Our faculty employ a broad range of approaches to the petrologic, chemical and mineralogical study of meteorites and the Earth's crust and mantle. Main research emphases include experimental, thermodynamic, physical, geochemical, crystallographic and field-based approaches. Some of the disciplinary approaches are summarized below.
We use radiogenic and stable isotope systems (primarily Sr, Nd, Pb, Hf, U-series, oxygen, and lithium) in conjunction with major and trace-element geochemistry to study a wide variety of geological processes. The emphasis of our research is on igneous geochemistry, addressing questions that include the origin and distribution of chemical heterogeneities in the mantle, evolution of continental crust, melt generation processes, and timescales of storage and crystallization of magmas within the crust. In addition, members of our group are using isotopic tracers to study seawater-rock interaction at midocean ridge hydrothermal systems and its effect on both ocean and oceanic crust geochemistry. We also employ isotopic tracers to identify heavy metal and pollutant pathways through the environment. (_Isotope_Geochemistry_Lab_)
Recently we have begun a study of quaternary volcanoes in the Cascade Range. The primary focus is a study of the volatile abundance and speciation by studying the stability of hydrous phenocrysts.
Mineralogy and Petrology of extraterrestrial materials
We have a major research program to investigate the thermal histories of lunar rocks, achondritic meteorites, and Martian meteorites. The research involves electron microprobe and ion probe studies of the minerals in these samples coupled with single crystal x-ray and transmission electron microscopic studies of pyroxenes. The goal of this work is to elucidate thermal histories of the lunar rocks and meteorites and to use these data to constrain the petrologic and geochemical evolution of the Moon and the meteorite parent bodies.
Field and Laboratory studies of layered intrusions
We have a mature research program in the petrology of layered mafic intrusions, specifically the Stillwater Igneous Complex, Montana. Recent efforts are aimed at understanding the petrogenesis of the Platinum-Palladium ore zones by combining field observation, elemental and isotopic analysis and modeling. Access to the entire Banded series of complex via a 5 km long tunnel provides an unprecedented opportunity to test models of crystal fractionation, magma mixing, compaction, melt migration, and fluid/rock interaction.