Research Groups & Facilities

Research Activities

Research activities in the Department of Geological Sciences are far-reaching and often interdisciplinary. Students and faculty pursue field and laboratory study in geophysics, environmental geology (hydrogeology, environmental geochemistry), earth surface processes, sedimentology, basin analysis, petrology, economic geology, geomicrobiology, and geochemistry. The department also includes the Center for Integrated Watershed Studies, a source of expertise on the natural features of watersheds and the human effects on them.

Information on Undergraduate Research

Information on Freshman Research Immersion

Research Groups

  • Environmental Geosciences

    Environmental Geoscience provides an understanding of Earth's environmental systems from chemical, physical, and biological perspectives. The undergraduate and graduate program in environmental geoscience includes possibilities for research in hydrogeology, environmental geochemistry, low temperature geochemistry, contaminant transport, paleoclimatology, surficial processes, and microbial biogeochemistry. Coordination with the Center for Integrated Watershed Studies (C.I.W.S.) allows students to work with faculty members and students from the Biology and Geography programs at Binghamton University on interdisciplinary watershed topics that involve water quality and quantity, pollutant source characterization, flooding, environmental health from ecosystem and human perspectives, applications of spatial analysis tools, and initiatives related to energy resources and sustainability from rural and urban perspectives. Research projects may involve field investigations to explore in-situ rates and mechanisms of environmentally relevant chemical and microbiological processes as well as bench-scale laboratory research on these and related topics.


    • Jeff Barker– environmental Geophysics
    • Joe Graney– environmental low temperature geochemistry, watershed material cycling
    • Peter Knuepfer – geomorphology, Quaternary geology, paleoclimate
    • Tom Kulp– geomicrobiology
    • Karen Salvage– geohydrology

    Recent Theses and Dissertations in Environmental Geoscience:

    • Lee Terry (MS) - Thesis title:  Autotrophic Oxidation of Antimony(III) by Bacteria Isolated from Contaminated Mine Sediments
    • Jason D. Johnson (PhD) - Dissertation title: Coupling Geochemistry and Real-time Water Quality Sensing for Identifying and Quantifying Basin Brine and Road Salt Sources in Watersheds Along the New York Pennsylvania Border.
    • John W. McCann (MS) - Thesis title: Cumulative Impact of Highly Variable Land Use within a New York Watershed.
    • Megan L. Fronckowiak (MS) - Thesis title: Variations in Downstream Hydraulic Geometry of the West Kill in the Catskill Mountains, New York, and Comparison with Stony Clove and other Catskill Streams.
    • Stephen Catalfamo (MS) – Thesis title: Assessment of Stream Flow Response and Water Quality Within a Small Tropical Watershed in Costa Rica.
    • Lisa M. Cousineau (MS) – Thesis title: Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product Concentrations in the Upper Susquehanna River.
    • Lynette Vayo (MS) – Thesis title: Characterization of the Hydrogeology of the Bedrock Aquifer in Rural Vestal, NY.
    • Joanna Charlann Walker (MA) – Thesis title: Effects of the Broome County Municipal Landfill's Clay Cap on the Surface and Groundwater Hydrology of the Castle Creek Watershed.
    • Dawn Washo (MS) – Thesis title: Using Membrane Interface Probe (MIP) to Characterize Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds in Glacial Sediments
  • Sedimentology and Surficial Processes

    Sedimentology and Surface Processes program is strongly rock oriented with current research focusing on the Eocene Green River Formation of Colorado and Wyoming and carbonate rocks in the northeastern states. We study modern sedimentary systems to better understand physical, chemical and biological processes at the Earth's surface. Current research focuses on the chemistry of ancient seawater; long-term survival of extreme microorganisms in fluid inclusions; and brine evolution, evaporate deposition and microbial ecosystems in high-salinity closed basin sedimentary systems and other "extreme" environments. Research on surficial processes include computer modeling studies of ocean-atmosphere interactions and computer models of earthquake wave – unconsolidated sediment interactions, and factors affecting preservation of organic matter in sedimentary basins.


