Brian K Horton

Brian K Horton
Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences
Research Professor, Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences

J. Nalle Gregory Chair in Sedimentary Geology (Holder)
J. Nalle Gregory Regents Professorship in Geological Sciences (Holder)

Work: +1 512 471 1869
Office: ROC 2.116G, JGB
Mailcode: C9000

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, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia), as well as basin systems in the Middle East (Zagros), central Asia (Tibetan plateau, Mongolia), and western North America (Rocky Mountains).

Research Interests
- 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.

Research Locations

Current Research Programs & Projects

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)

Trans-Amazon Drilling Project (International Continental Scientific Drilling Project)

Shortening, extension, and drainage reorganization in the Andean fold-thrust belt and broken foreland basin of northern Patagonia, Argentina (NSF Tectonics)

Consequences of flat slab subduction on the chemical, structural, and dynamic evolution of continental lithosphere (NSF Frontier Research in Earth Sciences)

Provenance, geochronology and geological synthesis of the M1 and basal Tena sandstones, Oriente Basin, Ecuador (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)

CAUGHT: Central Andean Uplift and the Geodynamics of High Topography (NSF Continental Dynamics)

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)

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)

Late Cenozoic vertebrate paleontology and paleoenvironments of the Tibetan Plateau (China) (subcontract, NSF Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology)

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 Choco of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia (NASA Biodiversity Program)

Best Paper Award - Society of Exploration Geophysicists (2022)

Knebel Teaching Award - Department of Geological Sciences (2021)

Outstanding Researcher Award - Institute for Geophysics, UT-Austin (2019)

William R. Dickinson Medal (Award for Excellence in Sedimentary Geology by a Mid-Career Scientist) - Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) (2018)

Outstanding Educator Award - Jackson School of Geosciences, UT-Austin (2017)

Outstanding Researcher 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, 2017 (2011 - 2017)

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, International Association of Sedimentologists, International Meeting of Sedimentology, Sedimentary Basins symposium: Interactions of Sedimentation and Tectonics (2017)

Visiting Professor, Yachay Tech University, School of Geological Sciences, Urcuquí, Ecuador (2016 - 2017)

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 - 2018)


Lily Jackson, 2020 - 2021
provenance, paleoaltimetry, geochronology, geochemistry. Now Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Wyoming.

Zachary Sickmann, 2018 - 2019
Provenance, river transport, coastal processes, geochronology. Now Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG).

N. Ryan McKenzie, 2012 - 2014
Paleobiology, basin analysis, geochronology. Now Assistant Professor, University of Hong Kong.

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 Institute of Energy and Environment, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Joel Saylor, 2008 - 2012
Basin analysis, geo/thermochronology, tectonics, stable isotope geochemistry, paleoaltimetry. Now Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada.

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

Fernando Rey , Ph.D., expected 2025 (Committee Member)
My research focus is to link the stratigraphic record with tectonic processes using geochronology and geochemical signatures. I am currently working on projects in southern Patagonia (Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous Rocas Verdes Back-arc basin) and Japan (Neogene opening of the Sea of Japan).I am also interested in the dispersal of sediments in shallow marine environments. I have 8 years of experience...

Nicholas Regier , M.S., expected 2024 (Supervisor)

Kristina Butler , Ph.D., expected 2021 (Supervisor)
I am a field-based sedimentologist and geochronologist who uses sedimentary basin records to understand the drivers and consequences of mountain building. My current research focus is sediment routing and foreland basin evolution of Northern Patagonia. I combine a variety of provenance techniques (sandstone petrography, detrital zircon U-Pb, Lu-Hf and trace and rare earth elements) with depositional system interpretations and subsidence...

Natthakorn Konguthaithip (Supervisor)

Ashlee Siddall (Supervisor)

Claudia Banks, M.S., 2022 (Supervisor)
Jackson School of Geosciences

Matthew Nix, M.S., 2022 (Supervisor)
Jackson School of Geosciences

Cullen Kortyna, Ph.D., 2022 (Committee Member)
Jackson School of Geosciences

Jake Gearon, M.S., 2021 (Committee Member)

Chelsea Mackaman-Lofland, Ph.D., 2020 (Supervisor)

Tomas Capaldi, Ph.D., 2019 (Supervisor)
I have completed my PhD focusing on Cenozoic to modern tectonic evolution of the flat-slab region in western Argentina Andes. I have taken a position at University of Nevada, Las Vegas so check out my website to see what I am up to.

Sarah George, Ph.D., 2019 (Supervisor)
My research focuses on 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...

Lily Jackson, Ph.D., 2019 (Supervisor)
My research has focused 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 methods include provenance analysis such as detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology; stable isotope geochemistry to infer paleoclimate and paleoelevation; and other traditional methods in sedimentology.

Margaret Odlum, Ph.D., 2019 (Committee Member)
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 structural style and incipient foreland basin evolution and sediment routing systems.

