Click here to
                        find out more!
Home Directory Academics Research Field Camp Facilities Site Map
                  Faculty Research & Administrative Faculty
Department Staff Undergraduate
                Students Graduate Students


Matthew S. Lachniet
Associate Professor of Geology
Ph.D. - Syracuse University: 2001

Paleoclimatology, Stable Isotope Geochemistry

Room: SEB 3240
Mailstop: 4022
Telephone: (702) 895-4388
Fax: (702) 895-4064

Professional Background
Research Publications
Research Projects
Caves of Panama
Las Vegas Isotope Science Lab (LVIS)
Full Publication List


Professional Background

  • Associate Professor of Geology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas       (2009-Present)
  • Lab Director: Las Vegas Isotope Science Lab (LVIS)
  • Assistant Professor of Geology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas   (2003- 2009)
  •  Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (2002-2003)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City,    Panamá (2001-2002)
  • Ph.D. in Paleoclimatology at Syracuse University, New York (2001)
  • Fulbright Fellow to Costa Rica, for dissertation research in paleoclimatology    (2000-2001)
  • M.S. in Quaternary Geology and Hydrogeology, Michigan State University    (1997)
  • B.A. in Geology, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio (1995)

Research Grants and Academic Awards:

  • Paleoclimate and cultural change in Mesoamerica: Testing the hypothesis of an El Niño/Southern Oscillation forcing of late Holocene rainfall variability. National Science Foundation, Paleoperspectives on Climate Change Program. Collaborative with Yemane Asmerom and Victor Polyak at University of New Mexico.
  • Millennial-scale tropical rainfall variability from 100 to 20 ka: Testing cross-isthmian water vapor transport and feedbacks on thermohaline circulation. National Science Foundation, Paleoclimate Program. 2007. Collaborative with Yemane Asmerom at University of New Mexico.
  • Climatic instability in interior Alaska from the isotopic record of Late Quaternary ground ice, National Science Foundation, Arctic Programs. 2007. Collaborative with Dan Lawson, CRREL, New Hampshire.
  • Acquisition of a Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer for Earth Systems Science Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 2005. National Science Foundation, Major Research Instrumentation Program.
  • A Holocene history of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, solar variability, and the Central American Monsoon from speleothem calcite. 2003-2005. National Science Foundation.

International Experience

  • Ongoing field research in Central and South America (Panamá, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Mexico)
  • Speaks Spanish; proficient in Portuguese
Back to Menu


    GEOG 101 Physical Geography
    GEOL 110 Global Warming (Starting Spring 2009)
    GEOL 333 Principles of Geomorphology (every Spring Semester)
    GEOL 334 Environmental Geology
    GEOL 437 Paleoclimatology
    Death Valley Field Trip Photographic Highlights: 2005, 2006, 2007

    GEOL 637 - Paleoclimatology
    GEOL 707 - Stable Isotope Geochemistry
    GEOL 730 - Seminar in Quaternary Studies

Back to Menu


Dr. Lachniet has an active research program in which he uses light stable and radiogenic isotope geochemistry, hydrology, speleology, glacial geology, geomorphology, and the sedimentary record to answer questions of paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic change. His primary research areas are Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Alaska, and the Great Basin

His research goal is to constrain past climate changes in these regions using proxy records. He is particularly interested in generating rainfall histories for Central America and to evaluate the climate forcings of climate change and variability in the neotropics. What processes control tropical and subtropical paleoclimates? Do the tropics have a stable or unstable climate? As the 'heat engine' of the earth, do the tropics drive climate change in higher latitudes? Or do the tropics respond passively to extratropical climate perturbations? How has the El Niño/Southern Oscillation changed over time? What will be the tropical response to anthropogenic climate change? These are some of the questions he is attempting to answer with his research.

His research attempts to resolve this problem through generation of high-resolution (sub-annual to decadal), precisely dated, quantitative isotopic proxy records from speleothems (cave calcite deposits). Speleothem isotopic records will help to resolve continuing debates about tropical-extratropical teleconnections on both a regional and a global scale, and provide insight into the history and dynamics of monsoonal precipitation. Together with studies on modern stable isotope climatology and hydrology, and traditional geologic investigations such as tropical glaciation, his research is making substantial progress in elucidating neotropical Quaternary paleoclimates.

Back to Menu

Selected Publications

(Full Publication List)

Lachniet, M.S., Bernal, J. P., Asmerom, Y., Polyak, V., and Piperno, D., 2012. A 2400-yr rainfall history links climate and cultural change in Mexico. Geology 40, 259-262.

Lachniet, M.S., Lawson, D. E., and Sloat, A., 2012. Revised 14C dating of ice wedge growth in interior Alaska to MIS2 reveals cold paleoclimate and carbon recycling in ancient permafrost terrain. Quaternary Research 78, 217-225.

Lachniet, M.S., Asmerom, Y., and Polyak, V., 2011. North Atlantic forcing of the last deglaciation in the southwestern United States. Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 3803-3811.

Lachniet, M.S., 2009a. Climatic and environmental controls on speleothem oxygen isotope values. Quaternary Science Reviews 28, 412-432, doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2008.10.021.

Lachniet, M.S., 2009b. Sea surface temperature control on the stable isotopic composition of rainfall in Panama. Geophysical Research Letters 36, L03701, doi:10.1029/2008GL036625.

Back to Menu


  • Jon Baker, [Ph.D. in progress]. Paleoclimate of Russia.
  • Paul Pribyl, [M.S. in progress]. 2000 years of Great Basin climatic change.
  • Alison Sloat, [Ph.D. in progress]. Stable Isotopes in Ancient Permafrost Ice Wedges and Modern Surface Waters, Central Alaska.
  • Corinne Griffing, [M.S. completed 2010]. Pleistocene Climate in Alaska from Stable Isotopes in Ice Wedges.
  • Alex Roy, [M.S. completed 2008]. Late Quaternary Glaciation of the Sierra Cuchumatanes, Guatemala.
  • April Azouz, [M.S. completed 2006]. Paleoclimatology of Costa Rica from Speleothem Proxy Records.
  • Lindsay Burt, [M.S. completed 2005]. Paleoclimatology of Costa Rica, from Speleothem Isotopes, Barra Honda Cave, Costa Rica.

*Prospective Students: Please contact me if you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in Paleoclimatology.

Back to Menu


Office:Lilly Fong Geoscience Building (LFG) 104B
Tel: 702.895.3262; FAX 702.895.4064
Department of Geoscience
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 S. Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89154-4010