    • Jeff Barker– earthquake seismology
    • Steve Dickman– whole Earth geophysics
    • Bob Demicco– carbonate sedimentology, computer modeling of sedimentary systems, paleoseawater chemistry
    • Peter Knuepfer– geomorphology/Quaternary geology/paleoclimate
    • Tom Kulp– Heavy metal metabolism in microbial ecosystems
    • Tim Lowenstein– Green River Formation, microbes in fluid inclusions, paleoseawater chemistry
    • Jeffrey Pietras - Sedimentology and stratigraphy, Basin analysis, Petroleum geology and geochemistry

    Recent theses and dissertations in Sedimentology and Surficial Processes:

    • Nirupam Dey (PhD) - Dissertation title: TOPEX Data Analaysis to Infer Earth's Rotational Fluctuations Forced by the Oceanic Response to Atmospheric Pressure Variations.
    • John T. Murphy (MS) - Thesis title:  Preservation of the Primary Lake Signatures in Alkaline Earth Carbonates of the Eoncene Green River Wilkins Peak-Laney Member Transition Zone.
    • Khashayar Mortazavi (MS) - Thesis title:  Sedimentologic Observation and Stratigraphic Interpretation of the Manlius Fromation along the Hudson Valley in Eastern New York.
    • John Bigolski (MS) – Thesis title: An Inferred Sea Level Curve from Carbonate Depositional Facies of the Middle Cambrian Elbrook Formation, Western Maryland, U.S.A.
    • Kathryn E. Gragg (MS) – Thesis title: Preservation of Microorganisms within Halite Fluid Inclusions from the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.
    • Kuo-chen Hao (PhD) – Dissertation title: Imaging Deep Structure Under the Taiwan Orogen: Toward Tectonic Model Testing.
    • En-Jui Lee (MS) – Thesis title: Joint Local/Teleseismic Tomographic Inverstion in Taiwan Using Taiger and Other Data.
    • Nicolas Miller (MS) – Thesis title: Historic Channel Change on Esopus Creek, Upstream of the Ashokan Reservoir, Catskills, New York.
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

    Geochemistry and Petrology considers major- and trace-element geochemical processes over a wide range of temperatures (surface to magmatic temperatures) and pressures (1 atmosphere to mantle pressures). Research includes both field and experimental approaches to addressing problems that span a broad range of the geological sciences. Current research includes the formation conditions of sodium-calcium carbonates in evaporative basins, origin and differentiation of layered igneous intrusions, stability of high- and ultra-high-pressure metamorphic assemblages, and the transport of metals in the surface waters of regional watersheds. Facilities include a suite of analytical equipment for the analysis of minerals, rocks, and fluids for major and trace elements, microscope heating and freezing stages for fluid inclusion analyses, and a hydrothermal laboratory for replicating high pressures and temperatures inside the Earth.


    • Joe Graney– environmental low temperature geochemistry/watershed material cycling
    • Dave Jenkins– experimental metamorphic petrology/ hydrothermal laboratory
    • Tim Lowenstein– low temperature geochemistry/fluid inclusion research
    • Dick Naslund– igneous petrology

    Recent Theses and dissertations in Geochemistry and Petrology:

    • Elliot Jagniecki (PhD) - Experimental and Sedimentalogical Study of Evaporties from the Green River Formation, Bridger and Piceance Creek Basins:  Implications for their Deposition, Diagenesis, and Ancient Eocene Atmospheric CO2
    • Yaicha Winters (PhD) - Haloarchael Survival and Preservation of Biomaterials (Carotenoids) in Ancient Halite
    • Kathryn Steigerwaldt (MS) - Thesis title:  Crystal Settling and In-situ Magma Differentiation in Neoproterozoic Sills of the Franklin Igenous Event, Victoria Island NWT, Canada.
    • Jie Lei (MS) - Thesis title:  Experimental Study of the Join Magnesiohornblende-Glaucophane.
    • Ashley Michelle Basora (MS) – Thesis title: A Blueschist Facies to Greenschist Facies Transition Model Represented by the Reaction: Glaucophane + Paragonite + 2 Quartz = 2 Vermiculite + 2 Albite.
    • Daniel Alejandro Maeso Díaz (MS) – Thesis title: Opaque Mineral Analysis of the Amaga Formation and Potential Source Rocks and its Relation to Uplift of the Columbian Andes.
    • Juan Carlos Corona (PhD) – Dissertation title: An experimental Study on the Stability of Blueschist Facies Assemblages in the System FeO-Na2O-MgO-Al2O3-SiO2-H2O.
    • Glendon Hunsinger (PhD) – Dissertation title: Organic Matter Exchanges Between Freshwater-Tidal Wetlands and the Hudson River.

