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Department of Geological Sciences

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Geochemistry, Mineralogy, and Petrology

Collecting Lava Samples

  • David Foster uses temperature sensitive isotopic dating methods (thermochronometers) and radiogenic isotopes to constrain metamorphic, igneous, and deformation processes. He directs the Ar-Ar and fission track dating laboratories and is building a new extraction system for helium analysis. (email:
  • John Jaeger‘s research in low-temperature early diagenesis of sediments is centered on understanding how biological, physical, and chemical processes influence the fate of organic matter introduced into coastal marine sediments. Time-series studies of estuarine sediments using sedimentologic (physical properties, x-radiography), geochronologic (short-lived radioisotopes), and carbon and nitrogen geochemistry are used to quantify the relative contribution of these processes in controlling preservation. (email:
  • Ellen Martin‘s research in low temperature geochemistry focuses on the evaluation of new minerals phases as archives for Sr and Nd isotopes in marine sediments. In particular, this has included studies of marine barite, phosphatic fish teeth, and Fe-Mn oxide coatings. She is also interested in developing U/Pb geochronology in low temperature phases, such as conodonts, using LA-MC-ICPMS. The coupling of an absolute dating technique with the detailed Paleozoic conodont biostratigraphy could produce a powerful stratigraphic tool. (email:
  • Kyoungwon “Kyle” Min is interested in constraining thermal histories of meteorites and terrestrial rocks in order to understand planetary/geologic processes such as accretion and impacts in other planets or asteroids, metamorphism and exhumation of orogenic belts, and development of topography. He uses (U-Th)/He and 40Ar/39Ar dating methods as well as other analytical tools. (email:
  • Paul Mueller‘s research is focused on understanding the evolution of the crust-mantle system and its relation to geodynamics in the early earth. Objectives of this research include 1) understanding the petrogenetic process that were important in establishing the first continental crust, e.g., petrogenesis of the voluminous tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite suites found in many Archean high-grade terranes, 2) utilizing minerals as reliable recorders of the isotopic evolution of their original host magmas (e.g. zircon for Hf, titanite for Nd), even after weathering and erosion may lead to their inclusion in (meta) sedimentary rocks. These studies require both elemental and isotopic analyses of accurately dated rocks and/or minerals to be successful. At present we are utilizing U-Pb zircon geochronology via ion probe as our primary chronometer, and are developing methods for applying the U-Pb system to zircons and other minerals utilizing LA-ICP-MS techniques for both our high-resolution (Element-2) and multi-collector instruments (Nu Plasma). (email:
  • Mike Perfit‘s specialty is igneous petrology – the study of the origin of rocks formed from magma. His research involves the study of volcanic and plutonic rocks formed in island arcs, hotspots and mid-ocean ridges. He is particularly interested in the associations between rock types and specific tectonic locations. Much of his research requires participation on oceanographic expeditions which involves working closely with other scientists, engineers, and ships crew, and utilizing geophysical equipment, remotely operated vehicles, and manned submersibles such as ALVIN to explore the ocean floor. More specifically, his research is focused on determining the chemical composition and crystallization history of magmas that form beneath the ocean floor and erupt at the ridges to form nearly 70 percent of the Earth’s upper crust. He utilizes a variety of remote sensing tools (including ROV’s, sidescan sonar, deep-sea cameras) to map the seafloor and analytical tools such as XRF, microprobe, ICP-MS and TIMS to determine the petrogenesis of magmas and the geochemical evolution of the Earth. (email:
  • Andy Zimmerman is an organic geochemist who studies organic matter-mineral-microbe relationships and human influences on organic matter preservation. (email:

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