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Fire-scarred section of a ponderosa pine with four scars visible

Our students – graduate and undergraduate – focus on studying, interpreting, and understanding the changes in our landscape resulting from climate variability and resulting geomorphic system responses over the past 2 m.y. Current graduate students and faculty have ongoing projects that examine the interplay of climate, vegetation, and fire in the western U.S., and range in environment from sage/grassland/pinyon-juniper ecotones, alluvial fans, and ponderosa woodlands.

We integrate a wide assortment of geochronological tools to help constrain these changes over time and space. The department has affiliations with various geochronology laboratories, and students have traveled to them to process their samples. Methods we’ve used include dendrochronology, Carbon-14, and luminescence dating techniques, as well as various radiogenic methods (e.g., Cs-137).