Structural Geology and Tectonics draws on all geoscience disciplines to address fundamental questions about plate tectonic and deformation processes. In recent years, there has been an explosion of new technologies which allow scientists to answer questions that were once beyond their reach. This research not only leads to advances in basic research, but is also relevant to society, through the exploration for natural resources and understanding of natural hazards.

Structural Geology and Tectonics research at the Jackson School spans the entire spectrum from continental to oceanic and upper crustal to mantle tectonics. Only a handful of programs in the country cover such a wide range. Researchers investigate processes at all scales using field and marine geophysical-based observations; laboratory-based petrologic, geochronological, structural and geochemical analyses; and theoretical and physical modeling.

Tectonically-focused research addresses processes at active and ancient plate boundaries. At convergent margins, research topics range from subduction zone processes to continental collision, mountain uplift, and basin evolution. Extensional tectonic processes under investigation range from continental extension in the deep to shallow crust to evolution of passive margins, spreading ridges, and oceanic crust. Other research concentrates on the evolution of transitional plate boundaries as well as transform boundaries.

Other major research areas focus on deformation processes including thin-skinned fold and thrust belt processes and associated fluid flow; formation of salients; salt tectonics; and strain partitioning in extensional and contractional shear zones. Another major research focus is on understanding fracturing, fracture processes, fractured reservoirs, and relationships to diagenesis and fluid flow.

