List of Geoscience Facilities

University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Find the list in .doc format here.

The Department of Geoscience, UNLV, with 22 faculty, and 3 staff offers undergraduate and graduate degrees (both MS and Ph.D.) and specializes in a variety of geoscience fields. Most faculty research is funded by grants from NSF, NASA, and DOE and other state and local sources. The equipment available for use within the Department of Geoscience at the University of Nevada Las Vegas includes:

Cryptotephra Laboratory for Archaeological and Geological Research (CLAGR): The cryptotephra laboratory in the Department of Geoscience specializes in the processing and analysis of extremely low abundance cryptotephra from sediments to provide precise dates for archaeological and geological events. The laboratory was established in 2013 to support an international effort to understand the evolution of early modern humans in southern Africa. The lab contains the equipment and supplies necessary for processing and identifying extremely low abundance cryptotephra and has access to a JEOL JXA-8900 Electron Probe Microanalyzer (EPMA) with 4 wavelength dispersive X-ray spectrometers (WDS) and an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS). The probe is housed in UNLV’s Electron Microanalysis and Imaging Lab (, a petrographic microscope with imaging system and grinding and polishing facilities. This type of tephra occurs as very small glass shards (usually < 100 microns in size) and in very low abundances (less than 10 shards/gram). Cryptotephra are found beyond the geographical limits of visible ash fall deposits, (e.g., the 74 ka eruption of the Youngest Toba Tuff) allowing correlations to be made over wider areas.

Contact: Gene Smith

Electron Microscopy and Imaging Laboratory (EMiL): EMiL is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments for high-resolution imaging and advanced microanalysis. Our facility features the JEOL JXA-8900R SuperProbe, installed in 1999, which is an advanced Electron Probe Microanalyzer (EPMA) equipped with up to four wavelength dispersive X-ray spectrometers (WDS) and an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS). This allows for simultaneous analysis of up to 12 elements, providing high sensitivity for trace elements and superior accuracy in quantitative analysis for elements ranging from beryllium (Be) to uranium (U). The JXA-8900R uses the PC version software Probe for EPMA and features an automated stage for handling large samples with precision repositioning to less than 0.5 μm.
In 2023, we upgraded our scanning electron microscopy capabilities with the installation of the TESCAN Vega SEM and the TESCAN Clara field emission SEM. The TESCAN Vega SEM offers high-resolution imaging and advanced analytical capabilities, including secondary and backscattered electron detectors, the Ultim® Max 65 EDS detector, and a cathodoluminescence detector, allowing for detailed surface imaging and precise elemental analysis down to the single-digit micron scale. Its low vacuum/environmental mode is particularly beneficial for biological samples, minimizing charging effects and enabling imaging without extensive sample preparation. The TESCAN Clara SEM is renowned for its ultra-high-resolution imaging and advanced analytical capabilities, including secondary and backscattered electron detectors, the Ultim® Max 100 EDS detector, a Symmetry 3 EBSD detector, and a STEM detector, ideal for examining nanoscale features with exceptional detail. Its user-friendly low vacuum/environmental mode facilitates the imaging of biological and non-conductive samples without extensive preparation. Both the TESCAN Vega and Clara SEMs utilize the latest Oxford Instruments AZtec software for advanced EDS and EBSD analysis, providing accurate elemental mapping and crystallographic orientation determination with an intuitive interface.
EMiL offers comprehensive sample preparation facilities for high-quality electron microscopy analysis. From rough grinding with silicon carbide papers to fine polishing for EBSD, we provide all necessary tools. Researchers can perform intermediate polishing with diamond paste or aluminum oxide powder and finalize samples with vibration polishing using alumina or colloidal silica solutions. Our facilities include a new thin section maker and sputter coating services, allowing samples to be coated with gold or carbon to improve conductivity and imaging quality.

Contact: Melissa Drignon

Fluid and Melt Inclusion Laboratory: This lab is equipped with a USGS-type gas-flow heating/freezing stage (Fluid, Inc.) for fluid inclusion analyses, a Linkam gas flow heating/freezing stage for fluid inclusion analysis, and a Linkam high temperature stage for melt inclusion rehomogenization.

