Aerial view of one of my many field locations in southwest Wyoming.

Research

 Figure 1: Simplified paleogeographic map of my field area showing proven and proposed paleorivers. The stars represent field locations of collected sandstones for radioisotopic dating using detrital zircon analysis.

Figure 1: Simplified paleogeographic map of my field area showing proven and proposed paleorivers. The stars represent field locations of collected sandstones for radioisotopic dating using detrital zircon analysis.

I’m currently pursuing a Master’s degree in geology at the University of Wisconsin where my research is focused on fluvial sedimentology, paleoclimate, paleogeography and geochronology. My work seeks to first prove the existence of a paleo-river flowing out of central Colorado in the early Eocene (~55 Ma) and into southwestern Wyoming, which at that time was a large lake basin in many ways similar to the Great Salt Lake in Utah today. The significance of drainage from central CO into WY at this time, other than being really cool, is that in the early Eocene central CO was in fact an area of active volcanism. This is important because one of the most economic and baffling minerals found in the Green River Formation (GRF) of southwest WY (as it was deposited by lake Gosuite) is sodium bicarbonate, or Trona. Economically, we use sodium bicarbonate in a myriad of ways. From the production of glass to everything from cleaning agents to cosmetics we use sodium bicarbonate extensively given how little we know about its genesis. Specifically, we’re baffled by the source of the constituent ions required to form sodium bicarbonate in the GRF.
My research seeks to offer a potential solution to this question. Namely, I hypothesize that a river system sourced in the volcanically active Colorado Mineral Belt (CMB) of the early Eocene would provide the requisite ions needed (specifically CO2) for the formation of trona in Lake Gosuite during that time. To pursue this hypothesis, I employ detrital zircon analysis to date the age of the sediments in fluvial (river-deposited) sandstones found on the periphery of the GRF lacustrine (lake-deposited) sediments in southwestern WY. By dating the age of individual zircon grains in the sands I can compare those ages to ages of potential source areas from which they may have originated—like the CMB.

Images

The following is a smattering of media from my research.

 Aerial view of a km-scale syncline, another one of my field locations.

Aerial view of a km-scale syncline, another one of my field locations.