Faculty & Research Scientists

Whitney  BehrWhitney Behr
Mechanics and kinematics of deformation in continental lithosphere, rheology of the crust and upper mantle, mechanisms of strain localization, experimental rock mechanics, tectonic geomorphology and long term slip rates on large-scale strike-slip faults.
Elizabeth J CatlosElizabeth J Catlos
The geological evolution of the Turkey (various regions), Himalayas (India and Nepal), south India (Tamil Nadu), and Slovakia (Carpathians); models for heat, mass, and fluid flow along tectonic structures; developing techniques for isotopic microanalysis; applying mineral equilibria to estimate environmental conditions during dynamic recrystallization; accessory mineral geochronology; stone decay and deformation mechanisms. Overall, I am interested in developing and applying petrochemical and geochemical techniques to the study of lithosphere dynamics.
Gail L ChristesonGail L Christeson
Marine seismology, mid-ocean ridge structure and emplacement processes, oceanic crustal structure, ocean-bottom seismology, seismic refraction
Ian W DalzielIan W Dalziel
Tectonics, geodynamics, geography of ancient times, plate reconstructions, structural geology
Tim P DooleyTim P Dooley
Dynamics and kinematics of fault systems using scaled analog modeling, field studies, remote sensing, seismic data, and comparison with published examples; 3D geometries and kinematics of strike-slip fault systems using innovative analog modeling techniques; modeling of delta tectonics, salt tectonics, and segmented strike-slip and extensional fault systems
Ian J DuncanIan J Duncan
Expertise in geomechanic and geochemistry applied to: risks associated with CO2 sequestration; hydraulic fracturing for shale gas production; environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing; and the water-energy nexus. Current research focuses on the scientific, environmental and public policy aspects of unconventional natural gas production, the water-energy nexus, and carbon capture and storage. He has a particular interest in risk analysis, decision making, and legal/regulatory issues related to fracing, CO2 sequestration, CO2-EOR, and energy production.
Peter  EichhublPeter Eichhubl
Fault and fracture mechanics, diagenesis and low-temp. geochemistry, fluid flow and transfer processes in sedimentary basins, deformation mechanisms of the upper crust, structural control of mass and heat transfer in sedimentary basins, effects of chemical mass transfer on the mechanical and hydraulic behavior of fractures and faults, chemical interaction between fluids and minerals
Brent Elliott
Andras  FallAndras Fall
Fluids in diagenetic and hydrothermal systems, Fluid inclusion techniques, Fracture analysis, Structural diagenesis, Unconventional hydrocarbon reservoirs, Raman spectroscopy
Cliff FrohlichCliff Frohlich
Seismology, deep earthquakes, Texas earthquakes, moonquakes, statistical analysis of earthquake catalogs
Edmund L FrostEdmund L Frost
Patrick M Fulton
Fluid flow, heat transport, and tectonics; modeling thermal and hydrologic processes; earthquake physics; frictional heating on faults, fault strength, thermal geophysics, geomechanics, overpressure development.
Julia F GaleJulia F Gale
Natural fracture / vein systems in sedimentary and metamorphic rocks; structural geology; tectonics
Sean S GulickSean S Gulick
Studies of convergent margins to examine tectonic influences, structural deformation, fluid flow, and earthquake hazards; imaging and geologic sampling of in situ tectonic and crater laboratories: microplates, triple junctions, transitional plate boundaries, and bolide impacts; and quantitative high-resolution marine geological and geophysical studies of tectonic and climate interactions on glaciated orogenic margins.
Nicholas W HaymanNicholas W Hayman
Currently active projects include studies of ocean-crustal faulting, the dynamics of continental rifting, evolution of forearc basins and accretionary prisms, and mudrock microstructure. Also many projects involve sailing on research vessels to study active spreading centers in various corners of the globe.
Mark A HelperMark A Helper
Dr. Helper is a field geologist, a generalist whose interests span igneous and metamorphic petrology, structural geology, tectonics, mineralogy and planetary field geology. His current research explores geochemical and isotopic similarities of Proterozoic and Archean crust in East Antarctica and the southwestern U.S., the Precambrian geology of Texas, and the origin of epidote blueschists in the Klamath Mountains of northern California. Recent senior honors theses under his supervision have examined the mineralogy of Texas ...
