Master of Science in Geoscience

Broad Departmental Research Areas

ponar samplingThe Department of Geography and Geology actively encourages and supports undergraduate and graduate student research. Our students participate in research projects covering many aspects of the geosciences. In the past, students have been involved in projects such as investigating hydrothermal venting at mid-ocean ridges, monitoring groundwater wells, studying ancient fossils of the southeastern coastal plain, reconstructing sea levels, mapping patterns of change in African savannas, and multiple other activities.

Being a highly interdisciplinary department with faculty expertise in the broad areas of geography, geology and oceanography, we encourage interested undergraduate and graduate students to contact faculty members working in their research area of interest. Below, we list broad research areas faculty members in the department are involved in, followed by more specific research laboratories in our department. We welcome students with diverse interests: chances are, you will find your passion with us!

Research Areas





GIS and Remote Sensing


Human Geography and Human-Environment Interactions


Oceanography, Marine Geology and Geophysics


Subsurface and Surface Hydrology


Petrology and Structural Analysis

Specialized Research Laboratories

Basin Analysis Research Laboratory (BARL)

The Basin Analysis Research Laboratory (BARL), led by Dr. Todd LaMaskin, is an applied learning research lab that uses a wide array of tools to address problems in sedimentation, stratigraphy, tectonics, and geologic time in a broad theme of understanding the evolution of sedimentary basins over time. Current research in the LaMaskin lab falls into two broad categories: (1) Using sedimentary provenance to understand the evolution of plate margins and continental sediment dispersal systems, and (2) Using stable isotope stratigraphy to establish a chronostratigraphic signature for the Late Triassic, Carnian-Norian Boundary interval. The lab maintains its primary workspace in the group-use Advanced Microscopy Laboratory, a 400 sq. ft facility housed in DeLoach Hall (RM 215). The Advanced Microscopy Laboratory is houses research-grade petrographic microscopes (Olympus BX-60 and Leica M165C with HD camera) and research-grade stereo microscopes (Leica DM2700P with attachable Leica DFC 450 camera and Leica DMEP). The lab also hosts a fume hood used for sodium polytungstate heavy mineral separation, a magnetic separator, light table, a sink and cabinets for storage. BARL researchers also routinely utilize workspace in the Clean Laboratory, the Geologic Materials Laboratory, Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS) Laboratory, and Spatial Analysis Laboratory.

Crustal Dynamics and Geophysics Laboratory

The Crustal Dynamics and Geophysics Laboratory, led by Dr. Scott Nooner, makes available the following equipment:
Mac workstations and PC laptops with Matlab, COMSOL finite element software, ArcGIS, Adobe Illustrator, and LabView, Broadband Seismometer, pressure gauges (for seafloor geodesy), Solinst water level recorders and air pressure recorders, Deadweight tester (for pressure gauge calibration), Ground Penetrating Radar, GPS antennas and receivers, Starfish towed sidescan sonar and a Soldering workstation. For more information on this lab, please visit Dr. Nooner's webpage.

Geologic Materials Laboratory

Located on the second floor of DeLoach Hall and Academic Support Building 107, the Geologic Materials Lab maintained by Dr. Dave Blake, is equipped with an impressive array of state-of-the-art saws, grinders, and microscopes such as: an 18" Contempo Lapidary slab saw, 10" Felker trim saw, 8" Hillquist SF-8 trim saw, Buehler 4" variable speed trim saw, Dayton Electronics variable speed 2-3" trim saw, Buehler Ecomet I polisher/grinder, Highland Park Vi-Bro-Lap, Redlands 16" horizontal lapping unit, Fisher Scientific solid state ultrasonic cleaner FS14, Fisher Scientific Drying Oven, Thermolyne extra-capacity hot plate, Hillquist cut-off saw and grinder, Hillquist cut-off saw and grinder (Deloach Hall), Hydraulic rock splitter, Sepor mini-jaw crusher, VD Chipmunk Crushe, UA V-Belt Pulverizer Disk Mill, SPEX 8510 ceramic puck shatterbox, Beuhler vacuum impregnation container and Buelher vacuum pump, Gast Roc-R vacuum pump and air compressor, Speedaire 1 HP 3 Gal air compressor, Binocular Olympus polarized microscope, Hillquist cut-off saw and grinder, and a Graves Mark IV Faceting Machine.

