thesis in Earth Sciences”

2011 Willi Studer Prize for the best Master's studies in the department of Earth Sciences at ETH Zurich

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