Focused areas of research
The Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering research is breaking new ground each semester of every year, and as always, is a continuing resource of regional and national geological information.
To view and filter faculty by the following focused areas of research, visit the Department faculty page.
Earth and planetary surface processes
Work in this area encompasses a wide range of topics that involve water, landscape, environment and climate, their interactions and evolution. Selected examples of currently funded research include: paleoclimate studies using sediment and micropaleontology proxies, environmental systems monitoring with distributed temperature sensing, Mars exploration and polar/climate processes, climate and environmental shifts as recorded in stable isotopes, abandoned mine land remediation and monitoring, and the influence of faulting and other tectonic processes on mountain geomorphology and sedimentary basins.
See also the interdisciplinary graduate program in Hydrological Sciences
Earthquakes and seismology
Faculty work on seismic hazards, neotectonics, and tomographic imaging of Earth’s plate boundaries and other crust and mantle processes. We are interested in recent motions of the Earth’s crust, characterization of subsurface structures and surface fault expressions, and the physics of strong ground motion. The Nevada Seismological Lab maintains a regional seismic monitoring network that investigates the size, frequency, and distribution of earthquakes and promotes earthquake preparedness in the state.
Research in this area encompasses tectonics, metamorphic geochemistry, structural geology, and geodesy. Our faculty pursue fundamental research on mantle/lithosphere dynamics and metamorphism, tectonic deformation and recent history of Sierra Nevada and other orogenic systems worldwide. We are interested in the thermal and compositional changes associated with plate margin processes and we also have a strong focus on evolution and deformation in the Walker Lane and across the Basin and Range. The Nevada Geodetic Laboratory (NGL) conducts research in the field of space geodesy to study scientific problems that have both regional and global significance. They use Global Positioning System (GPS) to study tectonic activity across Nevada and to study global patterns in surface mass loading and global-scale plate tectonic problems.
Faculty work in areas that are related to the potential for natural and man-made hazards as well as the interaction of human-built infrastructure with earth materials. Specific projects include modern computational methods for debris flow modeling and glacial lake outburst hazard prediction, stability and rock mechanical properties in underground mines and other civil infrastructure, and hydrologic flow and conductivity of materials in municipal solid waste systems.
Hydrology and hydrogeology
Faculty work in areas of contaminant transport, numerical modeling, geomorphology, surface hydrology, hydrogeology, GIS and spatial analysis, paleohydrology and climate change.
Mineral and energy resources
The Mackay School has a long history in the study and understanding of both ore deposits and geothermal energy systems. In the Center for Research in Economic Geology applied research focuses on geochemistry and alteration caused by fluids in hydrothermal systems that lead to the genesis of mineral deposits their discovery and production. The Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy explores the surface expression of and structural controls on geothermal systems in Nevada and similar extensional tectonic settings worldwide, and development and expansion of both traditional geothermal resources and engineered geothermal systems.
Volcanology, geochemistry & petrology
Faculty pursue multi-disciplinary approaches to understanding magmatic systems including geochemistry, igneous petrology, numerical modeling, and fieldwork. Research encompasses applications of isotope geochemistry, the relationship between volcanism and ore deposits, petrology, magma evolution at depth, recent volcanism, eruptive volcanic histories, and geologic mapping. We also work on the stability of volcanic edifices and hydrothermal alteration of volcanic materials.
Taking research beyond the lab
Research in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering research happens all over the state, world and galaxy! Explore how the Department is leading in geolgoical sceinces research below.