Research and Instrumentation

We regard research as an integral part of our department's educational program because it inspires scientific creativity and teaches rigorous thinking. The faculty is engaged in research and the students have opportunities to be involved. Nearly every class includes research questions and problem solving. The 'capstone' course of the Geology Department is GEO 392-393 Geology Research, a two-semester research course taken during the junior and senior years. Students are encouraged to pursue their own research questions or to help with faculty members' on-going projects, some of which are listed below.

Students may do research projects independently prior to the Geology Research course. Students present results at the spring Sigma Xi Research Symposium; several have delivered papers at regional and national meetings of the Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union. There are opportunities for both on-campus and off-campus funding for research including the Youngquist Fund (Geology Department) and First-Year Research Experiences (college). Our majors have been successful in gaining positions on other Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) projects throughout the country, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Instrumentation available in the Geology department

  • Inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer for elemental analysis of rock and sediment
  • UV-visible spectrophotometer for elemental analysis of water and solutions
  • Total organic carbon analyzer for high-precision measurement of carbon in rock and sediment
  • Cathololuminescence microscope for identification of mineral phases, textures and alteration in rocks
  • Laser diffractometer for measuring sediment grain sizes down to the sub-micron scale
  • Petrographic microscopes for identification and description of minerals in rocks and sediments
  • Rock crusher, rock saws, rock polishers for sample preparation
  • Muffle furnace for sediment analysis and to perform lithium borate fusions

Faculty research

Current faculty research areas are in the subdisciplines of metamorphic petrology, geomorphology, human impacts to earth systems, and the environment and evolution of life on the early Earth. Active research areas include:

  • tracing sources of sediment pollution in the Minnesota River
  • studying the co-evolution of life and environment during the Proterozoic Eon (2500 to 542 million years ago)
  • exploring deep-earth processes through studying metamorphic rocks in the Pioneer Mountains, Idaho
  • investigating the biogeochemical cycle of silica in the Platte River (Nebraska)
  • describing the environment, chemistry and life of the 1.9 billion year-old Gunflint Iron Formation
  • determining how best to search for fossil traces of life in the rocks of Mars
  • mapping landslides along the Minnesota River valley, in order to understand landslide risk and prevention

Please contact the individual faculty members to learn more about their research projects.

Student research

Titles of student research projects, 2019

Titles of student research projects, 2018

Titles of student research projects, 2017

Titles of student research projects, 2016

Titles of student research projects, 2015

Titles of student research projects, 2014

Titles of student research projects, 2013

Titles of student research projects, 2012

Titles of student research projects, 2011

Titles of student research projects, 2010

Titles of student research projects, 2009

Titles of student research projects, 2008

Titles of student research projects, 2007

Titles of student research projects, 2006

Titles of student research projects, 2005

Titles of student research projects, 2004

Titles of student research projects, 2003

  • Magnetic Analysis of a Lake Tanganyika Core; Joe Malkovich
  • Blue Earth Siltstone: Extent, Description, and Processes of Origin; Joe Beer
  • Ichnofossils of the Cedar Mountain Formation (Northeastern Utah) and Their Paleoenvironmental Implications; Emily Tremain
  • Depositional Process of the New Ulm Till; Adam Long
  • The Reptile Fauna and Depositional Environment of a Wellington Formation (Lower Permian) Fossil Site; Jim Foote

Titles of student research projects, 2002

Titles of student research projects, 2001

  • Reaction Zones of Metamorphosed Ultramafic Rocks: Marble Mountain Terrane, Siskiyou County, California; Amy (Iverson) Horn
  • A Stratigraphic and Sedimentological Study of the Minnesota Valley Minerals Inc. Cretaceous Clay Mine near Courtland, Minnesota; Gregory D. Joslin
  • Microstructure Analysis of a series of Brittle-Ductile Shear Zones near Granite Falls, Minnesota; Ryan Erickson
  • Orientation of quartz veins in the Virginia Horn area, Minnesota; Timothy R. Sundby

Titles of student research projects, 2000

  • Sedimentation Analysis and Implications at the Rapidan Dam; Mary Finch
  • Interpretation of Glacial Outwash Fan, Portage County, Wisconsin; Paul Grittner
  • Glaciotectonism at the Des Moines Lobe Margin and Origin of Ice-Contact; Sheryl Horton
  • Description and Analysis of Wisconsin Age Till Deposits on the Watunwan; John Lindstrom
  • Geochemical Implications of Tectonic Setting for the Powell Creek Volcanics, Southwestern British Columbia; Nicholas Pester
  • A Reevaluation of the Permian Reptile Dictybolos; Erin Rasmussen
  • Paleotopography of the Cambrian-Ordovician Contact near Mankato; Andrew P. Smith
  • Downstream Variation in Outwash Clast Characteristics from an Active Glacial Margin: Application to Ancient Deposits; Brooke Swanson

Titles of student research projects, 1999

Titles of student research projects, 1998

Titles of student research projects, 1997

  • Colluvial fan at Unimin Plant, Ottawa, MN, Tim Armato
  • Character of the old gray till, Sally Gramstad
  • Correlation of tills found in south-central Minnesota with those found in north-central Minnesota, Janet Mann
  • Geology of the Good Thunder quadrangle, Jason Meek
  • Origin of Minnesota Valley terraces, Jared Smith
  • Structure contour map of the Jordan Oneota contact, Jon Turner

Titles of student research projects, 1996

Titles of student research projects, 1995

Titles of student research projects, 1994

  • Discharge of River Warren calculated from large bedload clasts, Bryan Bear
  • River Warren flood deposits near St. Peter, Minnesota; David M. Davis
  • Petrographic description and interpretation of the Hornblende-bearing granitoid rocks contained in the Giants Range Batholith, near Virginia, Minnesota, Julie Fitzke
  • Stromatolites of the Shakopee Dolomite, Andrew McGrath
  • Proterozoic mafic dikes of the Virignia Horn region, Mike Schlagel
  • Origin of the New Ulm till. Molly Swenson
  • Interpretation of the structural deformation in lake sediments above the Old Gray till, Andrew Tarara

Titles of student research projects, 1993

  • Relationship between particle size and slope angle, Kathy Bonnifield
  • The Nature of the Depositional Environment of the Hager City Member of the Oneota Formation in the Mankato Area, Southeastern Minnesota, Hans Neve
  • The Paleoecological Significance of the Receptaculitid Concentration of the Galena Formation, northeastern Iowa, Anissa Mediger
  • The Relationship of a Quartz Porphyry Intrusion to Regional Deformation of Archean Metasediments of the Virginia Horn, Minnesota, Nathan Stamm
  • Investigation of Sand and Gravel Terraces of the Minnesota River Valley, St. Peter, Minnesota, David M. Davis
  • Alluvial Fan development in the Minnesota River Valley, Cara Larsen