Geology is the study of the earth in all its aspects, including the modern environment and its ancient analogs. Geologists use physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, geography, and other fields to understand how the earth works. Geology addresses environmental problems as diverse as finding energy sources, tracing pollutants through soil and waterways, predicting and planning for sea level rise, and mitigating the human consequences of earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding, landslides, and tsunamis. Environmental science is a common theme that ties together most of the faculty in the Department of Geological Sciences, and brief descriptions of relevant studies are listed below.


Larry Benninger: Mobility and deposition of pollutants in modern sedimentary environments; geochemistry of natural waters; environmental geochemistry of actinide elements (e.g., uranium, thorium, plutonium) and fission products; environmental contamination from use of fossil fuels

Joe Carter: Evolution of invertebrate skeletal mineralogy and its relationship to long-term changes in ocean chemistry and global climate; mass extinctions and evolutionary radiations during the past 550 million years

Drew Coleman: Use of isotopes as environmental and ecological tracers; exploring contamination (U and Pb), and nutrient uptake by people and plants

Allen Glazner: Feedbacks between climate and volcanism; geothermal systems; education about glaciation and volcanoes; long-term geochemical cycling of carbon dioxide and other elements at subduction zones

Jonathan Lees: Geologic hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes); volcanic explosions and gas emissions; paleoclimatology; public health in disasters

Laura Moore: Large-scale evolution of coastal environments in a changing climate; barrier island response to sea level rise and storms; effects of climate-induced changes in coral reefs on tropical beaches; feedbacks between geomorphic and ecological processes; couplings between natural processes and human interventions at the coast

Tamlin Pavelsky: Interaction of fresh water with climate and the earth’s surface at scales from wetlands to the entire globe via tools such as satellite images and regional climate models; global climate change; water resources

José Rial: Renewable energy potential for North America; response of the Greenland Ice Sheet to global warming; causes, mechanisms, and modeling of abrupt climate change; synchronization of climatic change between the polar regions

Kevin Stewart: Groundwater flow through fractured rock; tracking ancient earthquakes

Donna Surge: Human-climate interactions; reconstructing climate change from archaeological sources; deciphering seasonal variability from fossils, as analogues for future climate change

Lara Wagner: Relationships between mountain building and climate, especially in the Andes; seismology as related to exploration for hydrocarbons, water, and other resources