Contact: Andrew Martin

Las Vegas Isotope Science Laboratory (LVIS Lab): Supported by the NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program, the LVIS lab is equipped with a ThermoElectron Delta V Plus Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer, Kiel IV device for automated preparation of δ18O and δ13C in carbonates, TC/EA High Temperature Conversion Elemental Analyzer for determination of O and H isotopes in waters and solids, Carlo Erba NA 1500 Elemental Analyzer for determinations of C, N, H, O in organic matter and organic carbon isotopes. The LVIS lab also is equipped with facilities and fume hoods for chemical processing.

Contact: Ganqing Jiang and Matt Lachniet

Medical Geology Laboratory: The Medical Geology Laboratory houses an eclectic collection of instruments to safely work with hazardous materials while performing physical and chemical analyses of environmental samples. The laboratory includes a special asbestos and radionuclide hood, and a Labconco Filtered Balanced System for safely handling asbestos and other hazardous particulates.

ContactBrenda Buck

Mineral Separation: The Mineral Separation Laboratory is well equipped for the preparation of high purity mineral separates. Facilities for heavy liquid mineral separations include two Nuaire perchloric hoods, a centrifuge, and a Buchi Rotavapor still for the reclamation of heavy liquids. The laboratory also includes a Wilfley table for heavy mineral separations, an air-abrader, three Franz isodynamic magnetic separators, and one Franz magnetic barrier separator. An Olympus 5260 microscope with reflected fiber optic light source and transmitted light base is used for the final hand picking of mineral separates.

Contact: Christopher Adcock

Nevada Rock Deformation Laboratory (NERD): This lab is equipped with a newly refurbished Griggs modified piston cylinder apparatus capable of deformation experiments at conditions up to 1.8 GPa and 1400 ºC and strain rates between 10-4/sec and 10-7/sec. Other equipment includes: Diamond wafering saw and wire saw, Vacuum drying oven and high temperature furnace (1200 ºC); Nikon Eclipse LV100 Research grade polarizing microscope with transmitted and reflected light, outfitted with a Medenbach micro drill, Vibromet polisher (for EBSD sample preparation), Quorum Technologies QT150T ES turbo pumped sputter coater/carbon coater.

Contact: Pamela Burnley

Nevada Isotope Geochronology Laboratory (NIGL Lab): The NIGL was established in 1999 and is designed to perform both 40Ar/39Ar age determination and thermochronology experiments. The NIGL houses an IsotopX NGX noble gas multi-collector mass spectrometer attached to a rare gas extraction line. The NGX contains a 9x faraday cup setup with an ion counting discrete dynode electron multiplier that allows for the measurement of 36Ar on either the faraday cup with ATONA amplifiers or multiplier. The NGX is attached to an all-metal high-vacuum gas extraction and purification line. This line contains three GP-50 SAES getters and a quadrupole mass spectrometer that can be used for monitoring gas species prior to admission to the NGX. The line has a high-vacuum HEINE furnace as well as a laser extraction system with two sample holder chambers and a Synrad Flyer 30W CO2 laser that can be used for incremental heating or total fusion analyses.

Contact: Kevin Konrad

Nevada Plasma Facility Lab (NPFL Lab):
NPFL hosts a ThermoFisher ScientificTM iCAP Q Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS). The wet chemistry lab is equipped with a Milli-Q® Integral Water Purification System, and a Savillex DST-1000 Acid Purification System. With such facilities, this lab provides elemental abundance measurements of almost all non-volatile elements in both natural and synthetic samples, ranging from water/ice, soils to silicate rocks. The detection limits can be as low as ppt to ppb level, depending on the sample matrix. The external reproducibility is typical at several percentage level, but can be pushed to 1% level if necessary. In Spring 2021, we have received and installed a ESI 193 nm Excimer NWR193 laser ablation system, which is coupled to the existing iCAPTM Qc ICP-MS. We have also received a Sapphire Multi-Collector Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS).

