Brian K Horton
Brian Horton holds a joint appointment with the Department of Geological Sciences (Professor) and the Institute for Geophysics (Research Professor) at UT-Austin.
Brian's research focuses on sedimentary basin development and mountain building processes. He utilizes sedimentology, stratigraphy, geochronology, structural geology, and geochemistry to understand modern and ancient sedimentation, river drainage patterns, sediment provenance, and orogenesis.
Recent and ongoing projects involve graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and diverse external collaborators working on problems in the Andes and major river systems of South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia), as well as basin systems in the Middle East (Zagros), central Asia (Tibetan plateau, Mongolia), and western North America (Rocky Mountains).
- Modern and ancient nonmarine depositional systems
- Dynamics of sedimentary basins and orogenic systems
- Sediment provenance, routing systems, and river network evolution
- Integration of geochronology and paleoaltimetry with basin analysis
- Tectonic and climatic interactions in thrust belts and foreland basins
- Mountain building and plateau construction along convergent plate margins
Areas of Expertise
Tectonics of sedimentary basins, evolution of orogenic systems, sediment provenance and routing systems, nonmarine depositional processes.
Current Research Programs & Projects
CAUGHT: Central Andean Uplift and the Geodynamics of High Topography (NSF Continental Dynamics)
Thrust belt response to rapid surface uplift of the Altiplano: A field test of Cordilleran cyclicity in southern Bolivia (NSF Tectonics)
Depositional and deformational history of the Zagros fold-thrust belt and foreland basin (Industry consortium)
The Dynamics of Mountains, Landscapes and Climate in the Distribution and Generation of Biodiversity of the Amazon/Andean Forest (NSF Frontiers in Earth System Dynamics)
Rapid Miocene thrust propagation and wholesale basin partitioning along the central and southern Andes, Argentina (NSF Tectonics)
Structural and hydrologic evaluation, Andean Cordillera and foreland basin, Colombia (Industry subcontract)
Exploring source-to-sink linkages between Laramide basins and the Gulf of Mexico (Industry subcontract)
Exhumation history of the Indian Lesser Himalaya: Discriminating tectonic models with implications for the Neogene isotopic composition of seawater (NSF Tectonics)
Continental-scale drainage reversal of the Amazon River (National Geographic Society)
Mapping linkages between geophysical and biological diversity across space and time in the Andes, Amazon, and Chocó of Perú, Ecuador, and Colombia (NASA Biodiversity Program)
Select Past Research
Assessing the timing of initial Andean crustal shortening, northern Argentina (NSF Tectonics)
Rifting and exhumation of the youngest high-pressure/ultra-high-pressure rocks on Earth (NSF Continental Dynamics)
Acquisition of a solid-state 193-nm laser-ablation system (NSF Instrumentation and Facilities)
Tectonic and climatic controls on rapid exhumation along the Altiplano-Eastern Cordillera boundary, Bolivia (NSF Tectonics)
Kinematic linkages among extrusion, fold-thrust shortening, and foreland basin evolution during early continental collision, Zagros Mountains, Iran (NSF Tectonics)
Detachment faulting and basin development in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru (NSF Tectonics)
Development of extensional systems in regions of hot, thick crust: Insight from Tibet (NSF Tectonics)
Basin evolution and structural history of a regional transect through the Middle Magdalena Valley, Eastern Cordillera, and western Llanos basin of Colombia (Ecopetrol - Instituto Colombiano del Petroleo)
STEEP: St. Elias Erosion-tectonics Project (NSF Continental Dynamics)
Evaluating along-strike variations in surface uplift of the Andes: Constraints from molecular paleoaltimetry in the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia (NSF Tectonics)
New perspectives on the tectonic and paleoelevation history of the northern Andes (Ecopetrol - Instituto Colombiano del Petroleo)
Late Cenozoic vertebrate paleontology and paleoenvironments of the Tibetan Plateau (China) (subcontract, NSF Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology)
William R. Dickinson Medal Award - Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) (2018)
Outstanding Research Award - Institute for Geophysics, UT-Austin (2013)
Faculty Research Assignment (sabbatical research fellowship) - UT-Austin (2012 - 2013)
Outstanding Research Award - Jackson School of Geosciences, UT-Austin (2011)
Directors Circle of Excellence Award - Institute for Geophysics, UT-Austin, 2011, 2012, 2013 (2011 - 2013)
Humboldt Research Fellowship - Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany (2006 - 2007)
Fellow - Geological Society of America (2005)
Young Scientist Award, Donath Medal - Geological Society of America (2004)
Postdoctoral Research Fellowship - National Science Foundation (1998 - 1999)
Graduate Research Fellowship - National Science Foundation (1993 - 1996)
Session Co-Chair, AGU fall meeting, Building the Andes: from mantle geodynamics to surface processes (2015)
