Professor Tesfaye Birke - Academic Leader



Professor of Geological Sciences                  



B.Sc., M.Sc., D.Sc.

Office Block:


Office Nr 117

Block H1

Westville Campus





+27 31 260 8781

+27 31 260 7317


Biographical sketch

Graduated with bachelor degree in July, 1989 in Geology with a minor in Physics, in Addis Ababa University (AAU), Ethiopia and got employed as graduate assistant in September 1989 by the department of geology, AAU. Graduated with Master’s degree in structural geology (with a thesis titled “tectonics of the Pre-Cambrian rocks of Negash area, Tigrai region, Northern Ethiopia”) in 1993 from AAU. Graduated in 1999 with a PhD from the “Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris”, France and in the area of internal geophysics with a thesis dissertation titled “contributions towards the paleomagnetic and geochronologic study of the kinematic evolution of the Afar depression over the past three million years”. Returned back to AAU in June 1999 and served for one year and spent two years of post-doctoral study at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA. While in this postdoc, participated in Ocean Drilling Program ODP, leg 194 which investigated “Miocene sea level magnitude recorded by continental Margin Sequences” in the Marion Plateau, off the NE coast of Australia as paleomagnetist. Returned back to the Department of Geology and Geophysics (initially Department of Geology), Ethiopia and resumed the teaching and research duty. Established the first paleomagnetic laboratory making the Department of Geology and Geophysics the third institution in Africa that owns this modern laboratory facility. Served as associate Dean of students of the science faculty and that of the main campus. Served as associate editor of the SINET, an Ethiopian Journal of Science and reviewed many papers for many internationally peer-reviewed journals like for “Journal of Structural Geology”, “Earth and Planetary Sciences Letters”, “Tectonophysics”, “Geological Society of London”, and “Journal of African Earth Sciences”. Appointed as auxiliary faculty of the University of Utah as research associate professor of Geology and Geophysics (25 September 2009 – 30 June 2010), USA by the University’s Board of Trustees. Won the fellowships of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Alexander von Humboldt (AvH - fellowship for experienced researchers), and African Fulbright Fellowships. Served in curriculum development of both graduate and under graduate programs and worked as a department academic committee member, graduate committee member and also chairman of this latter committee. Currently professor of geological sciences at UKZN.

Academic Profile

  • Graduate Assistant/Lecturer/Assistant Professor, (1989-2004), School of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University (AAU), Ethiopia.
  • Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Students of Science Faculty & Main Campus (2003-2005), AAU.
  • Honorary Research Fellow (the Department of Earth Sciences, University College London, UK) – July 2004
  • Auxialiary faculty as Research Associate Professor: Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, USA – Sepember 2009.
  • Visiting Research Professor - Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, Kobe University, Japan, (January 2009 – February 2009; January 2012 – March 2012.
  • Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundations for experienced Scientists (July 2009 - September 2013) (for 18 Months in 3 blocks), at Geophysics section, LMU, Germany.
  • Fulbright Fellow as Visiting Professor – Institute of Remanent Magnetism (IRM): University of Minnesota, March 2015.
  • Full Professor of Structural Geology and Paleomagnetism, AAU, March 2015,
  • Visiting Professor (June 1 – November 30, 2016), Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kobe University, Japan.
  • Professor of Geological Sciences, UKZN since June 2017. 

Professional Activities

  • Member of Ethiopian Geoscience Mineral Exploration Association since 1992.
  • Member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) since 1997
  • Registered Natural Scientist South Africa (SACNASP)

Community Activities

  • Associate editor of Tectonics, AGU journal since July 2017
  • Reviewed articles for Journal of African Earth Sciences, Journal of Structural Geology, Earth and Planetary Sciences Letters, Tectonophysics, Geological Society of London.
  • Associate editor of SINET, Ethiopian Journal of Science 2004-2006
  • Member of Department Academic Committee 2002-2006
  • Chairman of Graduate Committee of the Department (2007 – 2012)
  • Served in various committees of the Department (curriculum review, student services)
  • Associate Dean of Students of Addis Ababa University between May 2003-October 2005.

Current Teaching /Courses

  • GEOL712 W2
  • GEOL220W1
  • GEOL303W1 

Research Interests /Areas of Specialty

My research engagement revolves around the applications of paleomagnetism to regional tectonics, paleogeography, geochronology, and paleoenvironment reconstructions. It is both field and laboratory based and I use paleomagnetism, rock-magnetism to explore rock records and make regional geological synthesis. I am studying the tectonic evolution of the Afar Depression and East African rift in collaborations with scientists from around the world. I broadened my research to include the Permian Paleogeographic reconstructions of Gondwana and Pangea, the preliminary work done on the glacial beds in Northern Ethiopia began shade light on the controversial paleogeographic configuration of Gondwana just prior to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. This area of research would be broadened to include the Karoo sediments in South Africa, and Botswana and will also include studying the paleomagnetic records of various cratonic nuclei and terranes in South Africa and unravelling ancient geomagnetic behavior of the geo dynamo as recorded by the oldest Rocks of South Africa.

Current Research Projects

  • GeoPower Africa, PEER Research, National Academy of Sciences, USA, Ethiopian Chapter (with Kenyan and Tanzanian PI and Collaborators).
  • Geomagnetic and aeromagnetic survey of the Dabbahu – Manda Harraro Rift, Afar Depression with Japanese scientists mainly from Kyoto university and other Universities in Japan.
  • SERENA project; Studying marine incursion and desiccation of the Dallol Region, Afar Depression with Scientists from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Academic Service

  • Department of Geology/Geology & Geophysics/ School of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University (1989 – 2017).
  • Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kobe University, Japan (June1 – November 30, 2016).
  • School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences UKZN (since June 2017)


Please click here to view Prof Birke's publications