Home » Faculty » Cecilia M. McHugh

Cecilia M. McHugh


Science Building - Room E 202
Phone: 718-997-3322


Research Interests

     The catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis in Sumatra, 2004; Haiti, 2010; Chile 2010 and Japan 2011 heightened public awareness to these natural hazards and of their consequence for the heavily populated coastal regions of the world. Large earthquakes and tsunamis associated to tectonic plate boundaries cause devastating loss of life and property. Recent research applies new methodologies to document pre-instrumental earthquake ruptures along fault segments of tectonics boundaries. We use high-resolution geophysical instruments (sidescan sonar, multibeam bathymetry, subbottom profiles) and sediment sampling (piston and gravity cores, multicores, dredges) to study the seafloor and subbottom layers. Students Jessica Dutton, George Lozefski and Adina Hakimian have been studying the North Anatolia Fault in the Marmara Sea Turkey, El Pilar Fault in Cariaco Basin, Venezuela, and the floor of the Ionan Basin in the Mediterranean associated to the Calabrian Ridge plate boundary. 
     Other research projects investigate a paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic signal from sediments recovered in marginal basins such as the Marmara Sea and Black Sea, Turkey. The reconnections of these marginal basins to the world's ocean after the Last Glacial Maximum can track global sea-level rise due to the dramatic sedimentation changes and complete replacement in the fauna and flora that occurs as these basins change from lacustrine to marine settings. Damayanti Gurung a Ph.D. student is involved in this project.
     Closer to home we are studying Sandy Hook Bay and Long Island Sound, highly urbanized estuaries that have been severely impacted by anthropogenic activities. Students Elana Klein, Alexandrea Bowman, Andrea Balbas and Theanet Charles are measuring heavy metals, organic matter concentrations, and interpreting the abundances in terms of coastal and estuarine processes that erode, transport, and deposit sediments.
     Long Island Sound was covered by ice ~20,000 ago and has recorded in its sediments the transition from glacial deposits to a fresh water lake, marine transgression, estuarine sedimentation and anthropogenic impact. Vadim Acosta and Jeniffer Rios are studying the glacial to interglacial climatic transition from the biostratigraphic record of sediment cores and geophysical images.
Long term research (3 Ocean Drilling Program Legs, Alvin Dives, and oceanographic cruises) to the Canterbury Basin offshore New Zealand and New Jersey Continental passive margin have permitted to study the consequences of global sea level change and paleoclimate on sedimentation. These studies have provided insights into the future consequences of climate change. Students Robert Applebaum Corinne Hartin and Helene Gould.
     Recent research is focusing on Bangladesh. A country where seismic risk is high, fluvial processes mighty, and where ~160 million people inhabit at or near coastal zones. An international, multinstitutional program is being implemented to study tectonics, seismic risk and fluvial processes of the mighty Ganges-Brahmaputra fluvial system. Opportunities to become involved in this program are open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Please contact C. McHugh for this purpose.

Teaching Philosophy and Interests

Teaching students at Queens College and The City University of New York is a great experience due to the diverse student population. Having immigrated to New York City from Buenos Aires, Argentina after high school and without speaking the language, the most important message I give my students is, "set a goal, something that you truly like, and go for it!" It can be done!

Courses Taught

  • GEOL8 Oceanography
  • GEOL216 Dynamics of the Oceans and Atmospheres


  • GEOL747 Coastal and Estuarine Processes
  • GEOL780 Marine Geology





  1. Mondal, D., McHugh, C.M., Mortlock, R., Steckler, M., Mustaque, S. 2018. Microatolls document the 1762 and prior earthquakes along the southeast coast of Bangladesh. TECTO12416 (in press).
  2. Tagliaro, G., Fulthorpe, C. S., Gallagher, S. J., McHugh, C. M., Kominz, M., Lavier, L. L., (in revision). Neogene siliciclastic deposition and climate variability on a carbonate margin: Australia Northwest Shelf. Marine Geology 403, 285-300 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2018.06.007
  3. Usami, K., Ikehara, K. Kanamatsu, T., McHugh, C. Supercycle in great earthquake recurrence along the Japan Trench over the last 4000 years. Geoscience Letters Geoscience Letters v. 5(11), pg. 1-12 https://doi.org/10.1186/s40562-018-0110-2


  1. McHugh, C.M., Fulthorpe, C. S., Hoyanagi, K., Blum. P., Mountain, G.S., Miller, K.G., 2017. The sedimentary imprint of Pleistocene glacio-eustasy: Implications for global correlations of seismic sequences. Geosphere, v. 14, no 1, p 1-21. DOI:10.1130/GES01569.1


  1. Kanamatsu, T., Usami, K., McHugh, C.M., Ikehara, K., 2017. High-resolution chronology of sediment below CCD based on Holocene paleomagnetic secular variations in the Tohoku-oki earthquake rupture zone. 2017. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 18, p 1-13. Doi:10.1002/2017GC006878.