Brian K HortonBrian K Horton
Tectonics of sedimentary basins, evolution of orogenic systems, sediment provenance and routing systems, nonmarine depositional processes.
Michael R HudecMichael R Hudec
Salt tectonics, 3-D computer modeling, kinematic models for evolution and growth of salt structures, structural geology, cross-section restoration and balancing, seismic interpretation
Martin P JacksonMartin P Jackson
Salt tectonics, diapirism, tectonics of sedimentary basins, structural analysis of experimental models, reflection seismic.
Stephen E LaubachStephen E Laubach
Structural diagenesis, structural geology, fracture analysis, fluid inclusion and cathodoluminescence studies, rock mechanics, mechanical and fracture stratigraphy, hydrocarbon exploration and development in deep and/or structurally complex areas, tight gas sandstone, coalbed methane, shale gas; geologic aspects of hydraulic fracturing, application of borehole-imaging geophysical logs to stress and fracture evaluation, structural evolution of North American Cordillera, fracture history of NW Scotland, regional fracture studies Argentina.
Luc L LavierLuc L Lavier
Tectonics; the structural and geodynamical evolution of continental and oceanic rifts, as well as collisional environments; numerical techniques to model tectonic processes on crustal and lithospheric scales; deformation; subduction
Lawrence A LawverLawrence A Lawver
Marine geophysics, plate tectonics, magnetics, gravity, heat flow, seismic studies, paleogeographic reconstructions of Gondwana, the Polar Regions, East Asia, and the Western Pacific
Gang  LuoGang Luo
Lithospheric Geodynamics; Fault Interaction; Fault, Earthquake and Seismicity; Finite Element Modeling; Salt Geomechanical Modeling; Pore Pressure in Salt Basins; Wellbore Stability
Randall MarrettRandall Marrett
Structural geology, tectonics, deformation processes in the upper continental crust, folds, faults, opening-mode fractures, fluid flow through fracture systems, applications of fractals, natural hazards
Kirk D McIntoshKirk D McIntosh
Structure and development of continental margins along convergent and transpressive plate boundaries; sediment accretion, subduction, and erosion at convergent margins; forearc and backarc extension and compression; fluid dynamics in accretionary prisms; shallow-subduction seismicity
Tip MeckelTip Meckel
Stratigraphy, structural geology, tectonics, CO2 sequestration, carbon capture and storage
Kitty L MillikenKitty L Milliken
Petrography and geochemistry of siliciclastic rocks; diagenesis; electron microbeam methods: X-ray mapping, cathodoluminescence imaging; micro-scale reservoir characterization
Sharon  MosherSharon Mosher
Structural petrology, field-oriented structural geology, the evolution of complexly deformed terranes, strain analysis, deformation mechanisms, the interaction between chemical and physical processes during deformation
Ian O NortonIan O Norton
Plate tectonics, structural evolution of continental margins, reconciliation of observations from structural geology with regional tectonics
Robert M ReedRobert M Reed
Microstructural analysis of rocks, particularly small-scale deformation structures and pores in mudrocks.
Thomas H ShipleyThomas H Shipley
Marine seismology; subduction processes occurring at converging plate margins; the role of fluids in accretionary trench margins and their influence on the distribution of low-shear-strength fault zones; 3D seismic techniques
Douglas  SmithDouglas Smith
Research on mantle evolution using tools of mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry.
Daniel  StockliDaniel Stockli
Thermo-/Geochronology, Tectonics and Structural Geology, Isotopic Provenance Analysis, Archeometry, Geothermal Exploration, and Thermal Maturation
Frederick W TaylorFrederick W Taylor
Tectonic geomorphology and stratigraphy at convergent plate margins Paleoclimate, fossil corals as a proxy for past sea-surface temperatures.
Estibalitz  UkarEstibalitz Ukar
Harm J Van AvendonkHarm J Van Avendonk
Van Avendonk is an active-source seismologist who specializes in the acquisition and inversion of seismic refraction data on land and at sea. Often these seismic refraction data are used for a tomographic inversion. The resultant seismic velocity models help us to interpret the composition of the Earth’s crust and mantle, the geometry of sedimentary basins, and the structure of plate boundaries.
Laura Wallace
Crustal deformation, GPS/Geodesy, active plate boundary processes, subduction tectonics, geohazards
Christopher K ZahmChristopher K Zahm
Reservoir characterization, flow modeling in fractured reservoirs, porosity-permeability evolution

