Rodrigo A Fernandez-VasquezResearch Associate, Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences
Coming from a long and narrow fore-arc country like Chile, tightly confined between the Andes cordillera and the Pacific Ocean, early in my career as an earth scientist I was most interested in understanding the tectonic processes that gave shape to the dramatic landscape that surrounded me. Just prior to obtain my post-graduate geology professional title, the establishment of the first laboratory of paleomagnetism at University of Chile in Santiago gave me the opportunity to research the magnitude and implications of tectonic block rotations in the development of Domeyko Cordillera in northern Chile. However, during that time, a trip to the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica, aimed at reconstructing the paleo position of this range among other topics, opened my mind to the world of ice. Several other experiences such as the study of moraine systems in Southern Patagonia, raised Holocene beaches in the Strait of Magallanes, and a field course on glacial geology in Tierra del Fuego I. (Argentina), piqued my interest in short time scale (centennial to millennial) processes that influence landscape, in particular those related to the dynamics of ice bodies. From this point on, my interest has been mostly focused on the understanding of these processes in terms of their geographical and geological controls as well as their time scale dependence.
Currently my research is focus on processes of sediment generation and sedimentation related to marine ice sheets (Antarctica) and tide water glaciers (Antarctic Peninsula and Patagonia), and how these processes have shaped marine basins and landscapes, as well as their influence on the tectonic evolution of their respective orogenic belts. I have found that glacial erosion rates exhibit distinctive patterns of variations and magnitude at different timescales and latitudes. These patterns and magnitudes seem to be related with the different dynamism of temperate versus cold ice masses which influence sediment production, as well as with preservation potential within depositional basins (Fernandez et al., 2011a; Fernandez et al. 2012, in preparation).
During the course of several marine geology surveys in Patagonia (1) and Antarctica (3), I also gained interest in the glacial/climate/ocean coupled evolution of these cold regions through time. I am particularly interested in the timing and geographical pattern of deglaciation and the subsequent Holocene glacialevents. Along this line, I am currently collaborating with ongoing research on the Antarctic Peninsula Holocene glacier and climate/ocean fluctuations (Minzoni et al, in preparation; Rice University), published a paper on a North Patagonia glacier and climate fluctuations (Fernandez et al., 2011b) and have collaborated in one of the first marine glacial evolution studies in the Magallanes Region (Boyd et al., 2008).
At a larger spatial scale, I am also interested in understanding the geological factors that control the stability of marine ice sheets through the study of their past retreat. Since January 2010, I have collaborated in a project aimed to study the demise of the ancient Pine Island Ice sheet (Jakobsson et al., 2011; Kirshner et al., in preparation, Rice University).
Additionally, for the past two years I have also gain interest in the source to sink sediment dynamics in the coastal and shelf systems of the Gulf of Mexico collaborating closely with other scientists giving insights and supplying them with sediment flux calculations (Wallace et al., 2010 and Weight et al., 2011).
Areas of Expertise
Glacial geology, marine geology, tectonics, tectonics-climate-glacial interactions, sedimentary processes on fjords, rivers and coastal environments, paleomagnetism (block rotations, anisotropy of susceptibility). Current Spatial/Temporal areas of research: Cz/Pleistocene-Holocene of Patagonia and the Antarctic Peninsula.
UTIG Institutional Posdoctoral Fellowship - UTIG (2012)