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Geology Department College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

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Faculty Research in the Geology Department

Katie Ardill

Igneous Petrology & Geochemistry

My research interests focus on the behavior of continental arcs, where magmatism, deformation and climate processes are linked. I study patterns of episodic continental arc magmatism at many scales to build on our understanding of: 1) the spatial and temporal record of magmatism in arcs, and how magma sources evolve; 2) the connection between volcanic and plutonic rocks; 3) how magmatic structures record the magma chamber histories. These topics have implications for the formation of continental crust, the complex rheology of magmas, and for understanding hazards in active arcs. My research includes a large field component with an emphasis on plutons, as 20-30 times more magma is trapped underground than is ever erupted. I utilize a range of tools, integrating field mapping, structural and microtextural analyses, U-Pb zircon geochronology, and geochemistry of rock samples and their individual minerals. Email Dr. Ardill

Kurtis Burmeister

Structural & Tectonics, Geoscience Education, Field Geology, Field Safety

My primary interests are structural geology and tectonics, which means that I am drawn to questions involving deformation of the lithosphere caused by interactions among shifting tectonic plates. In particular, I am fascinated by the evolution of folding, faulting, and penetrative deformation associated with convergent plate boundaries (subduction zones and continental collisions). To study these interactions, I employ a range of techniques including geologic mapping, grain- and macroscopic-scale analyses of rock fabrics (patterns associated with deposition of sediment, deformation of rocks, and rock magnetism), and geochemistry. I currently have active projects in SE Japan, upstate New York State, western Ireland, and the central Sierra Nevada. I am also interested in geoscience education. I am very involved in developing stratetgies for field safety leadership and exploring the the effects of cognitive loads on field safety. I also enjoy exploring the use of sense of place as a tool for deepening student connections with locations. I am also very interested in helping students develop the ability to work with 3D and 4D spatial relationships, especialy with regards to geologic mapping, cross section construction, and geologic field methods. If you have any questions, please email Dr. Burmeister and visit his website.

Kevin Cornwell


My interests generally revolve around surface and groundwater flow in mountain river systems. To that end I’ve had the opportunity to explore sediment transport conditions, paleo-flood reconstructions, dam break and breakout flood modeling as well as groundwater flow and modeling studies. Of late, I’ve been more focused on montane meadows, their ability to store groundwater and how that groundwater volume changes in degraded meadows. Specifically my students and I have been measuring the volume of groundwater that exists in both healthy and degraded meadows and assessing how that volume changes throughout the water year. We follow-up on recently restored meadows and document improvements to the overall hydrology conditions in those meadows. Email Dr. Cornwell

Julie Griffin

Sedimentary Geochemistry

The overarching aim of my research is to recognize climatic forcing mechanisms that operate on a variety of different time scales. I use sedimentological and geochemical observations to reconstruct Earth’s past climate. Sequence stratigraphy and paleoenvironmental reconstructions indicate the magnitude and timing of fluctuations in sea level. The oxygen isotopic composition of conodont microfossils reveals changes in ice volume, precipitation patterns, and ocean temperature. The isotopic composition and carbon:nitrogen ratios of organic matter, as well as the strontium isotopic composition of conodonts, disentangle the multitude of signals preserved in the conodont oxygen isotope record. These various geochemical records become integrated with the use of mixing models. My research focuses on the Carboniferous, when the Earth last possessed perennial polar ice and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were comparable to today’s levels. Email Dr. Griffin

Brian Hausback


Study of active and ancestral volcanic stratigraphy, structure, petrology and geochemistry is the best way to understand mechanisms and hazards of volcanic eruption. I take a broad, commonly field-based approach to investigation of volcanoes in a variety of locations, including Mount St. Helens, Baja California’s Gulf coast, the Sutter Buttes in California’s Sacramento Valley, and the High Rock caldera of NW Nevada. Email Dr. Hausback

David Shimabukuro

Tectonics, Water Resources

I have two distinct research interests: tectonics and water resources. Tectonics: I am a field-based tectonicist who uses mapping of field relations, geochemistry and geochronology to understand the earth. Recently, my tectonics group has been focusing on understanding the history and evolution of ocean crust, from its formation at mid-ocean ridges, to subduction, and to its emplacement as ophiolites in orogenic belts. My students have worked in Calabria, Italy; the Alps; and Northern California. Water Resources: My water resources group studies the interaction between oil and gas wastewater injection and groundwater resources. We use data from archived oil and gas well to understand the distribution of fresh and saline groundwater, the stratigraphy of the subsurface, and potential well integrity issues. Email Dr. Shimabukuro