Postdoctoral Researchers

Lada L Dimitrova
Zhiqiang  FanZhiqiang Fan
Jeffrey H Marsh
Andrew J SmyeAndrew J Smye
Radiogenic isotope systematics of metamorphic rocks; U-Th-Pb geochronology; 40Ar/39Ar thermochronology; Thermal models of crustal evolution; Metamorphic petrology; Phase equilibria calculations; Exhumation mechanisms; Subduction-related devolatisation; Fluid--mineral/rock interaction

Research Staff

Graduate Students

Tricia G AlvarezTricia G Alvarez
Tricia Alvarez is a PhD student at the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin. She completed a B.Sc. in Geology at The University of the West Indies in 2001 and an M.S. in Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. Her research interest at the Jackson School of Geosciences is focused on the study of sedimentary basins in the context of their tectonic setting with emphasis on ...
Yaser A AlzayerYaser A Alzayer
I am studying the opening mechanism of opening-mode fractures in tight sandstone reservoirs. My research examines synkinematic cements within macro-fractures and micro-fractures in cores and outcrops from multiple formations. I use the synkinematic cement textures and cross-cutting relationships as a proxy for fracture opening history and behavior. In that effort, I employ both standard petrography and scanning electron microscope with cathodoluminescence detector to discern the aforementioned relationships and characterize the fractures under high resolution. The ...
Meredith A Bush
Meredith is a third year PhD student, focusing on the evolution of contractional mountain belts and intra-continental basins. Meredith is interested in the tectonics of sedimentary basins in intra-continental settings, clastic sedimentology and provenance analysis. Her current field areas include the Qaidam basin on the Tibetan Plateau, the Raton basin in Colorado and New Mexico, and the Galisteo-El Rito basin of New Mexico. Her research includes a variety of analytical techniques, including magnetostratigraphy, detrital mineral ...
Owen A CallahanOwen A Callahan
My research is focussed on the interplay between fault and fracture permeability, hydrothermal fluid flow, alteration, mechanical properties, and deformation. I am currently working on projects in Dixie Valley, NV, and in the North Cascades, WA. I worked as a geologist in the geothermal industry for 5 years before returning to graduate school.
Amanda Z CalleAmanda Z Calle
My research is focused on the Cenozoic sedimentary, structural and exhumational history of the Eastern Cordillera to modern Chaco foreland basin in southern Bolivia. A multidisciplinary approach of source-to-sink, geochronology, low-temperature thermochronology and structural mapping will be used. Inherited pre-Andean structures and their response to contractional settings will also be evaluated to decipher the Cenozoic evolution of this part of the Central Andes.
Lauren K CopleyLauren K Copley
Nicole HartNicole Hart
Modern thermochronometric dating techniques have become increasingly powerful tools with a diverse range of applications in quantifying tectonic and sedimentary processes at rifted continental margins. While detrital zircon U-Pb is commonly used in detrital provenance studies, zircon (U-Th)/He (ZHe) dating has been shown to be a complimentary tool that not only constrains sediment provenance, but also the exhumation history of a sediment source region(s). In particular, analysis of ZHe lag time - time ...
Kory L Kirchner
Alison Macnamee
Jonathan  MajorJonathan Major
I consider myself primarily an applied structural geologist and tectonicist, but I have a wide range of interests and research experiences. My current research is focused on understanding the interactions between structures, fracturing, and geochemistry, primarily focusing on fracture systems found in mudrocks. My dissertation project is assessing fault and top seal behavior in CO2-rich systems by looking at an natural analog near Green River, Utah. I am combining field work, experimental geomechanics, petrography, ...
Renas I MohammedRenas I Mohammed
Renas is working on the Zagros fold-thrust belt and foreland basin in Iraq's northern region, Kurdistan. His fields of interest are assessing the effect of sedimentation on deformation sequence and styles, and the controls on wedge dynamics of the northwestern Zagros orogenic belt. He is also interested in understanding the competitive role of axial and transverse drainages in filling sedimentary foreland basins and how sediment dispersal pattern change in response to thrust propagation. In his ...
Canalp  OzkulCanalp Ozkul
The main focus of my research is the study of fracture characteristics and their relationship with structural position in tight gas sandstone reservoirs. I study distribution and characteristics of opening mode fractures in thrust belt systems. I also compare the strain distribution, attributes of fractures in outcrop, and kinematic models in order to estimate the timing of the fracture formation relative to the evolution of the thrust belt system. I use kinematic models in 2D ...
Nicholas D PerezNicholas D Perez
My work focuses on understanding the Cenozoic deformation history of the central Andes of southern Peru. I use a mix of basin analysis (sedimentology/stratigraphy, provenance, geochronology) and structural (field mapping, balanced cross sections, thermochronology) techniques. With this work I will address questions regarding the timing and mechanisms responsible for the high elevations found in the central Andes. I am also interested in how preexisting structural geometries influence subsequent shortening and basin development in orogens.
Laura E Pommer
Multifaceted research experience including geochemistry, structural geology, sedimentology, petrophysics, and energy geoscience.
Michael G PriorMichael G Prior
My current research focuses on brittle deformation within the lower plate of metamorphic core complexes. I am using a combination of structural analysis and apatite (U-Th)/He dating to determine the fault-slip history along low-angle normal faults (LANFs). The Bullfrog Hills and Bare Mountain in westernmost Nevada expose several LANF splays that have exhumed Proterozoic to Devonian rocks during southern Walker Lane transtensional deformation. The cooling history of detachment splays has important implications for the ...
Sebastian G RamirezSebastian G Ramirez
I am currently working on two sub-projects. The first aims at understanding the conditions of Kumano forearc basin (offshore Japan) nucleation and early evolution through 3D-seismic and sandstone petrography provenance analyses. The second involves the study of the Cretaceous-to-Recent sedimentary record in the northernmost Neuquen basin (western Argentina) through traditional field work and detrital zircon analysis. My goal is to better constrain the timing and characteristics of early Andean compression and to test whether or ...
Timothy A ShinTimothy A Shin
Expertise: Tectonics and Structural Geology, Thermo-/Geochronology, Petrology, and Geochemistry. I am interested in crustal and lithospheric dynamics and how they affect our environment and planet. I like to combine field-based geological, structural, and petrological observations with geo-/thermo- chonometric and geochemical analyses to elucidate the fundamental processes that drive the tectonics that have and continue to shape our world and resources. I am interested in a range of problems from extensional to contractional tectonics ...
Adenike Tokan-Lawal
Fluid flow in cemented and/or fractured porous media
Guangliang  WuGuangliang Wu
My research focuses on tectonics, geodynamics and structural geology coupling numerical simulations and geological/geophysical data. I am a geologist and geophysicist. I observe, record, and analyze geological and geophysical phenomena to single out the most important controlling factors. Using these information I develop conceptual models. Then I do forward and inverse geodynamics modeling constrained by the geological and geophysical data to gain insight into geological/geophysical problems, and to understand how they evolve through ...
Graduate and undergraduate research in geologic sequestration of CO2 (Graduate or Undergraduate)
Gulf Coast Carbon Center supports a team of students and post docs working in geologic sequestration (deep subsurface long-duration storage) of the major greenhouse gas CO2, as a method to reduce release to the atmosphere. Student projects are wide ranging, from sedimentology to policy, linked in that they are 1) multidisciplinary and 2) applied to current issues. Students are typically jointly supervised by faculty in geology or petroleum geosystems engineering and staff at the GCCC. A class in geologic sequestration is offered in the fall some years.
Posted by: Susan Hovorka