Editor, Geological Society of America Special Paper, Toward an improved understanding of uplift mechanisms and the elevation history of the Tibetan Plateau (v. 507, edited by J. Nie, B.K. Horton, and G.D. Hoke) (2014)
Session Co-Chair, GSA annual meeting, The geodynamics of flat-slab subduction and its influence on upper plate deformation, magmatism, and basin evolution (2014)
Guest Editor, Journal of South American Earth Sciences, Special Issue: Tectonic and climatic shaping of the northern Andes and southern Caribbean margin (v. 39, edited by G. Bayona, B.K. Horton, and A. Reyes-Harker) (2012)
Session Co-Chair, AAPG annual convention, Regional interaction of tectonics and sedimentation: Examining relationships between deformation and basin evolution (2010)
Exceptional Reviewer, Lithosphere, (2010)
Editor, Basin Research, (2009 - 2014)
Session Co-Chair, AGU fall meeting, Cenozoic mountain building in Asia and South America: Impact on surface processes, erosion, climate change, and deep Earth processes (2009)
Editorial Board, Lithosphere, (2008 - 2014)
Exceptional Reviewer, Geological Society of America Bulletin, (2007)
Co-Supervisor of Paleomagnetics Laboratory, with Dr. Jack Holt, Jackson School of Geosciences, UT-Austin (2006 - 2015)
N. Ryan McKenzie, 2012 - 2014
Paleobiology, basin analysis, geochronology. Now Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University.
Elizabeth Cassel, 2011 - 2013
Tectonics, sedimentology, stable isotope geochemistry, paleoaltimetry. Now Assistant Professor, University of Idaho.
Mauricio Parra, 2009 - 2010
Geo/thermochronology, basin analysis. Now with Electrotechnical and Energy Institute, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Joel Saylor, 2008 - 2012
Basin analysis, geo/thermochronology, tectonics, stable isotope geochemistry, paleoaltimetry. Now Assistant Professor, University of Houston.
Junsheng Nie, 2008 - 2010
Paleomagnetism, climate change, geochronology. Now Assistant Professor, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China.
Jiangyu Zhou, 2002 - 2003, UCLA
Sedimentology, basin analysis. Now Professor, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, China.
Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, 2002 - 2003, UCLA
Paleomagnetism, basin analysis. Now Senior Research Scientist, University of Rennes, France.
Kristina Butler , Ph.D., expected 2021 (Supervisor)
Tomas N Capaldi
, Ph.D., expected 2019
I am a fourth year PhD student, focusing on Cenozoic to modern tectonic evolution of the flat-slab region in western Argentina. I study modern river networks using zircon U-Pb chronology to assess what factors are represented by sand provenance, such as: drainage area, variable erodibility, and zircon fertility of different source rocks. I use the modern river provenance as a baseline to reconstruct Cenozoic paleo-drainages during Andean mountain building and to differentiate the timing of shortening along various tectonic provinces. Once the timing of deformation is established, I will determine the role that Cenozoic flat-slab subduction has on these upper-plate processes and control on Andean orogenesis.
, Ph.D., expected 2019
My research focuses on elucidating the timing and mechanisms of shortening, exhumation, and basin evolution in the Eastern Cordillera of northern Peru and Ecuador. By integrating U-Pb geochronology and measured sections from Cenozoic hinterland basins with (U-Th)/He thermochronology and mapping on uplifted Mesozoic and basement units, I will provide a detailed chronology of the uplifts that link the Northern and Central Andes.
, Ph.D., expected 2019
My current research focuses on the tectonic history of the northern Andes, including timing and magnitude of major paleo-elevation changes affecting the northern Andes of Peru and Ecuador. My current methods include provenance analysis such as detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology and siliciclastic petrology, stable isotope geochemistry to infer paleoclimate and paleoelevation, and other traditional methods in sedimentology. I am interested in emerging and classical methods used to identify indicators of orogenic processes.
Evelin G Gutierrez , M.S., expected 2018 (Supervisor)
Amanda Z Calle
, Ph.D., expected 2017
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.
Renas I Mohammed
, Ph.D., expected 2016
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 research, Renas employs field geology (sedimentology/stratigraphy and structure) integrated with a variety of analytical techniques such as: U-Pb geochronology, (U-Th)/He thermochronology, magnetostratigraphy, and petrography. Renas has obtained his MS degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. Currently, he is a PhD student in the same school.
Meredith A Bush
, Ph.D., expected 2016
Meredith is a PhD candidate 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 geochronology, heavy mineral analysis and sandstone petrography. Involving students at all levels in project-based learning and field experiences is a priority for Meredith; in addition to a wide range of teaching experience at the University of Texas, Colorado College, and in the Austin public schools, she is taking courses in the UTeach STEM teacher preparation program.
