Our faculty combine field and experimental work, and theory to study a wide range of planetary processes including the physicochemical causes and timing of volcanic eruptions, the nature of deformation during regional
metamorphism, the evolution of base and precious metal deposits, the connection between the mantle and the volcanic arc in subduction zones, mantle mineralogy, and the dynamics of core-mantle interaction. This brief list is not all inclusive. Instrumentation includes a JEOL 8900 SuperProbe electron probe microanalyzer (EPMA) equipped with a cathodoluminescence (CL) detector, wave-length dispersive spectrometers (WDS), and an energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS); scanning electron microscope (SEM) with and a CL detector and EDS; Field Emission SEM with a magnification range of 500 to 430,000 X; Ar/Ar geochronology laboratory; experimental apparatuses to simulate conditions from the surface to the deep mantle; X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF) for major and trace element chemistry and X-ray diffractometer (XRD) for mineral identification and crystallographic studies; and facilities for all types of sample preparation. In addition to these in-house instruments, we maintain long-standing collaborative relationships with external labs to ensure that students have access to all required research tools. Please contact faculty member Terry Spell if you are interested in applying for our M.S. or Ph.D. program in any branch of Petrology and Geochemistry.
Pamela C. Burnley: Associate Research Professor
High Pressure Rock Deformation, Mineral Physics, Metamorphic Petrology, Geoscience Education
Jean S. Cline: Emeritus Professor
Economic Geology, Geochemistry
Shichun Huang: Assistant Professor
Geochemistry, Igneous Geology
Simon Jowitt: Assistant Professor
Economic geology, Geochemistry
Rodney V. Metcalf: Associate Professor
Metamorphic and Igneous Petrology, Geochemistry
Eugene I. Smith: Emeritus Professor
Igneous Petrology, Volcanic Stratigraphy, Geochemistry
Arya Udry: Assistant Professor
Planetary Science, Igneous Petrology, Martian Geology, Meteorites
Projects include: The evolution and connectivity of volcanic-plutonic complexes in the Colorado River Extensional Corridor; the Klamath Mountains province of California and Oregon; tracking the long-term (>300 million years) chemical evolution of magma sources in sub-arc asthenosphere (Klamath Province); the Pliocene-Recent basaltic volcanism in the southern Basin and Range Province in Nevada and Arizona; depth of melting in the Basin and Range province; rare-earth element bearing accessory minerals in granites and rhyolites from different source regions; characterizing upper mantle and lower crustal xenoliths in areas of extension and implications for the timing and evolution of continental rifts; the nature of Quaternary rhyolitic and basaltic volcanism to the north of the Yellowstone Caldera.
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Projects include: The geochemistry, volcanology and petrology of intraplate volcanic fields in the Lunar Crater Volcanic Field, central Nevada and Black Rock Desert and Markagunt Plateau, western Utah; the evolution of continental volcanic centers and associated silicic eruptions and caldera collapse events; the Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonic evolution of western North America and New Zealand; testing geodynamic models of mantle flow and implications for the location and eruptive history of intraplate volcanoes; the nature of the plumbing system of the Valles Caldera, New Mexico.
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Projects include: Shock compression experiments which simulate the conditions during asteroid collisions and impacts on Earth and Mars. We examine pressure-temperature regimes of formation of high-pressure minerals, growth rates, shock-induced deformation and damage. We obtain structural and chemical information from natural and synthetic high-pressure minerals and use these results for examining the thermodynamics of their solid solutions. Synchrotron micro-diffraction and -spectroscopy are used to examine natural and synthesized phases. Diamond anvil cells are used to obtain their thermoelastic properties. Our experimental facilities include three single stage light gas guns for shock experiments, diamond anvil cells, and a Raman spectrometer. We maintain a strong partnership with the High Pressure Science and Engineering Center (HiPSEC) at UNLV, with NNSA research institutions such as NSTEC and LLNL, and with synchrotron facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the Advanced Light Source (ALS).
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Projects include: the generation and modification of juvenile crust in a long-lived supra-subduction environment in the Klamath Mountains province, California and Oregon; the exhumation history of a large coherent sheet of high pressure oceanic crust at a pacific-type subduction margin (Klamath Province); evaluating the early stages of partial melting in the earth’s crust in pyrometamorphic aureoles about mafic intrusions; origin of asbestiform amphiboles by sodium metasomatism; the localization of strain in shear zones; the interactions between melting and deformation during regional metamorphism; and the exhumation of high- and ultra-high pressure metamorphic rocks.
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Recent and current projects include the genesis of the Cortez Hills Carlin-type gold deposit; formation of a sedimentary breccia hosting epithermal-type gold mineralization; the physical and chemical evolution of the Batu Hijau porphyry copper deposit, Indonesia; the use of fluid inclusions to constrain ore deposit evolution; petrology and ore and alteration mineralogy of a reduced, intrusion-related gold property, southwest Alaska; and grass-roots exploration for porphyry copper mineralization, northwest Arizona, using geochemistry and petrology. Strong working relationships with international mining companies such as Barrick Gold Corporation and Newmont Mining Corporation provide opportunities for project funding, for students to gain real-world experience interning at mines and, for students to acquire data and contribute to improved exploration models.
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Our current projects involve: partitioning of rare-earth elements (REE) and high-field strength elements (HFSE) between hydrous fluids and minerals of the transition zone of the mantle; studies of shock-metamorphism in meteorites and terrestrial rocks; the structure of silicate melts between 200 and 500 kbar pressure; and the thermoelastic and inelastic properties of rock-forming minerals.
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Active research includes the mobility of trace elements during dehydration of eclogite in subduction zones; the incorporation of gold and other trace elements in pyrite; the mass transfer and concomitant fractionation of trace elements between minerals such as monazite, apatite, zircon, and supercritical aqueous fluid(s); and geochemical applications in mineral exploration.
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