Innovative Detrital Provenance Studies - Double Dating PLUS (Graduate)
A major thrust of my current research the development and application of more comprehensive isotopic detrital provenance tools. U-Pb on zircon is clearly the big work horse, but only goes so far and sometimes yields "no" useful info, e.g., if the source of the sediment is mostly recycled sediment. We have extensively pursued double dating of zircons by U-Pb and He, as zircon He ages yield very interesting insights into the thermal and tectonic history of the source terrane; often yielding very different insights than crystallization ages. The combination is powerful, but I think we can take things so much farther by combining double dating with other constrains. People have tried fission track (not precise enough), Hf/Hf (to get mantle separation model ages), etc., but what we want to do and are working on is really Double Dating ++, combining zircon U-Pb-He dating with a variety of other geochemical aspects to more comprehensive understand detrital provenance and improve paleo-tectonic reconstructions. For example, trace-element thermometry (Ti in zirc), REE on zircon (met vs mag origin), Hf/Hf (see above), oxygen isotopes, etc. and also to develop rutile in an analogous manner (e.g., Zr in rut thermometry, Cr/Nb ratio (mafic vs granulitic), REE, etc.). The sky is the limit and what can learn so much. The issue in part it, how much can a single grain tell us before it's gone? The project sounds very laboratory oriented, but it's really a combination of field and lab work. We have identified a few possible case study areas, e.g., Morocco; great exposures, long-lived and preserved record of basin deposition since the Precambrian. My group is already working on some case studies in NE Africa (Egypt), Sevier FTB and foreland basin, and the Colombian Llanos and Magdalena Basins.
Posted by: Daniel Stockli

Exhumation of the Central Alps, Switzerland (Graduate)
Being Swiss, I have had a long-standing interest in the Alps and over the past few yearsI have had two students working on the exhumation of the eastern Alps (Engadin) and the Molasse foreland basin. Over the past decade different models have explored the role of climate (incl. Messinian salinity crisis) vs tectonics (out-of-sequence thrusting etc.). The exhumation of the northern Alpine external massives (esp. central Aar Massif) in Switzerland is key in solving this problem. We have a detailed study in the western Aar Massif and it has really questioned a lot of the thinking in terms of the late-stage structural and tectonic reconstruction of the Alps and the evolution of the Alpine critical taper. This is also a project a lot of people would be very interested in in terms of the results. I have collected some samples, but a lot more work needs to be done in the field and the laboratory. Some of the sampling might require good fitness etc. or more. In addition to surface sampling, there are also a lot of tunnels and the potential of 3D modeling to really understand and solve this problem.
Posted by: Daniel Stockli

Research in structural diagenesis (Graduate or Undergraduate)
Fundamental and applied research on fractures, particularly as these studies apply to petroleum reservoirs, is conducted under the auspices of the Fracture Research and Application Consortium at The University of Texas at Austin. The academic program of research, mentoring and teaching is led by staff of the Bureau of Economic Geology, the Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering and the Department of Geological Sciences. Students in the Energy & Earth Resources Graduate Program also participate in FRAC sponsored research projects. For further information on opportunities for fracture studies within the program see the FRAC pages on opportunities in Geology, Petroleum Engineering, Geophysics, and Energy Economics. FRAC welcomes Visiting Scientists from industry and from other academic institutions. Contact Steve Laubach for more information about these opportunities. A key part of the FRAC academic program is the Structural Diagenesis Initiative, a new teaching and mentoring perspective on interacting mechanical and chemical processes at high crustal levels in the Earth. For more information on the initiative see the Structural Diagenesis Initiative web site. If you are a prospective student, please see the admissions information on the Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering or Jackson School of Geosciences web sites.
Posted by: Stephen Laubach

General Opportunities in Field and Laboratory Based Studies (Graduate or Undergraduate)
My position does not permit sole supervision of graduate student theses, but I co-supervise or serve on graduate student theses committees, particularly those involving aspects of GIS, GPS, structural geology, tectonics and petrology/mineralogy. I have supervised several undergraduate student honors thesis, both lab- and field-based, and look forward to continuing to do so.
Posted by: Mark Helper

Fault and fracture processes, structural diagenesis (Graduate)
Graduate student projects combine the fields of fault and fracture mechanics and low-temperature geochemistry addressing deformation mechanisms of the upper crust, structural control of mass and heat transfer in sedimentary basins, the effects of chemical mass transfer on the mechanical and hydraulic behavior of fractures and faults, and the chemical interaction between fluids and minerals. Projects usually require the integration of field and laboratory analytical or numerical work and preference goes to applicants that are equally comfortable in the field and in the lab. Research topics include field- and core-based structural geology, geomechanics, geofluids, geochemistry, and natural resources including CO2 sequestration. A current research emphasis lies in Structural Diagenesis which combines the traditionally separate fields of brittle structural geology and diagenesis/geochemistry. Preference goes to PhD applicants with a prior MS degree and MS applicants with undergraduate research experience, preferentially through completion of a senior's thesis. Applications for Fall 2014 should be submitted to the MS or PhD program in Geological Sciences (GEO). Please contact Peter Eichhubl ( for further details.
Posted by: Peter Eichhubl

