Rod River IRod Metcalf

Emeritus professor

Metamorphic and Igneous Petrology, Paleotectonics, Geochemistry

Office: LFG 203
Telephone: (702) 895-4442


Natural asbestos research


  • Ph.D. Geology, 1990, University of New Mexico
  • M.S. Geology, 1984, University of Kentucky
  • B.S. Geology, 1979, University of Kentucky


I am a petrologist with interests in the origin and evolution of the earth’s continental crust. More recently my interests have shifted into the field of Medical Geology which deals with the impact of geologic materials and human health. My research tools draw primarily from igneous petrology, metamorphic petrology, mineral chemistry, trace element and isotope geochemistry and geochronology. Part of my research has focused on the petro-tectonic evolution of the Klamath Mountains province, California and Oregon. This work seeks to understand the generation and modification of juvenile crust in a long-lived (Paleozoic) supra-subduction environment, including fore-arc ophiolites. Another avenue of research has focused on volcanic-plutonic connections in continental settings and the interaction of mantle- and crust-derived magmas in crustal evolution; this work focuses on Miocene volcanic-plutonic rocks of the Northern Colorado River extensional corridor (NCREC). More recently, my research has been directed towards understanding the processes responsible for the genesis of naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) and its distribution across the landscape. I am part of an interdisciplinary research group (including my UNLV colleague Dr. Brenda Buck), that first reported fibrous amphiboles (actinolite and winchite) in rock types where prior models would not predict its occurrence (e.g. granitoid plutons in the NCREC). These amphibole asbestos minerals are found in and around communities in southern Nevada and in nearby popular recreation areas. Our NOA work has garnered national media attention and interest from the national and international scientific community.

Selected Research Publications

Baumann, F., Buck, B. J., Metcalf, R. V., McLaurin, B. T., Merkler, D., Carbone, M., (2015) The presence of asbestos in the natural environment is linked to mesothelioma in young individuals and women in Southern Nevada. Journal of Thoracic Oncology, vol. 10, pages 731-737. doi:10.1097/JTO.0000000000000506

Metcalf. R.V. & Buck, B.J. (2015) Genesis and health risk implication of an unusual occurrence of NaFe3+-amphibole. Geology, vol. 43, p. 63-66. doi:10.1130/G36199.1

Buck, B.J., Goosens, D., Metcalf, R.V., McLaurin, B., Ren, M., Freudenberger, F. (2013) Naturally occurring asbestos: Potential for human exposure, southern Nevada, USA: Soil Science Society of America Journal, vol. 77, p. 2192-2204. doi:10.2136/sssaj2013.05.0183

Metcalf, R.V. and Shervais, J. W. (2008) Supra-subduction zone ophiolites: Is there really an ophiolite conundrum? in James Wright and John Shervais eds., Ophiolites, Arcs, and Batholiths, A Tribute to Cliff Hobson: Geological Society of America Special Paper 438, 191-222. doi: 10.1130/2008.2438(07).

Metcalf, R.V. (2004) Volcanic-Plutonic Links, Plutons as Magma Chambers and Crust Mantle Interaction: A Lithospheric Scale View of Magma Systems: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh – Earth Sciences, v. 95, p. 357-374. DOI:

Current Grants and awards

U.S. Bureau of Land Management: $180,000 9/9/2013 to 9/9/2016

Managing Federal Lands and Human Health: Preventing Human Exposure to Carcinogenic Minerals in Southern Nevada.

Co-PI with Brenda Buck (UNLV)

Courses taught

GEOL 100: Natural Disasters
GEOL 102: Historical Geology
GEOL 325: Optical Mineralogy
GEOL 348: Field Geology I
GEOL 370: Intermediate Field Geology
GEOL 372: Advanced Field Geology
GEOL 426: Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
GEOL 429/629: Geochemistry
GEOL 493: Independent Study and Research
GEOL 701: Research Methods
GEOL 720: Advanced Geochemistry
GEOL 725: Seminar in Petrology-Granitoid Petrology
GEOL 793: Independent Study and Research
GEOL 795: Seminar in Geology-Tectonics and Magmatism
GEOL 796: Advanced Topics-Metamorphic Petrology