Amanda Calle, Ph.D., 2017 (Supervisor)
Now at Bureau of Economic Geology, Austin, Texas

Meredith Bush, Ph.D., 2016 (Supervisor)
Now math & science teacher, Seattle, Washington

Sebastian Ramirez, Ph.D., 2016 (Supervisor)
Now at Shell Oil Company, Houston, Texas

Renas Koshnaw, Ph.D., 2016 (Supervisor)
Now postdoc at University of Gottingen, Germany

Nicholas Perez, Ph.D., 2015 (Supervisor)
Now Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University

Veronica Anderson, Ph.D., 2015 (Supervisor)
Now at Hess Corporation, Houston, Texas

Mariya Levina, M.S., 2013 (Supervisor)
Now at Student Academic Center, UC Davis, California

Amanda Calle, M.S., 2013 (Supervisor)
Now at Bureau of Economic Geology, Austin, Texas

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

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

Javier Sanchez, M.S., 2011 (Supervisor)
Ph.D. 2015, University of Houston. Now Assistant Professor, Universidad EAFIT, Medellin, Colombia

Benjamin Siks, M.S., 2011 (Supervisor)
Now at Hilcorp Energy Company, Anchorage, Alaska

Alejandro Bande, M.S., 2010 (Supervisor)
Ph.D., 2017, University of Potsdam, Germany. Now at Tecpetrol, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Christopher Moreno, M.S., 2010 (Supervisor)
Now cloud computing consultant, Portland, Oregon

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)
(Co-supervised) Now Ph.D. student at Oregon State University

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

Jesse Mosolf, M.S., 2007 (Supervisor)
Ph.D., 2013, University of California Santa Barbara. Now Associate Professor, Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology, Montana Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

Undergraduate Students

Jaime Hirtz (now first-year M.S. student, Fall 2019)
Matthew Nix (now first-year M.S. student, Fall 2019)
Anthony Edgington

>70 invited lectures at universities and professional scientific conferences, (see CV),

2024Spring GEO 383S Sedimentary Basin Analysis
2024Spring GEO 363S Sedimentary Basin Analysis
2024Spring GEO 660A Field Geology
2023Fall GEO 191 Dynamic Field Stratig: Andes
2023Fall GEO 383T Tect/Clim Intactn Forlnd Basin
2023Summer GEO f660B Field Geology-Wy/Mt/Ut
2023Spring GEO 420K Intro To Field/Strat Meths
2022Fall GEO 383U Dynamic Field Stratigraphy
2022Spring GEO 383S Sedimentary Basin Analysis
2022Spring GEO 363S Sedimentary Basin Analysis
2021Fall GEO 383U Dynamic Field Stratigraphy
2021Summer GEO f660A Field Geo-Tx/Nm/Co/Wy/Mt/Id/Ut
2021Spring GEO 420K Intro To Field/Strat Meths
2020Fall GEO 383T Tect/Clim Intactn Forlnd Basin
2020Fall GEO 383T Tct/Clm Intctn Forlnd Basin-Wb
2020Spring GEO 383S Sedimentary Basin Analysis
2020Spring GEO 363S Sedimentary Basin Analysis
2020Spring GEO 420K Intro To Field/Strat Meths
2019Summer GEO f660B Field Geo-Tx/Nm/Co/Wy/Mt/Id/Ut
2019Summer GEO f660A Field Geo-Tx/Nm/Co/Wy/Mt/Id/Ut
2019Spring GEO 420K Intro To Field/Strat Meths
2018Fall GEO 383T Tect/Clim Intactn Forlnd Basin
2018Summer GEO f660A Field Geo-Tx/Nm/Co/Wy/Mt/Id/Ut
2018Summer GEO f660B Field Geo-Tx/Nm/Co/Wy/Mt/Id/Ut
2018Spring GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2018Spring GEO 383U Dynamic Field Strtgrphy-Ut/Rou
2018Spring GEO 383S Sedimentary Basin Analysis
2018Spring GEO 420K Intro To Field/Strat Meths
2017Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2017Fall GEO 191 Dynamic Field Stratigraphy
2017Spring GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2017Spring GEO 391 Dynamic Field Stratig: Andes
2016Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2016Spring GEO 391 Sediment Provenance
2016Spring GEO 394 Rsch In Sedimentatn/Tectonics
2015Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2015Spring GEO 394 Rsch In Sedimentatn/Tectonics
2015Spring GEO 383S Sedimentary Basin Analysis
2015Spring GEO 420K Intro To Field And Strat Meths
2014Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Sedimentatn/Tectonics
2014Fall GEO 383T Tect/Clim Intactn Forlnd Basin
2014Summer GEO f660B Field Geo-Tx/Nm/Co/Wy/Mt/Id/Ut
2014Spring GEO 171T Fundamentals Of Paleomagnetism
2014Spring GEO 394 Rsch In Sedimentatn/Tectonics
2014Spring GEO 291 Dynamic Field Stratig: Andes
2014Spring GEO 191 Fundamentals Of Paleomagnetism
2014Spring GEO 383S Sedimentary Basin Analysis

Horton: UT Institute for Geophysics

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

Horton: 2017 media release by UT for article in EPSL (Capaldi et al.)
New Research Improves Understanding of Ancient Landscapes