Academic Seismic Portal at UTIGAcademic Seismic Portal at UTIG
The portal is the gateway to the Marine Seismic Data Center (MSDC). MSDC's goal is to support education and research with access to and preservation of academic active-source seismic data. Our partner, the Academic Seismic Portal at LDEO, has a complementary seismic inventory primarily of field data. These cooperating data centers, part of the Marine Geoscience Data System, are supported by the National Science Foundation.
Applied Geodynamics LabApplied Geodynamics Lab
An industry-funded consortium dedicated to producing innovative new concepts in salt tectonics. This research comprises a mix of physical and mathematical modeling and seismic-based mapping and structural-stratigraphic analysis of some of the world's most spectacular salt basins.
Electron MicroprobeElectron Microprobe
Installed in 2002-2003, the JEOL JXA-8200 electron probe microanalyzer (EPMA) is equipped with five wavelength dispersive spectrometers (WDS), an energy dispersive detector (EDS), and two image detectors in secondary and backscattered electron modes. The primary aim of the microprobe is quantitative elemental analysis of minerals on a microscale with high precision (less than a percent relative for major constituents) and low detection limits (commonly a few tens to few hundreds ppm)
Environmental Scanning Electron MicroscopeEnvironmental Scanning Electron Microscope
Installed in the fall of 2001, this is a 30 kV tungsten gun high-resolution environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) with a 3.5 nm resolution in high vacuum, low vacuum, and environmental modes at 30 kV. The ESEM is equiped with a Peltier cooled stage, a heating stage, an EDS sytem (EDAX), a EBSD system (HKL – Oxford Instruments), and a cathodoluminescence detector (Gatan).
Fluid Inclusion Lab (BEG)Fluid Inclusion Lab (BEG)
Principal equipment includes: an Olympus BX 51 optical microscope, fitted for use with transmitted, reflected and UV light; a FLUID, Inc.-adapted USGS-type gas flow heating/cooling stage; a Linkam THMSG 600 degree C programmable heating/cooling stage; and a digital camera. The lab is fully equipped with sample preparatory facilities for preparation of doubly-polished thin and thick sections. The lab will soon incorporate an experimental hydrothermal lab component that will include 6 externally-heated cold-seal pressure vessels (up to 800°C, up to 700 MPa) used for the preparation of synthetic fluid inclusions and for quartz cement growth experiments.
Geometrics GEODE Seismograph SystemsGeometrics GEODE Seismograph Systems
The Department has 2 boxes (total 48 Channels) with 48 vertical phones and 16 3 component phones).
High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography FacilityHigh-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility
Provides high resolution non-destructive, density maps of solid samples (rocks, fossils, etc) up to a maximum size of 50 cm diameter by 150 cm high (50 kg mass). Equipment: An industrial CT scanner that is an adaptation of medical CAT scanners.
HR-ICP Mass Spectrometers
Equipment available: Thermo Element2 HR-ICP-MS with ESI autosampler system for solutions; and Thermo Element2 HR-ICP-MS with Photonmachines Analyte G2 Excimer laser ablation system.
Isotope Clean Lab (Lassiter)Isotope Clean Lab (Lassiter)
Within the Department of Geological Sciences there are three clean-room laboratories supplied with HEPA-filtered class 100 air where sample preparation and ion-exchange chromatography for isotopic analysis may be done under ultra-clean conditions, making possible very low analytical blanks (e.g., < 1 pg Pb for U-Pb geochronology, and <10 pg Sr). There are also two other laboratories with HEPA-filtered work stations where sample preparation and ion-exchange chromatography are performed. These labs are affiliated with the Mineral Separation Facility (see description).
Ocean-Bottom Seismometer (OBS)Ocean-Bottom Seismometer (OBS)
An Ocean-Bottom Seismometer (OBS) is a seismometer that can be deployed on the seafloor for weeks or months, recording either earthquakes or man-made seismic signals. To withstand pressures at large depth (up to 5500 m) in the oceans, all electronics of this instrument are kept inside a glass sphere which can withstand such pressures. The sensors of all instruments (discussed below) include a 3-component accelerometer and a hydrophone, all designed for seismic data with a dominant frequency near 10 Hz. The seismic data are recorded on flash memory. Correct timing of the seismic recording is provided by an accurate clock, which also resides inside the sphere. After a seismic study on the seafloor is complete, the instrument is brought back to the sea surface using an acoustic release mechanism. UTIG has long been involved in marine seismology. The development of a UTIG OBS instrument program began in 1978.
Paleomagnetic LabPaleomagnetic Lab
There are several aspects to our laboratory that make it different from others. One is our automatic handler system created at California Institute of Technology and adapted for our needs. Scientists and students can keep up with changes to our system by keeping in touch with the other 6 similar systems in the world and RAPID Consortium at It also includes a cryogenic magnetometer and portable magnetic susceptibility meter (TerraPlus KT-10 Plus).
Portable High-Resolution Multichannel Seismic System (MCS)Portable High-Resolution Multichannel Seismic System (MCS)
UTIG owns and maintains elements of a self-contained, portable, high resolution multichannel seismic (MCS) system that has been used over the past several years in salt- and fresh-water depths from ~4m to over 1km, on vessels from 10m to 35m in length. The 24-channel system is designed to be transported worldwide and to be installed on vessels of opportunity. Survey design, navigation, data acquisition, and near real-time MCS processing can be performed on non-dedicated laptops in the field. Deployment and recovery of gear is done by hand, requiring as few as 3 persons. The only constraints on the system are weight limits of the vessel and electrical requirements of the dedicated air compressors. For platforms with insufficient electrical capabilities, a fuel-powered generator or air compressor can be rented as a substitute.
Quadrupole ICP Mass Spectrometer