Contact: Arya Udry, Ganqing Jiang, and Matt Lachniet

UNLV Rock Chemistry Laboratory: This lab maintains an X-ray Diffraction (XRD) (a Proto AXRD Benchtop Diffractometer with Fine focus Cu-anode metal/ceramic construction 1500 W x-ray tube) and X-ray Fluorescence spectrometer (XRF) for mineral and bulk rock chemical analysis of major elements.

Contact: Oliver Tschauner

Rock Preparation Facilities: The Department of Geoscience houses several laboratory facilities for the preparation of samples for geological analysis. For sample crushing, facilities include Bico Chipmunk and Badger rock crushers, a Bico rotary disk mill, and a Ro-Tap for size sieving crushed samples. For preparation of oriented slabs and thin sections, a water saws with 18 an diamond blade, a large oil saws with 24 inch diamond blade, a trim saw, and Hillquist thin section machine and section grinder are available.

Sampling Equipment: Foredom CC-TCT drilling tools and drilling bits from 0.2 to 1.6 mm diameters; Sherline Precision Mill for high-resolution (to <100 μm) stable isotope sampling of carbonate laminae and cements; Merchantek computer-controlled microdrill with a dedicated Leica GZ6 microscope for super-high resolution (to 20 μm) sampling of carbonate cements and components, equipped with digital camera and screen capture; Petroscope for thin section analysis; 12X, 24X, and 42X objectives provide sample width of view (up to 22 mm) for detailed analysis of meso-scale structures. Mejia 8TR stereomicroscope and Fuji S7000 Digital Camera for image capture.

Contact: Matthew Lachniet

Shock-deformation Laboratory: This lab is equipped with two single stage light gas guns of 7mm and 15 mm bore for velocities up to 2 km/s, velocimeters, capture tanks for shock-recovery experiments, and one vertical gun (6 mm bore, 500m/s maximum flyer velocity). Additionally, four diamond cells of a novel type optimized for single crystal diffraction at low to ambient temperatures and pressures to above 100 GPa are available. These cells provide a 92° Japperture when used on a 4-circle goniometer. There are also loading and preparation facilities for diamond anvil cells including stereozoommicroscopes, EDM micro-drilling devices, diamond alignment tools, a cryogenic loading device. A CO2-laser heating system with two combined stabilized CO2 lasers of 125 and 60 W cw power, adjustable focal spot diameter and adjustable power profile, microstage positioning, pyrometric temperature measurement through reflecting optic is also housed in this lab

Contact: Oliver Tschauner

Soil Analyses Laboratory: Dr. Hausrath’s laboratory is located in the state-of-the-art, 208,000 ft2 UNLV Science and Engineering Building (SEB) that was completed in 2009. The wet chemistry laboratory currently supports five major research activities: 1) Mineral synthesis and preparation; 2) microbial growth experiments; 3) Mineral dissolution experiments; 4) Geochemistry sample preparation and analysis; and 5) Synchrotron sample preparation. Existing equipment includes an 18.2 ϺΩ-cm water purifier, chemical fume hoods, ovens, temperature-controlled shaker baths, a refrigerated centrifuge, an ultrasonicator, a vortexer, a laminar flow hood, a Plas-labs anoxic glove box, a Gas Chromatograph refrigerators and freezers, heated stir plates, a pH meter, vacuum filter towers, a glycolation chamber, a vacuum desiccator, rod stands, balances, pipettors, a freezer drier, and acid and water washing baths. Parr pressure vessels, a petrographic microscope and mineral crushing and sieving equipment allow for in-house mineral synthesis and preparation. A laminar flow hood enables aseptic microbial culturing. Instruments supporting aqueous geochemistry analyses include an Atomic Absorption Spectrometer and UV-Vis Spectrometer

Contact: Libby Hausrath

Structural Geology Laboratory: Structural geology laboratory is set up for microstructural and strain analysis. A Nikon Optiphot Polarizing microscope is equipped with a Nikon 4-axis Universal Stage. An Olympus BHSP-2 Polarizing Microscope with an Olympus SC100 10.6 megapixel digital camera and cellSens digital imaging software. The lab uses NIH Image software for image processing and analysis, coupled with spreadsheet-based macro programs for strain analysis

Contact: Michael Wells