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Wouter Schellart is a Professor of Geodynamics and Tectonics within the Department of Earth Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His research focuses on the deformation and flow in the Earth from the crustal scale to the whole mantle scale, investigating the driving forces and resistive forces related to such deformation and flow. He uses laboratory-based (analogue) and numerical modelling techniques as well as tectonic reconstructions to quantify the deformation, velocities, forces and stresses associated with large-scale geodynamic processes, in particular subduction and mountain building. His research focuses both on generic, process-oriented, research and research applied to specific geological settings and geographical locations (e.g. Andes, Southwest Pacific, Himalaya-East Asia, Mediterranean, Scotia Sea).

Wouter’s current research, funded by a Vici grant from the Dutch National Science foundation (NWO), investigates the origin and evolution of the largest mountain belts on Earth, the Andes and the Himalaya-Tibet-East Asia system.

Wouter is in charge of the Kuenen-Escher Geodynamics Laboratory (KEG Lab), which is a modelling facility in which crustal and mantle-scale geodynamic processes are simulated in analogue experiments at small spatial scales and short temporal scales.


Some recent research (open access):

Open access paper on a new subduction initiation mechanism, Subduction Invasion Polarity Switch (SIPS), with an application to the Scotia Sea region [Schellart et al., 2023]

Open access paper on the India-Eurasia collision, continental subduction and slab detachment [Laik, Schellart and Strak, 2023]

Open access paper on overriding plate deformation and topography during rollback and rollover subduction [Xue, Schellart and Strak, 2022]

Open access paper on periodic, short-term and long-term flat slab subduction: Schellart and Strak [2021]

Open access paper on thermo-mechanical modelling of the South American subduction zone: Strak and Schellart [2021]

Open access paper on flat slab subduction: Schellart [2020]

Open access paper on the India-Eurasia collision, extrusion tectonics, widespread continental deformation in Central, East and Southeast Asia and extension in Tibet, and the role of the Pacific and Sunda subduction zones in driving such deformation: Schellart et al. [2019]

Open access paper on the origin and evolution of the Andes and the migration of the Andean volcanic arc: Schellart [2017]

Open access paper on the interaction between the Tonga-Kermadec-Hikurangi subduction zone and intraplate volcanism in the Samoa region: Strak and Schellart [2018]

Open access paper on giant subduction zone earthquakes, which includes a global map showing which subduction zone segments on Earth are most likely to produce giant earthquakes: Schellart and Rawlinson [2013]

Open access paper on the origin of Lake Eyre and the Murray-Darling Basin, the largest intra-continental basins in Australia: Schellart and Spakman [2015]

Open access paper on subduction modelling and mantle flow: Schellart and Moresi [2013]

Open access review paper on analogue modelling: Schellart and Strak [2016]


Main topics of research:

-Subduction zone evolution and subduction-induced mantle flow.

-Cordilleran mountain building at subduction zones (e.g. Andes).

-Backarc basin formation at subduction zones (e.g. North Fiji Basin, Tyrrhenian Sea).

-Dynamic topography and (past) subduction (e.g. SW Pacific, Australia).

-Collisional mountain building and continental deformation (e.g. Himalaya-East Asia).

-Continental subduction, ophiolite obduction (e.g. New Guinea, New Caledonia).

-Giant earthquakes at subduction zones.

-Subduction and topography.



BSc courses

-Geophysics (coordinator & teacher)

-Field Course Solid Earth (teacher)


MSc courses

-Advanced Geodynamics and Tectonics (coordinator & teacher)

-Orogenesis (coordinator & teacher)

-Mantle Properties (teacher)


Prizes and Awards

Awards, medals, prizes

Cum laude award for MSc degree from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1999.

Molly Holman Doctoral Medal for the best PhD-thesis in the Faculty of Science, Monash University, 2003.

J. G. Russell award from the Australian Academy of Science, 2007.

Victoria & Tasmania Young Tall Poppy Science Award from the Australian Institute for Policy & Science, 2009.

Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research by and Early Career Researcher, Monash University, 2010.

E. S. Hills Medal from the Geological Society of Australia, awarded every two years to a young (<40 years) Australian resident for outstanding contributions to any branch of the geological sciences, anywhere, 2012.

Anton Hales Medal 2013 from the Australian Academy of Science for distinguished research in the Earth sciences, awarded annually to a researcher no more than 40 years of age in the calendar year of nomination.

D. I. Groves Award 2016 from the Geological Society of Australia (with PhD student Nasim Kharazizadeh) for the best paper published in Australian Journal of Earth Sciences in 2016 by a student (as first author) within six years of graduation.



Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship (APD) (2004-2006) from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship (QE II) (2007-2011) from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Monash Research Fellowship (2007-2012) from Monash University.

Future Fellowship (2012-2015) from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Vici Fellowship (2017-2023) from the Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO).


Ancillary activities

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Ancillary activities are updated daily

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Journal of Geodynamics (Journal)

    V. Strak (Member of editorial board), J.C. Duarte (Member of editorial board), F. Rosas (Member of editorial board), L. Moresi (Member of editorial board) & W.P. Schellart (Member of editorial board)


    Activity: Peer review and Editorial workEditorial workAcademic