Research Facilities

State-of-the-art laboratory facilities and equipment support a wide range of instructional and research activities. Binghamton faculty and students create computer models of basin sedimentation, magma chamber processes, Earth tides, oscillations and wobbles, and seawater chemical fractionation. Laboratory investigations include high-temperature, high-pressure studies of clay, lawsonite, amphibole, and diamond stability; water, air, and particulate microanalysis; fluid inclusion research; biogeochemistry; and the analysis of whole-rocks, mineral separates, and minerals in-situ for both major and trace elements.

  • Research Facilities Overview

    The Department has extensive laboratory facilities supporting a wide range of instructional and research activities. Equipment includes two heating-freezing microscopes with video recording capabilities for fluid inclusion studies; a 30'x2'x1.5' recirculating flume for experiments in sediment transport; an experimental petrology laboratory with 15 cold-seal vessels, 2 Ar-media presses, 2 one-atmosphere gas-mixing furnaces, and a piston cylinder furnace; a paleomagnetics laboratory with a slow speed spinner magnetometer and a.f. demagnetizing equipment; a seismic laboratory with a local seismic station and computer links to seismographs around the world; two scanning electron microscopes; and a cathodoluminescence microscope.

    During the last 5 years we have obtained new state-of-the-art equipment to improve our research facilities, including: (1) a DCP- atomic emission spectrometer for whole-rock and mineral-separate analyses: (2) a JEOL-8900 'Super Probe' for our electron microbeam facility; (3) a Nikon microscope-photography set up for photomicrographs and videotapes; (4) three classroom monitors for real-time Macintosh, IBM, and Microscope-TV display; (5) a 24-channel high-resolution shallow seismic reflection system; (6) an X-ray diffractometer with computer automation and pattern searching software; and (7) a network of Sun workstations for our Seismic laboratory.

    Ongoing research projects involving faculty, staff, and graduate students include field studies in Australia, California, the Canadian Rockies, the Caribbean, Colombia, East Greenland, Idaho, India, Iowa, Mexico, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, New Zealand, at sea with the Ocean Drilling Program, Russia, Pakistan, Taiwan, Tibet, Utah, and Venezuela.

    Ongoing laboratory studies include computer modeling of earthquake source mechanisms, experimental studies of amphibole stability, computer modeling of Earth tides, oscillations, and wobbles, and analytical studies of whole-rocks, mineral separates, and minerals in thin section.

    Facilities and Analytical Equipment:

    • Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS)
    • DCP-Atomic Emission Spectrometer
    • JEOL-8900 'Super Probe'
    • Scanning Electron Microscopes
    • X-ray diffractometer
    • Heating-freezing Microscopes
    • Cathodoluminescence Microscope
    • 24-channel Shallow Seismic Reflection Instruments
    • Sun workstation network
    • Experimental Petrology Lab
    • Paleomagnetics Lab
    • Recirculating Flume

    Please Note: Students may use thin-section laboratory, polished-section and impregnating laboratory, SEM laboratory, microprobe laboratory, and other facilities with approval of faculty/staff in charge, provided that instruction in the use of equipment has been obtained previously. Photomicroscopy facilities and aerial photograph interpretation facilities are available; inquire with your faculty supervisor.

    CAUTION: By using equipment, students accept responsibility for the care and safety of its use. Some equipment is potentially hazardous and all safety regulations must be strictly followed. Any equipment not operating normally must be reported immediately. Students using equipment in evening or weekend hours must adhere to a 'buddy' system in which they notify fellow students of their intent to use any potentially hazardous equipment. It is advisable to keep the machine shop door open when in use to permit easy exit in the case of injury.  Failure to clean up one's mess, and/or gross negligence in use of equipment will result in revocation of privilege of use.

    Short-term storage of current research materials. Rock samples, thin-sections, fossils, and other working materials in current use may be stored only temporarily in the various laboratories according to the availability of space. Do not clutter working areas with storage items. Periodic clearings may result in materials being discarded unless clearly marked and properly shelved.

  • Department Policies on Use of Equipment  

    The facilities and equipment of the department that are used principally for instruction are available also for student research in most cases. Use of facilities and equipment implies acceptance of responsibility for replacement or repair in the event of damage or loss. Specialized research equipment is accessible only with permission from the faculty member or technical staff in charge. Some specific examples are set out below.

    A. Equipment
    With few exceptions, departmental equipment may not be removed from the building, nor transferred from one student to another.