The Quadrupole ICP-MS laboratory (with laser ablation) is used for elemental determinations in a wide range of liquid (e.g., natural waters, dissolved sediments/rocks, digested biomass) and solid (e.g., rocks, minerals, glasses) samples. The ICP-MS instrument is an Agilent 7500ce, capable of measuring trace element concentrations in solution over a nine-order linear dynamic range, from ppt to 100s of ppm. Sample introduction systems include a Micromist concentric nebulizer with a Peltier-cooled spray chamber for aspirating solutions, and a New-Wave UP¬193-FX 193 nm excimer laser ablation system for micro-sampling of solids. Sub-ppm detection limits are obtained routinely by laser ablation. The Agilent 7500ce is equipped with a collision/reaction cell, allowing for quantification of environmentally important matrix/plasma-sensitive elements such as As, Se, and Fe. The instrument is housed in a positive-pressure HEPA-filtered laboratory equipped with a weighing station, laminar flow bench, and Type 1 (18.2 M?) ultrapure water station.
Scanning Electron Microscope Lab (BEG)Scanning Electron Microscope Lab (BEG)
The Bureau houses two SEMs devoted primarily to research on unconventional reservoirs under projects supported by industry consortia (FRAC, MSRL, RCRL) and by government-sponsored programs (STARR, GCCC). One is a conventional SEM devoted to wide-area mosaic mapping for the study of microscale fracture populations in tight formations. The other is a high-resolution instrument largely devoted to the study of gas shales.
Scanning Electron Microscope Lab (DGS)Scanning Electron Microscope Lab (DGS)
Installed in 2008, this is a high-performance, 30 kV tungsten gun scanning electron microscope with a high resolution of 3.0 nm. The low vacuum mode allows for observation of specimens which cannot be viewed at high vacuum due to a non-conductive surface. This SEM has three detector systems - secondary electron (SE), backscattered electron (BSE), and X-ray EDS detectors.
Structure LabStructure Lab
The structural geology lab is where rocks are processed for structural geology and tectonics research. Storage space and all necessary equipment are available for preparing slabs, thin sections, and mineral separation for geochronology.
Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) LabThermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) Lab
Measures the isotopic compositions and elemental concentrations of Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Lu-Hf, U-Th-Pb, Li, B, Mg, K, Zr, and REE. Equipment: Seven-collector Finnigan-MAT 261 thermal ionization mass spectrometer (1987) A single-channel ion-counting systems.
U-Pb Geochronology Clean Labs
Within the Department of Geological Sciences there are three clean-room laboratories supplied with HEPA-filtered class 100 air where sample preparation and ion-exchange chromatography for isotopic analysis may be done under ultra-clean conditions, making possible very low analytical blanks (e.g., < 1 pg Pb for U-Pb geochronology, and <10 pg Sr). There are also two other laboratories with HEPA-filtered work stations where sample preparation and ion-exchange chromatography are performed. These labs are supported by the departmental sample preparation facility, which includes shatterboxes for sample pulverization, and a crusher, a disc mill pulverizer, a Rogers table, a Wilfly table, a mica table, sieves, heavy liquids and Franz magnetic separators for mineral separation.
Volcanology LabVolcanology Lab
This lab is equipped with a Spectrex PC-2200 Laser Particle Counter and several sets of 8" brass mesh sieves to analyze volcanic particles in sizes from centimeters down to 1 micrometer for determining size distributions of volcanic tephra deposits and their componentry.
Applied Geodynamics Laboratory
The Applied Geodynamics Laboratory (AGL) is dedicated to producing innovative new concepts in salt tectonics. This research comprises a mix of physical and mathematical modeling and seismic-based mapping and structural-stratigraphic analysis of some of the world's most spectacular salt basins.
Fracture Research and Application Consortium
The Fracture Research and Application Consortium (FRAC) is an alliance of scientists from the Bureau and the departments of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and Geological Sciences that seeks fundamental understanding of fractures and fracture processes dedicated to conquering the challenges of reservoir fractures.
High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility
The High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility at The University of Texas at Austin (UTCT) is a national shared multi-user facility supported by the Instrumentation and Facilities Program of NSF's Earth Sciences (EAR) directorate. UTCT offers scientific researchers across the earth, biological and engineering sciences access to a completely nondestructive technique for visualizing features in the interior of opaque solid objects, and for obtaining digital information on their 3D geometries and properties.
Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation
The George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) is a national, networked, simulation resource that includes geographically-distributed, shared-use, next-generation experimental research Equipment Sites built and operated to advance earthquake engineering research and education through collaborative and integrated experimentation, theory, data archiving, and model-based simulation. The goal of NEES is to accelerate progress in earthquake engineering research and to improve the seismic design and performance of civil and mechanical infrastructure systems through the integration of people, ideas, and tools in a collaboratory environment. Open access to and use of NEES research facilities and data by all elements of the earthquake engineering community, including researchers, educators, students, practitioners, and information technology experts, is a key element of this goal.
A program of research into plate tectonics and geologic reconstructions, the PLATES Project is supported by an industry consortium. Our primary objectives are to model past and present plate movement, compile comprehensive databases, develop plate motion computer software and apply plate motion models.
Structural Diagenesis Initiative
Structural diagenesis is a new perspective on interaction of mechanical and chemical processes at high crustal levels in the Earth. SDI promotes the growth of this new discipline.
Texas Consortium for Computational Seismology
The mission of the Texas Consortium for Computational Seismology is to address the most important and challenging research problems in computational geophysics as experienced by the energy industry while educating the next generation of research geophysicists and computational scientists.