Sebastian G Ramirez
, Ph.D., expected 2016
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 not the observed deformation patterns might be associated with subducting slab shallowing/steepening cycles.
My research focuses on the structural and tectonic evolution of the Argentine Andes. I will be using a combination of structural analysis and thermochronometry to provide modern age constraints for deformation and exhumation events in the Frontal and Pre-Cordillera. Ultimately, this work seeks to relate observed crustal shortening and related age constraints to the structures observed at depth (significantly, at the transition from normal to flat-slab subduction) in order to better characterize the mechanisms that drive Andean uplift and shortening in Mendoza and the surrounding provinces.
My research focuses on tectonic inversion in the Pyrenees mountains of Spain and France. I am using multi-mineral geo- and thermochronology to study the rift and inversion evolution in the eastern Pyrenees and how inherited rift architecture controlled the early orogenic deformation and incipient foreland basin evolution and sediment routing systems.
Nicholas Perez, Ph.D., 2015
Now Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University
Veronica Anderson, Ph.D., 2015
Now at Hess Corporation, Houston, Texas
Mariya Levina, M.S., 2013
Now with AmeriCorps, Santa Barbara, California
Amanda Calle, M.S., 2013
Now Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin
Justin Fitch, M.S., 2012
Now at Southwestern Energy, Houston, Texas
William Woodruff, Jr., M.S., 2011
Now at Encana Corporation, Dallas, Texas
Javier Sanchez, M.S., 2011
Now Ph.D. student at University of Houston
Benjamin Siks, M.S., 2011
Now at BP, Anchorage, Alaska
Alejandro Bande, M.S., 2010
Ph.D., 2016, University of Potsdam, Germany. Now at Tecpetrol, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Christopher Moreno, M.S., 2010
Now at Mack Energy Corporation, Fort Worth, Texas
Paola Cardona, M.S., 2009
(Co-supervised) Now at Ecopetrol, Colombia
Glen Mackey, M.S., 2009
(Co-supervised) Now Ph.D. student at University of Utah
Yann Gavillot, M.S., 2007
(Co-supervised) Now Ph.D. student at Oregon State University
Melissa Giovanni, Ph.D., 2007
Now Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Jesse Mosolf, M.S., 2007
Ph.D., 2013, University of California Santa Barbara. Now Associate Research Geologist at Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology
Bryan Murray, M.S., 2007
Ph.D., 2014, University of California Santa Barbara. Now at Antelope Valley College, Lancaster, California
Catherine Shirvell (Belgrade), M.S., 2006
(Co-supervised) Now at BHP Billiton, Houston, Texas
Matthew Bourke, M.S., 2005
Now at ExxonMobil, Melbourne, Australia
Robert Gillis, M.S., 2005
Now at Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys
Richard Fink, M.S., 2002
Now at ExxonMobil, Houston, Texas
Brian Hampton, M.S., 2002
Ph.D., 2006, Purdue University. Now Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University
|2017||Fall||GEO 394||Rsch In Geological Sciences|
|2017||Fall||GEO 191||Dynamic Field Stratigraphy|
|2017||Spring||GEO 394||Rsch In Geological Sciences|
|2017||Spring||GEO 391||Dynamic Field Stratig: Andes|
|2016||Fall||GEO 394||Rsch In Geological Sciences|
|2016||Spring||GEO 394||Rsch In Sedimentatn/Tectonics|
|2016||Spring||GEO 391||Sediment Provenance|
|2015||Fall||GEO 394||Rsch In Geological Sciences|
|2015||Spring||GEO 394||Rsch In Sedimentatn/Tectonics|
|2015||Spring||GEO 383S||Sedimentary Basin Analysis|
|2015||Spring||GEO 420K||Intro To Field And Strat Meths|
|2014||Fall||GEO 394||Rsch In Sedimentatn/Tectonics|
|2014||Fall||GEO 383T||Tect/Clim Intactn Forlnd Basin|
|2014||Summer||GEO f660B||Field Geo-Tx/Nm/Co/Wy/Mt/Id/Ut|
|2014||Spring||GEO 394||Rsch In Sedimentatn/Tectonics|
|2014||Spring||GEO 291||Dynamic Field Stratig: Andes|
|2014||Spring||GEO 191||Fundamentals Of Paleomagnetism|
|2014||Spring||GEO 383S||Sedimentary Basin Analysis|
|2014||Spring||GEO 171T||Fundamentals Of Paleomagnetism|
Horton: 2016 media release by UT for article in Science
Volcanoes Tied to Shifts in Earth Climate over Millions of Years
Horton: 2016 media interview by Yachay University on Ecuador earthquakes
Interview and animations related to August 2016 earthquakes in Quito, Ecuador