    1. Keys. Students may have one key for their assigned office and one for the outside building door. These must be signed for in the department office or from the building supervisor, and must be returned when a student vacates his/her office space, or when a prolonged absence is anticipated. A refundable fee is assessed at the time of key check-out. Short-term key loans for other facilities are available with permission from the faculty/staff in charge of that facility. Such keys must be signed for and returned when the specific task has been completed.
    2. Computers. Computers are scattered throughout the department. Some are dedicated to specific areas, e.g. analytical equipment, seismology, etc.. Others are available for general analytical, word-processing, and e-mail use in room 262C. Research and e-mail accounts can be established through the department office. The computer PODs in the Computer Center, Science 2, and Science 3 have a large number of micros, terminals, and laser printers for general use. Academic Support in the computer center gives short-courses on the use of micros, word-processing, e-mail, internet access, etc. The Science Library has workstations for Internet access for bibliographic searches and other information retrieval. Binghamton University's GIS Core Facility can provide support for projects requiring use of GIS for spatial analysis of data.
    3. Research facilities. The Department has extensive analytical research facilities. Equipment includes two heating-freezing microscopes with video recording capabilities for fluid inclusion studies; a recirculating flume for experiments in sediment transport; an experimental petrology laboratory with various high-pressure and high-temperature equipment; a paleomagnetism laboratory; a seismology laboratory with computer workstations, a local seismograph station, and shallow seismic exploration equipment; a Dionex ICS-2000 ion chromatograph; two scanning electron microscopes; a DCP-atomic emission spectrometer and a Varian Vista-MPX ICP-optical emission spectrometer for whole-rock and mineral-separate analyses; an ICP-mass spectrometer for trace element analysis; a JEOL-8900 electron microprobe; a Philips automated X-ray diffractometer; GPS surveying equipment; stereoscopes and a zoom transfer scope for study of aerial photographs. Permission to use equipment must be obtained from appropriate faculty and/or technical staff.
    4. Brunton compasses. The Department has a small number of Bruntons to support field courses. These may be borrowed for limited periods, provided they are returned at a predetermined date, in good condition. Since Bruntons are basic tools for geologists, students should obtain their own for extended summer thesis/dissertation work. Arrangements for short-term loans only can be made with the department secretary.
    5. Microscopes. Student microscopes, stored in Room 254, may be used there but not borrowed or removed. Research microscopes are available elsewhere; make inquiries with the appropriate faculty supervisor.
    6. Thin-section supplies. Because of the difficulty for students in securing thin-section supplies, these are normally provided by the department. Faculty will provide such supplies through research grants where large quantities are involved. Supplies and instruction in their use will be provided by staff in charge of the thin-section/rock preparation laboratory.
    7. Department vehicles. These are intended for field trips in instructional support. Students may obtain limited short-term use of vans on a stand-by basis, always with the understanding that instructional needs come first, sometimes on short notice. Department vehicles may not be used for personal purposes. Department vehicles may only be driven by students with a valid N.Y. State driving license and holding research or teaching assistantships.
    8. Other. Other items of research and instructional equipment occasionally can be loaned, with approval by and with supervision of the faculty or staff in charge.

Field Studies

Recent field studies have examined differentiation in intrusive sills in Arctic Canada and the United States; iron-ore deposits in Chile, and Mexico; paleoclimate indicators in Lake Magadi, East Africa; depositional history of a delta in present-day Wyoming.

Researchers and Postdoctoral Researchers

Timothy de Smet

Environmental Visualization, Research Assistant Professor; Director, Geophysics and Remote Sensing Laboratory

First-year Research Immersion Program; Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies

Research Interests

  • Near-surface Applied Geophysics
  • UAV-based Remote Sensing
  • Geoarchaeology
  • GIS Statistical and Physics Modeling

Teaching Interests

  • Environmental Geophysics
  • Geospatial Remote Sensing
  • Environmental Visualization
  • Geographic Information Systems
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Michael Hubenthal

Educational Coordinator

Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies

Research Interests

  • Educational Models and Analogies
  • Facilitation of Undergraduate Research Opportunities
  • Teacher Professional Development
  • Program Evaluation

Teaching Interests

  • Curriculum & Teaching in Science
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Research Interests

  • Seismology
  • Wave Propagation
  • Evaluation of Earthquake Predictions
  • Computer Graphics
  • Use of Computers in Seismology
  • Seismicity
  • Computers in Education
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