Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

First Advisor

H. Jay Melosh

Committee Chair

H. Jay Melosh

Committee Member 1

Andy Freed

Committee Member 2

Marc W Caffee

Committee Member 3

Brenda B Bowen


The geologic histories of most terrestrial bodies are dominated by two major processes: meteorite bombardment and volcanism. The forms that the resulting impact craters and volcanic structures take can tell us a great deal about the ways in which these processes occur and about the environment of the host body at the time of their formation. The surfaces of bodies like Mercury and the Moon are old, however, and most such features formed more than a billion years in the past. Impact craters and volcanic structures are thus generally not visible in their original states, but instead in a form which has evolved over geologic time. ^ In this work, I combine observations of planetary surfaces from spacecraft like MESSENGER and GRAIL with modern numerical modeling techniques in order to explore the various ways in which the long-term geophysical evolution of impact craters and volcanic structures can reveal information about the subsurface environment. I find that the pattern of fractures on the floors of the Rachmaninoff, Raditladi, and Mozart peak-ring impact basins on Mercury reveals the contours of the underlying terrain; that the present-day gravitational and topographic signatures over Orientale Basin emerged due to a combination of syn- and post-impact processes which can help to constrain both the parameters of the impact and the rheology of the lunar mantle; and that the tremendous sizes at which lunar lava tubes can be stable open up both new ways of interpreting GRAIL observations of the lunar gravity field and new possibilities for human exploration of the Moon.