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 the tectonics of sedimentary basins, evolution of orogenic systems, sediment provenance and routing systems, and nonmarine depositional processes. He combines field-based basin analysis with sedimentology, geologic mapping, geochronology, magnetostratigraphy, petrography, geochemistry, and basin modeling to address the evolution of modern/ancient basins and associated structures.
Current team members (9 Ph.D. students, 1 M.S. student, 8 undergraduates, 1 postdoc) are working on projects in the Andes, Tibet, Middle East, and western North America.

Research Interests
- Evolution of contractional orogenic belts and foreland, hinterland, and intermontane basins
- Initial mountain building and plateau construction in retroarc and collisional plate-tectonic settings
- Sediment provenance and routing systems
- Influence of tectonics and climate on erosion, sedimentation, and basin evolution
- Integration of geochronology, thermochronology, and paleoaltimetry with basin analysis
- Physical sedimentology of modern and ancient fluvial and alluvial-fan depositional systems

Areas of Expertise

Tectonics of sedimentary basins, evolution of orogenic systems, sediment provenance and routing systems, nonmarine depositional processes.


Research Locations



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 linkaqes between Laramide basins and the Gulf of Mexico (Industry subcontract)


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)

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)

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 - 2014)

Postdocs

Ryan McKenzie
I am broadly interested in Earth surface system evolution, thus my research focuses on sedimentary geology, geochemistry, and paleontology. My field-based projects utilize integrative methods that include detrital zircon geochronology and provenance, carbonate isotope geochemistry, paleontology and biostratigraphy.

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.


Graduate Students

Tomas N Capaldi, Ph.D., expected 2019 (Supervisor)
I am a first year PhD student, focusing on Cenozoic to modern tectonic evolution of the dissected Bermejo foreland basin in western Argentina. My research involves clastic sedimentology and stratigraphy, provenance and geochronology, low-temperature thermochronology, and petrography. By applying these various techniques I will better understand the style and timing of upper-crustal deformation associated with ongoing Pampean flat slap subduction.

Lily Jackson, Ph.D., expected 2019 (Supervisor)
My current research focuses on determining timing and magnitude of major paleo-elevation changes affecting the Peruvian Andes. My current methods include detrital zircon geochronology, hydrogen stable isotope paleoaltimetery with volcanic glasses, and traditional methods in sedimentology.

Amanda Z Calle, Ph.D., expected 2017 (Supervisor)
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 (Supervisor)
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 (Supervisor)
Meredith is a fourth 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 geochronology, heavy mineral analysis and sandstone petrography.

Sebastian G Ramirez, Ph.D., expected 2016 (Supervisor)
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.

Nicholas D Perez, Ph.D., expected 2015 (Supervisor)
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 crustal thickening found in the central Andes. I am also interested in how inherited structures influence subsequent shortening and basin development in orogens.

Veronica J Anderson, Ph.D., expected 2015 (Supervisor)
My research focuses on understanding the tectonic history of the Eastern Cordillera using a variety of methods, with an emphasis on using paleoclimatic proxies to understand the effects of surface uplift on Colombian climate. I have utilized organic geochemical proxies for paleotemperature (the MBT/CBT index) and for the isotopic composition of rainfall (hydrogen isotopes in leaf waxes) in order to quantify surface uplift in the Eastern Cordillera. I am also analyzing sedimentary provenance data and thermochronological data to determine the timing of uplift of a large area of exposed basement at the southern end of the Colombian Eastern Cordillera. tl;dr: Basin anaysis, organic geochemistry, low-temperature thermochronology

Chelsea Mackaman-Lofland (Supervisor)
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.

Sarah George (Supervisor)
Sarah is a first year masterís student focused on the interplay between regional tectonics and sedimentation. Specifically, she is working on elucidating the timing and mechanisms of shortening, exhumation, and basin evolution in the Andes of northern Peru. Methods include field work, U-Pb geochronology and (U-Th)/He thermochronology.

Mariya Levina, M.S., 2013 (Supervisor)

Amanda Calle, M.S., 2013 (Supervisor)
Now Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin

Justin Fitch, M.S., 2012 (Supervisor)
Now at Southwestern Energy, Houston, Texas

William Woodruff, Jr., M.S., 2011 (Supervisor)
Now at Encana Corporation, Dallas, Texas

Javier Sanchez, M.S., 2011 (Supervisor)
Now Ph.D. student at University of Houston

Benjamin Siks, M.S., 2011 (Supervisor)
Now at BP, Anchorage, Alaska

Alejandro Bande, M.S., 2010 (Supervisor)
Ph.D., 2013, University of Potsdam, Germany. Now at Tecpetrol, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Christopher Moreno, M.S., 2010 (Supervisor)
Now at Mack Energy Corporation, Fort Worth, Texas

Paola Cardona, M.S., 2009 (Co-supervisor)
(Co-supervised) Now at Ecopetrol, Colombia

Glen Mackey, M.S., 2009 (Supervisor)
(Co-supervised) Now Ph.D. student at University of Utah

Yann Gavillot, M.S., 2007 (Supervisor)
UCLA
(Co-supervised) Now Ph.D. student at Oregon State University

Melissa Giovanni, Ph.D., 2007 (Supervisor)
UCLA
Now Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Nevada Las Vegas

Jesse Mosolf, M.S., 2007 (Supervisor)
UCLA
Ph.D., 2013, University of California Santa Barbara. Now Associate Research Geologist at Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology

Bryan Murray, M.S., 2007 (Supervisor)
UCLA
Ph.D., 2014, University of California Santa Barbara. Now at Antelope Valley College, Lancaster, California

Catherine Shirvell (Belgrade), M.S., 2006 (Supervisor)
UCLA
(Co-supervised) Now at BHP Billiton, Houston, Texas

Matthew Bourke, M.S., 2005 (Supervisor)
UCLA
Now at ExxonMobil, Melbourne, Australia

Robert Gillis, M.S., 2005 (Supervisor)
UCLA
Now at Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys

Richard Fink, M.S., 2002 (Supervisor)
LSU
Now at ExxonMobil, Houston, Texas

Brian Hampton, M.S., 2002 (Supervisor)
LSU
Ph.D., 2006, Purdue University. Now Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University


GEO 416M Sedimentary Rocks (Undergraduate)

GEO 420K Introduction to Field and Stratigraphic Methods (Undergraduate)

GEO 383S Sedimentary Basin Analysis (Graduate)

GEO 383T Tectonic and Climatic Interactions in Foreland Basins (Graduate)

GEO 171C/GEO 191 Seminar in Geological Sciences: Tectonics and Climate of South America (Grad-Undergrad Combined)

GEO 291 Seminar in Geological Sciences: Dynamic Field Stratigraphy: Andes (Graduate)

GEO 171T/GEO 191 Fundamentals of Paleomagnetism (Grad-Undergrad Combined)