Affiliated UT Programs & Centers

Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security
CFSES is one of only two centers out of 46 EFRCs with focus on subsurface energy. Our goal is a scientific understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological subsurface processes from the very small scale to the very large scale so that we can predict the behavior of CO2 and other byproducts of the energy production that may need to be stored in the subsurface. At this aim, we need to integrate and expand our knowledge of subsurface phenomena across scientific disciplines using both experimental and modeling methodologies to better understand and quantify the behavior at conditions far from equilibrium. The unique aspect of our research is the approach of the uncertainty and of the complexity of the fluids in the geologic media from the molecular scale to the basin scale and their integration in computational tools to better predict the long term behavior of subsurface energy byproduct storage.

Research Groups

Structural Diagenesis Initiative
Committee to Assess the Science Proposed for a Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory;  National Research Council; Board on Physics and Astronomy; Engineering and Physical Sciences, 2011 Posted by Stephen E Laubach

Cover art for books

Committee to Assess the Science Proposed for a Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory;  National Research Council; Board on Physics and Astronomy; Engineering and Physical Sciences, 2011Earth's Art-available from BEG. Laubach, S. E., and Tinker, S. W., eds., 2009, Earth’s art: celebrating the Centennial of the Bureau of Economic Geology, 1909–2009: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, 142 p.Committee on Advanced Drilling Technologies; Geotechnical Board/Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems; Board on Earth Sciences and Resources/Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources; and National Research Council, 1994Nelson, P., and Laubach, S. E., 1994, Rock mechanics models and measurements, challenges from industry: Rotterdam, Proceedings of the First North American Rock Mechanics Symposium, 1155 p.Garland, J., J.E. Neilson, S.E. Laubach, and K. J. Whidden, eds., 2012, Advances in Carbonate Exploration and Reservoir Analysis, Geological Society of London Special Publications 370. Garland, J., J.E. Neilson, S.E. Laubach, and K. J. Whidden, eds., 2012, Advances in Carbonate Exploration and Reservoir Analysis, Geological Society of London Special Publications 370.