Steven Skinner


My research aims to solve tectonic problems through regional geology, tectonic plate reconstructions, and geophysical methods. One branch of my research has been focused on flat slab subduction. Through a synthesis of geologic and geophysical data, my previous study of flat subduction dynamics found no correlation, spatial ortemporal, between historic zones of flat subduction and the subduction of reconstructed bathymetric highs. We are now expanding the scope of this work to look at other potential driving mechanisms of changes in slab geometry. Another ongoing branch of my research aims to constrain the timing and location of continental rifting in the Gulf of California. Through geologic mapping and paleomagnetic sampling of the Tuff of San Felipe, an ignimbrite that predates rifting, we can identify vertical axis rotations associated with the rifting process. Additionally, we have measured anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility in an effort to define a flow direction to aid in outcrop correlation. Emerging research directions include: using paleomagnetics to assess the differential exhumation of batholiths, determining the paleogeography of the Chortis block, testing the limits of Anisotropy of Magnetic Susceptibility as an indicator for paleoflow, and assessing the along trench variation in subduction parameters. Email Dr. Skinner

Amelia Vankeuren

Hydrogeology, Geochemistry

I am a hydrogeologist/geochemist working onwater---rock interaction and groundwater quality. My group’s primary areas of research are California groundwater resources and the water-energy nexus. We use a combination of fieldwork, laboratory experiments, geochemical analyses, and reactive transport modeling to assess and predict changes to groundwater flow and chemistry from a variety of processes. Recent research projects include: (1) Managed aquifer recharge through off-season irrigation, (2) Quantifying recharge from groundwater-surface water interaction near rivers, (3) Arsenic mobilization in groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley, (4) Impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and gas on shale reservoir chemistry and permeability, (5) Mineral carbonation (turning carbon dioxide gas into rocks for permanent storage) to combat global climate change. I am interested in the intersection of science and policy, and enjoy doing research that informs policy decisions and helps us make better choices about how we interact with our Earth. Email Dr. Vankeuren

Amy Wagner

Paleoceanography, Geochemistry

My research interests include paleoceanography/paleoclimate and isotope geochemistry. I have students working on projects using isotope and trace metal geochemical data from corals and marine sediments to understand oceanographic changes throughout the Holocene associated with natural and anthropogenic climate change. In addition, I am working with students to study the source of water delivered to mountain meadows using water isotopes. I am a member of the new Sacramento State Institute for Water, Energy, Sustainability, and Technology (iWEST), a center for interdisciplinary research to address both human and scientific challenges facing California due to climate change. My field areas include Monterey Bay, St. Croix (USVI), Ross Sea, Antarctica and the Sierra high mountain meadows. Email Dr. Wagner

Charlie Alpers (USGS)

Environmental Geochemistry

Research interests include: environmental geochemistry of mineral deposits; multi-disciplinary investigation of mercury contamination and bioaccumulation in the Sierra Nevada and California Coast Ranges associated with historical gold and mercury mining; trace metals and colloid transport in surface waters; arsenic bioavailability in mine waste; acid mine drainage; efflorescent sulfate minerals; application of stable and radiogenic isotopes to environmental problems. Email Dr. Alpers Adjunct Faculty

 Joe Domalgalski (USGS)

Aqueous Geochemistry

My research focuses on understanding and modeling of various water quality constituents in streams and groundwater. My recent contributions include a fate andtransport model of phosphorus and nitrogen in California rivers, a study of long-term trends in concentrations and loads of various nitrogen and phosphorus compounds in rivers draining to the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, and a study of wet and dry mercury deposition to the landscape of western North America and associated stream loading. Email Dr. Domalgalski Adjunct Faculty

David Dralle


The Ecohydrology Research Group at Sacramento State University studies how the hydrogeologic structure of the near-surface affects streamflow generation and ecosystem water availability, especially in places like California where precipitation is seasonally limited. We study these surface and subsurface interactions using modeling, remote-sensing, and field-based approaches, and aim to improve scientific understanding of the response of water resources availability to global change. Currently, we have a number of ongoing projects around the state of California looking at how the geological history of a watershed determines streamflow and forest response to drought. Email Dr. Dralle Adjunct Faculty