Invertebrate Paleontology Laboratory

The director of the Invertebrate Paleontology Lab, Dr. Patricia Kelley, in collaboration with Thor Hansen (Western Washington University) has compiled a database on predation by shell-drilling naticid gastropods in the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain; collections now include >150,000 mollusc specimens of Cretaceous through Pleistocene age.Recent and current work in collaboration with graduate students includes: the ecological response of the Iceland molluscan fauna to the invasion of predatory gastropods during the Pliocene; taphonomy of an ophiuroid mass mortality bed in Mexico; geographic variation in drilling predation in Brazil and Argentina; relationship between drilling predation and prey diversity in the US Coastal Plain and Europe; conditions under which cannibalism by drilling predators occurs; metabolism and extinction susceptibility in Plio-Pleistocene bivalves; escalation, coevolution, and drilling predation on bivalves and gastropods; factors affecting durophagous predation in ammonites, bivalves, and gastropods; live-dead comparisons of molluscan assemblages as tools in conservation paleobiology; life span bias in the fossil record. Kelley also directed (with Greg Dietl, Paleontological Research Institution) a Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Biodiversity Conservation program investigating paleoecological changes in the Plio-Pleistocene of the Carolinas (based on collections amounting to >75,000 mollusc specimens) as an analog for the modern biodiversity crisis.

Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS) Laboratory

The Isotope Mass Spectrometer Lab, led by Dr. Chad Lane, is equipped with a Thermo Delta V Plus mass spectrometer. Four peripheral devices are currently interfaced with the Delta V Plus. The first is a Costech 4010 Elemental Analyzer with a zero-blank autosampler primarily used for the measurement of carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of solid organic materials (soils, sediments, feathers, eggshells, tissue, etc.). The second is a Thermo Finnigan Gasbench II system that can be used for the isotope analysis of carbonates (C and O), headspace (C, N, O, H), dissolved inorganic carbon (C, O), and water (O, H). The third is a Thermo 1310 gas chromatograph and interface for C,H, and N compound-specific isotopic analyses. The fourth is an Aurora 1030 TIC/TOC analyzer that can be used to analyze the stable carbon isotope composition of dissolved inorganic and organic carbon. The Isotope Mass Spectrometer Lab also houses an Thermo 1310 GC-MS/FID system for the identification and quantification of organic compounds, two high-precision microbalances, and a micromill.

Laboratory for Applied Climate Research (LACR)

LACR, directed by Dr. Doug Gamble, is equipped with-state-of-the-art meteorological field equipment and computing facilities. The equipment includes an Onset weather station, multiple tipping bucket rain gauges and data loggers, over 50 Onset temperature sensors and data loggers, sling psychrometers, infrared temperature guns, hand held anemometers, and stream discharge gages. To supplement data collected with this equipment, LACR also houses an extensive climate data library, including special collections of Caribbean climate data and tropical cave climate data. Computing resources associated with the laboratory including a Dell Precision 600 Workstation and software for statistical, meteorological, GIS, and remote sensing analysis.

Organic Geochemistry Laboratory

This facility, directed by Dr. Ai Ning Loh, includes 520 sq. ft. of space dedicated to the study of fate and transport of naturally occurring organic matter in aquatic systems. The laboratory is housed at the Center for Marine Science (rm 2302) and is supervised by Dr. Ai Ning Loh. The lab is fully equipped for the extraction, purification and detection of solvent-extractable organic molecules, and for the analysis of dissolved and particulate C, N and P. In addition, the lab also includes equipment for sample collection (field pumps, vacuum pumps, peristaltic pumps, filter manifolds, benthic chambers) and sample preparation (balances, furnace, oven, shaker table, centrifuge, sonicator). Small field equipment such as a light meter, YSI, HOBO sensors, box corer, GPS, depth sounder and tools are also available. The lab has several -20°C freezers, one deep freezer (-80°C) and one temperature-controlled incubator.

