Academic Credentials
  • Ph.D., Earth and Environmental Science, University of Michigan, 2021
  • M.S., Geology, Utah State University, 2015
  • B.S., Summa Cum Laude, Earth Sciences, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, 2013
Academic Appointments
  • Graduate Student Instructor and Research Assistant, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Michigan, 2016-2021
  • Teaching and Research Assistant, Department of Geosciences, Utah State University, 2013-2015
Professional Honors
  • Honors, Scholarships, Awards
  • First Place Presentation, Michigan Geophysical Union Annual Meeting, 2019
  • Highest-Ranked Research Proposal, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Michigan, 2019
  • Steward R. Wallace Fellowship Recipient, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Michigan, 2016
  • Robert Q. Oaks, Jr. Graduate Citizenship Award Recipient, Department of Geosciences, Utah State University, 2015
  • Presidential Research Fellowship Recipient, Utah State University, 2013
  • Outstanding Earth Sciences Professional of the Year, Natural Resources Management and Environmental Science Department, California Polytechnic State University, 2013
  • Recipient of the Highest Earth Sciences GPA Award, Natural Resources Management and Environmental Science Department, California Polytechnic State University, 2013
Professional Affiliations
  • American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • Geological Society of America (GSA)

Dr. Townsend is a geologist and geomorphologist with experience in near-surface geophysics, geochronology, and geomorphic and geologic site characterization through field mapping, digital topographic analyses, satellite photo analyses, and subsurface investigations. He specializes in the characterization of weak and fractured rock masses, mapping and quantifying erosion following wildland fire, and digital terrain analyses for erosion and slope stability problems. 

Dr. Townsend also has experience with the application of remote sensing technologies and LiDAR, shallow seismic and electrical resistivity surveying for near-surface investigations, logging and characterizing stratigraphic sections, OSL geochronology and radiocarbon dating, and USDA soil taxonomy. He has experience with technical software including ArcGIS, CloudCompare, LASTools, SeisImager, MATLAB, and GeoStudio. He has also been involved in geologic and geotechnical field investigations of landslides, debris flows, soil creep, fault rupture, earthen dam failure, wetland restoration, mine remediation, and archeological resources.

Prior to joining Exponent, Dr. Townsend earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. His doctoral work focused on the role of scale-dependent rock-mass strength in controlling the erosion and morphology of mountainous topography. Within this research area, Dr. Townsend mapped earthquake-triggered landslides from aerial and satellite imagery, modelled regional distributions of rock-mass strength from inversion of topography and mapped landslides, and applied field geotechnical approaches to characterize and quantify variability in the strength of fractured rock masses. Dr. Townsend also resolved the timing of initiation and propagation of tectonically active fault systems in southern California from thermochronology and structural geology analyses. As a doctoral student, he led a study assessing the influence of rock strength on the map distribution and volumes of eroded sediment following the 2018 Woolsey Fire in southern California using repeat airborne-LiDAR surveys and field mapping. For this project, he collaborated with geoscientists at the Landslides Hazards Program in the U.S. Geological Survey through an internship award from the National Science Foundation.

At the University of Michigan, Dr. Townsend served as a Graduate Student Research Assistant and was the Graduate Student Instructor for five graduate and undergraduate courses in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and geologic field methods. At Utah State University, he served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for laboratory courses in introductory geology and Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) geochronology.