Department of Earth Sciences Research

Faculty Research

Benjamin Edwards:
Ben has spent much of the last ten years studying deposits formed by volcanic eruptions beneath, against and possibly on top of glaciers. Most of his research in this field has been in Northern Cordilleran Volcanic Province of northwestern British Columbia, Canada, although he has also visited glaciovolcanic deposits in Iceland and Hawaii. His main interests are 1) to document and understand the behavior of peralkaline lava-ice interaction at volcanoes such as Hoodoo Mountain, 2) to use glaciovolcanic deposits regionally to help constrain long term climate change in continental environments, and 3) to examine possible connections between glacial ice fluctuations and triggering of volcanic eruptions.

Magma assimilation:
Magmatic assimilation is a complex process by which magmas incorporate foreign materials, changing the magma's physical state (e.g. Temperature) and chemical composition. Ben has worked with Kelly Russell (U.B.C.) to develop models for predicting the rates at which foreign solids will react with magmas, as well as trying to understand the physical and chemical signals of magmatic assimilation. Many people now feel that open system processes like assimilation and magma mixing are the most fundamental means by which magmas diversify. They have recently proposed a model for the production of trachyte/phonolite via assimilation of alkali-rich Stikine Terrane lithosphere by alkali olivine basaltic magmas at Hoodoo Mountain in the Northern Cordilleran Volcanic Province and are in the process of further testing the model at Hoodoo as well as applying the model to other alkaline centers in the NCVP such as Mount Edziza and Level Mountain.

Tectonics and Lithospheric Magmatism:
Ben is also keenly interested in the connections between extensional tectonics and magmatic processes. His research in northern BC has focused on two aspects of these connections: 1) studies of lithospheric xenoliths brought to the surface by young volcanism, and 2) broad-scale connections between tectonic forces and initiation of magmatic activity.

Marcus Key, Jr.:
Marcus' interest is in inferring evolutionary and sedimentary patterns and processes using fossil and living organisms. His current research involves marine biofouling, functional morphology, and carbonate production rates of bryozoans.

Jeffrey Niemitz:
Dr. Niemitz's specialties are sedimentary geochemistry and marine geology. His current research interests include geochemistry of lacustrine sediments applied to paleohydrologic and climate studies and the hydrogeology of karst environments in the Bahamas and south-central Pennsylvania.

Peter Sak:

Dr. Sak specializes in describing and quantifying temporal and spatial variations in near surface deformation and landscape evolution. To document variability in regional scale deformation he integrates structural, geomorphic, and petrographic data sets. His current research projects involve field work along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in central Colorado, and Valley and Ridge of central PA.

Noel Potter, Jr.:
Dr. Potter's specialties are geomorphology and structural geology. His current research is mainly concerned with the origin of landforms, particularly those of cold regions. His current projects include work on glacial history in Antarctica, a rock glacier in Wyoming, and the erosional history of the Great Valley near Carlisle.