Paleoenvironmental Change Research Group

The Paleoenvironmental Change Research Group laboratory, led by Dr. Chad Lane, is equipped with two large fume hoods, refrigerated storage, two convection ovens, a vacuum oven, two muffle furnaces, ultrasonic bath, benchtop and large sample centrifuges, a rotavap, and compound and dissecting microscopes. The laboratory also contains all of the necessary equipment for fossil pollen extraction, solid phase extraction of organic compounds, fossil charcoal analysis, macrofossil isolation, and stable isotope sample preparation.

Remote Sensing Research Laboratory

The Remote Sensing Research Laboratory (RSRL), directed by Dr. Eman Ghoneim, is housed on the first floor of DeLoach Hall (RM 115B). This research lab is equipped with 6 workstations having an ESRI site license (ArcGIS-Arc 10.2), ENVY (5.1) capabilities and a B&W laser printer. Yvonne Marsan, the departmental lab technician, helps maintain the equipment in this space.

Sea Level Research Lab

The Sea Level Research Lab, led by Dr. Andrea Hawkes, is dedicated to studying short- (storms, tsunamis, earthquakes) and long-term (glacial isotatic adjustment) changes in sea level. The lab includes 3 research-grade (two Leica and one Olympus) binocular microscopes, one with high-resolution HD digital imaging capabilities. The lab also includes microfossil and sediment analysis preparation equipment (sieves, slides, chemicals, beakers, wet and dry splitters, etc) and small field equipment such as a laser total station, YSI, HOBO pressure sensors, Ekman grab sampler, samples bags and vials, GPS and depth sounders, and tools. An exterior cold storage facility (250 sq. ft) is located behind CMS. Large field equipment is stored in an exterior dry storage unit behind CMS and includes russian, gouge and vibracores, rods, vibrating motor, hoses, tripods, and core sleeves.

Socio-Environmental Analysis Lab (SEAL)

The Socio-Environmental Analysis Lab (SEAL), led by Dr. Narcisa Pricope, is an interdisciplinary applied learning lab that uses geospatial modeling and remote sensing to understand the interconnections between human population dynamics, land use and land cover changes, and climatic variability at different geographic scales. The focus is on environmental variability and the vulnerability of populations to natural and anthropogenically-induced changes. Much of our work is concentrated in the drylands and savannas of eastern and southern Africa, as well as other developing countries, and stresses collaborations with diverse stakeholders to influence natural resources policy. The lab is equipped with several workstations, research-grade tablets, various GPS devices (including a Trimble GeoExplorer and Trimble Juno), specialized software licenses including eCognition, IDRISI Selva, and TerraSync, as well as high-definition cameras and camcorder to adequately capture socio-environmental aspects of our fieldwork.

Soils Analysis and Sedimentology Laboratory

This facility, supervised by Dr. Michael Benedetti, includes 2 rooms on the second floor of DeLoach Hall that serve multiple purposes, including faculty and graduate student research, undergraduate research and independent study, applied learning projects, and lab-based teaching in geology, geography, and oceanography. The laboratory is well-equipped for physical and chemical analysis of sediments and soils. Equipment includes a distilled water supply, three fume hoods, drying ovens, muffle furnace, vacuum pump, sonicating bath, centrifuge, and a variety of reagents and glassware used for wet chemistry. Common procedures include particle size by sieve stack, sonic sifter, and hydrometer methods; organic matter and carbonate content by loss on ignition or wet chemical methods; and determinations of moisture content, porosity, hydraulic conductivity, and bulk density.

Spatial Analysis Laboratory (SAL)

The Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL), directed by Dr. Joanne N. Halls, was opened in January 2000 and is located in room 1002 in Osprey Hall. We have 41 workstations with an ESRI site license (ArcGIS 10.3.1 plus extensions) and ENVI (5.2) image processing software. Peripherals include a, scanner, large format plotter and HP high-res color printer. The Dept of Geography and Geology also has two Trimble RTK survey grade GPS receivers and 10 Trimble JUNO mapping grade GPS receivers.

Coastal Hydrology and Sedimentology Laboratory

Marine Micropaleontology Laboratory

X-ray Diffraction Lab