  1. Christensen, B.A., Renema, W., Henderiks, J., De Vleeschouwer, D., Groenveld, J., Castaneda, I., Reuning, L., Bogus, K., Auer, G., Ishiwa, T., McHugh, C.M., Gallagher, S. J., Fulthorpe, C.S., and IODP Expedition 356 Scientists, 2017. Indonesian Throughflow drove Australian climate from humid Pliocene to arid Pleistocene. Geophysical Research Letters 44, p, 6914-6925. Doi:10.1002/2017GL072977.
  3. Groeneveld, J., Henderiks, J., Renema, W., McHugh, C.M., DeVleeschouwer, D., Christensen, B.A., Fulthorpe, C.S., Reuning, L., Gallagher, S.J., Bogus, K., Auer, G., Ishiwa, T., and Expedition 356 Scientists. 2017. Australian shelf sediments reveal shifts in Miocene Southern Hemisphere Westerlies. Science Advances: vol. 3, no. 5, e1602567, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602567


  1. McHugh, C.M., Kanamatsu, T., Seeber, L., Bopp, R., Cormier, M.-H., Usami, K., 2016. Remobilization of surficial slope sediment triggered by the A.D. 2011 Mw9 Tohoku-Oki earthquake and tsunami along the Japan Trench. Geology 44(5), 391-394. doi:10.1130/G37650.


  1. McHugh, C. M., Strasser, M., Cattaneo, A., Ikehara, K., 2016. Submarine Paleoseismology: Using Giant Piston Coring within IODP to fill the gap in the Long-term Records of Great Earthquakes. Ocean Discovery, The US Scientific Ocean Drilling Community Newsletter, Spring 2016, pgs. 4-5.


  1. Wright, V. D., Hornbach, M. J., McHugh, C., Mann, P. 2015. Factors contributing to the 2005-Present, rapid rise in lake levels, Dominican Republic and Haiti (Hispaniola). Natural Resources vol 6, No. 8. DOI:10.4236/nr.2015.68045


  1. Strasser, M., Cattaneo, A., Ikehara, K., McHugh, C.M., 2015. Submarine Paleoseismology : Using giant-piston coring within IODP to fill the gap in long-term records of great earthquakes – 16-18 July 2015, Zurich (Switzerland). ECORD Newsletter, 25: 24.


  1. McHugh, C.M., Seeber, M.-H. Cormier, M. Hornbach, 2014. Submarine Paleoseismology along Populated Transform Boundaries: The Enriquillo-Plantain-Garden Fault, Canal du Sud, Haiti, and the North Anatolian Fault, Marmara Sea, Turkey. Oceanography Special Issue on Submarine Natural Hazards. Oceanography 27(2), p. 118-131.
  1. McHugh, C.M.G., Braudy, N., Cagatay, M. N., Sorlien, C., Cormier, M.-H., Seeber, L., Henry, P., 2014. Seafloor ruptures along the North Anatolia Fault in the Marmara Sea, Turkey: Link with the adjacent basin turbidite record. Marine Geology 353, p. 65-83.


  1. McHugh, C.M., Seeber, L., Çağatay, N., Henry, P., Sorlien, C., Steckler, M., Uçarkuş, G., 2012. Tectonic Hazards along Continental Transform Boundaries “An Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Marmara-Trans Workshop on Continental Transform Boundaries: Tectonic Evolution and Geohazards . Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Scientific Drilling Journal No. 13 Pages 60-64.
  3. Shillington, D.J., Seeber, L., Sorlien, C.C., Steckler, M.S., Kurt, H., Dondurur, D., Cifici, G., Cormier, M.-H., McHugh, C.M.G., Gurcay, S., Poyraz, D., Okay, S., Atgin, O., Diebold, J. B., 2012. Evidence for widespread creep on the flanks of the Sea of Marmara Transform basin from marine geophysical data. Geology 40, p 439-442.


  1. McHugh, C.M., Seeber, L., 2011. Studying tectonic hazards along continental transform boundaries. EOS Transactions American Geophysical Union, V. 92, No. 48, p. 444.

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