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Themes & Programs


The major research areas in the Geology and Geophysics at the U are briefly described below. For more information on a specific research program, click on the faculty member listed.


Solid Earth and Tectonic Process

The processes that govern the formation and deformation of Earth's crust are investigated through field studies, geodesy, seismic data acquisition and interpretation, physical and numerical modeling, petrology and geochronology. Research topics include the formation and evolution of oceanic and continental lithosphere, crust and plate reconstructions, basin formation, continental rifting and faulting dynamics.

 Bartley, Bowman, Lambart, Lippert


Energy Geosciences

The faculty at the U are internationally recognized for their work in energy resources.  Researchers are undertaking studies that range from subsurface basin analysis and reservoir characterization to fluid flow dynamics.  Focus on hydrocarbon energy research ranges from traditional techniques to cutting-edge predictive geospatial modeling, as well as the environmental effects of resource extraction on water and land use.  The Petroleum Industry Career Path (PICP) is a related curriculum option for all students, and utilizes real industry datasets with industry-standard software generously donated by IHS Energy, Landmark (Halliburton), and Schlumberger.  Learn more about our ongoing research by contacting the faculty below.

Birgenheier, Chan, C. Johnson


Surface and Hydrologic Processes

Surface and hydrologic process research at the U uses advanced field and lab techniques to investigate everything from watersheds and aquifers to source-to-sink sediment transport and land surface dynamics. Our research focuses on investigating a wide spectrum of topics in groundwater hydrology, isotope hydrology, bioremediation of groundwater, surface water dynamics, and environmental engineering.

 B. Bowen, G. Bowen, Cerling, Irmis, W. Johnson, Jewell, Moore, Solomon


Isotopic Geochemistry & Biogeochemistry

Biogeochemistry research seeks to understand the interaction between the Earth's biotic, hydrologic and terrestrial systems. Research at the U is expansive and on the cutting edge of technology.  Research at the U includes the use of isotope physiology to study the diets of modern mammals as well as the history of diets of different mammalian lineages extending over millions of years.  Research is also being done in the Turkana Basin in East Africa to better understand the development of early man. Exciting research is also being done using the application of isotopic measurements to infer the origin or history of evidentiary materials for use in forensic analysis.  For more information on the exciting research being done at the U please refer to the faculty listed below.

 Bartley, Birgenheier, Bowman, B. Bowen, G. Bowen, Cerling, Irmis, Jewell, W. Johnson, Nash, Solomon


Paleobiology and Evolution

Paleobiology & Evolution research at the U covers a wide range of times and organisms. The paleobiology faculty at the U works in close collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Utah. Our research has focused heavily on the Mesozoic vertebrate paleontology of Utah over the last ten years and researchers from the U were a part of a team that discovered a new species of horned dinosaur in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, Nasutoceratops titusi. For more information on the fascinating studies that are being undertaken at the U please refer to the faculty listed below.  We also research marine paleo-ecology throughout time, with emphasis on animal-animal interactions (ammonite functional morphology) and animal-environment interactions (trace fossils; biomineralization regimes).

Irmis, Ritterbush



Paleoclimatology research at the U focuses on developing isotopic proxies for past climatological and environmental conditions.  Applying isotopic, geochemical, and sedimentological proxy data to identify and understand paleoclimatological, paleohydrological, and paleoecological change. An overarching theme of our research is improving models for the interpretation of isotopic proxy data of climate to improve future climate projections.  For more information on the fascinating paleoclimatological research taking place at the U please contact the faculty below.

Birgenheier, B. Bowen, G. Bowen, Cerling, Chan, Irmis, Jewell


Petrology and Volcanology

Petrology & Volcanology research at the U seeks to understand the relationship between tectonics and volcanism, including volcanism of active continental margins and the geodynamics of the Yellowstone Hotspot. Research also employs mineral chemistry and dynamics to probe a variety of geologic processes, covering the evolution of magma chambers and magma dynamics, and ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism. Learn more about our ongoing research by contacting the faculty below.

Bartley, Bowman, B. Bowen, Lambart, Nash, Petersen


Seismology, Geophysics and Tectonophysics

Seismology & Geophysics research covers strong motion seismology, seismic sources, local and regional site characteristics, local wave amplification, seismic wave propagation modeling, seismic tomography and the relatively new method of seismic interferometry.  Research is also being conducted on gravity, magnetic, and electromagnetic modeling and inversion methods for accurate and efficient geophysical data analysis in regions with complex structure.  For more information on research topics within the geophysics department please contact the faculty listed below.

 Lin, Koper, Miyagi, Lippert, Thorne, Van Dam, Zhdanov


Geological Engineering and Geological Hazards

Geological engineering integrates two disciplines: geology and engineering. Geological Engineers possess the ability and skills to identify and solve Earth related problems that enable them to perform a robust design of structures on soil and rock, to characterize and manage effectively the water resources, to ensure an efficient and safe construction at a site, to develop mitigation strategies against geologic hazards.  For more information about the geological engineering program at the U please contact the faculty listed below.

 Jewell, Lin, Moore


Experimental Geophysics and Mineral Physics

Faculty at the U carry out a wide variety of field and laboratory studies to focus on understanding what controls the physical properties of rocks and how these relate to geophysical observations and deep earth seismology. For more information about the research program at the U please contact the faculty listed below.

Lambart, Lippert, Miyagi, Petersen



Geodesy is the study of the earth's geometric shape and magnetic field. This inlcudes using tools such as GPS, GNSS, Lidar, InSAR etc. to measure changes to the earth's crust like tectonic movement and earthquakes, volcanic activity, changes in and density of ice fields and glaciers, and sea level change.

Lippert, Van Dam

Last Updated: 9/28/23