Volcanology, Petrology, and Geochemistry

Volcanology, Petrology, and Geochemistry

The Department has long enjoyed an international reputation for strength in studies of high-temperature geological processes, dating to at least 1965 when the original Center for Volcanology was established by emeritus faculty AR McBirney, DW Weill and GG Goles. The 60’s, 70’s and 80’s saw many landmark studies published by department faculty and graduate students on a variety of topics including characterization of the lunar samples returned by the Apollo missions; experimental studies of lava rheology, phase equilibria, and trace element partitioning; and field and analytical investigations of layered mafic intrusions, oceanic archipelagos, subduction-related volcanoes, ore deposits, and metamorphic terranes. Our current faculty continue the tradition of petrological and volcanological research while also expanding into the realms of geochemistry and geobiology. While our interests are diverse, we share a focus on active volcanic, magmatic, hydrothermal, and geomicrobial systems and fine-scale, process-oriented investigations.

Find out more about the Oregon Center for Volcanology

Ilya Bindeman

Ilya's principle focus is on understanding volcanic systems and his approach relies primarily on measurements of the stable isotopic (e.g., 16O/18O; D/H) compositions of phenocrysts and glasses in erupted products, both current and ancient. This work is done in his state-of-the-art laboratory which houses a MAT 253 multicollector stable isotope mass spectrometer, a laser fluorination extraction line, a high-temperature pyrolysis system, and an automated system for analysis of carbonates and waters. He is also a regular user of he Cameca IMS1280 ion probes at UCLA and University of Wisconsin which he uses to gather geochronological measurements and in situ isotope measurements. Much of Ilya’s work centers on past supereruptions, including Yellowstone and Long Valley, but he also has studies underway on the products of recent and even current eruptions in Iceland and Kamchatka, and collaborative projects with others.


Josef Dufek profile picture

Joe Dufek

Joe studies physical processes in planetary interiors, volcanic eruption dynamics, and multiphase flows that shape the landscape.  His group is primarily focused on the application of fluid dynamics to understand mass and energy transfer in geological processes, with particular emphasis on volcanic systems. Most processes in nature involve multiple phases: for instance ash particles interacting with a turbulent gas carrier phase in an explosive volcanic eruption. One of the groups research goals is to delineate how multiphase interactions contribute to the structure and composition of planetary interiors, and the role of such interactions in determining the dynamics and deposit architecture of volcanic flows using computational, experimental and field studies. He uses high performance computing for calculations of magmatic reservoirs, turbulent gas dynamics and granular flows, and manages laboratory facilities that examine compressible fluid dynamics, granular mechanics and sensor design for extreme environments.


Thomas Giachetti profile picture

Thomas Giachetti

Thomas is a volcanologist interested in understanding how volcanic eruptions evolve through time, especially the most explosive ones. He is studying in particular magma degassing and how this degassing affects the dynamics of volcanic eruptions. Thomas uses a range of field, laboratory and numerical modeling approaches, and oversees a textural laboratory that houses a helium pycnometer, a capillary flow porometer, a particle size analyzer and optical microscopes. Thomas previously worked on Soufrière Hills Volcano at Montserrat but his recent work has taken him to our local Cascade volcanoes, including Medicine Lake and Newberry volcanoes.


Qusheng Jin profile picture

Qusheng Jin

Jin’s research focuses on how fast microbially-driven geochemical processes proceed in natural environments and how the rates of these processes affect environmental chemistry. Current research topics include: (1) natural arsenic contamination in groundwater of the Willamette Basin, Oregon; and (2) abnormal redox chemistry in Upper Klamath Lake, one of the largest lakes in the western US. The groundwater project is to investigate how the close interactions between geochemical and microbial processes control the occurrence and attenuation of arsenic in groundwater; the lake project is to develop a new theory of geomicrobial kinetics to account for the impact of microbial diversity on the rates of biogeochemical processes. Both projects take a suite of multidisciplinary approaches, including field sampling and analysis, laboratory experiments, and numerical modeling.


Leif Karlstrom profile picture

Leif Karlstrom

Leif studies fluid movements in and around volcanoes, glaciers, and bedrock landscapes. His volcanic interests include the eruption cycle, crustal magma transport, transitions in eruption style, volcanic seismicity, and the multiphase rheology of magmas. His glacial interests are primarily in glacial hydrology, mostly supraglacial stream morphodynamics. His landscape interests are in volcanic landscapes and the interactions between landscape construction through volcanism (both effusive and explosive), fluvial and glacial erosion. Leif’s group develops analytic and numerical mathematical models for these processes, in combination with field measurements and laboratory experiments using analog materials.


Matthew Polizzotto profile picture

Matt Polizzotto

The overarching goal of my research program is to help better predict, manage and respond to environmental contaminants that threaten human health. Contaminant distributions in soils, sediments and natural waters are controlled by a host of physical, chemical and biological processes, each of which can exert its influence over a range of spatial and temporal scales. My research integrates a suite of field, laboratory and spectroscopic approaches to better understand the sources, fate and transport of contaminants in the environment.


Mark Reed profile picture

Mark Reed

A primary interest of Mark’s is computer modeling of fluid/gas/mineral equilibria in high-temperature magmatic, volcanic, and fumarolic systems, using software of his own creation. His work is driven by field investigations and fluid inclusion measurements in systems ranging from ore deposits now hosted in old plutonic rocks, to encrustations forming today in modern geothermal systems. Recent work has taken him to a variety of field locales, including the giant porphyry copper deposit in Butte, Montana and the active geothermal systems of Kamchatka and Iceland.


Meredith Townsend profile picture

Meredith Townsend

Meredith studies magma transport and storage through the earth’s crust by integrating geologic field observations, geophysical volcano monitoring data, and numerical modeling. Specific projects focus on the evolution of magma reservoirs in the crust, the propagation of magmatic dikes, and mechanical links between magmatism, tectonism, and surface processes.


Paul Wallace profile picture

Paul Wallace

Paul is primarily interested in volcanology and is an expert on volatiles in magmatic and volcanic systems. His lab houses a Fourier transform infrared spectrometer which he and his students use to measure pre-eruptive H2O and CO2 contents in trapped melt (now glass) inclusions in phenocrysts. They also use the electron microprobe, ion probe, and laser ablation ICP-MS to measure the concentrations of other volatiles (e.g., Cl, S) and trace elements. A major focus of Paul’s group is in understanding the origins and role of fluids in subduction-related volcanism. Paul’s field-based studies take him and his students primarily to the volcanoes of Mexico and the Cascades.


James Watkins profile picture

Jim Watkins

Jim studies geological processes in high-temperature systems (magmas) as well as low-temperature systems (aqueous solutions).  His group uses a combination of laboratory experiments, isotope measurements, and theory to understand how environmental variables (such as temperature, pressure, and chemistry) influence the shape and composition of crystals and bubbles. This information in turn helps geochemists, volcanologists, and oceanographers decode the information that is recorded in the geologic record. Jim oversees the Experimental Petrology Lab as well as the new Isotope Geochemistry Clean Room Facility.