Above: View of the Flatirons from our building. Photo by Dan Mitchell.

Tectonics, Thermochronology & Geochronology


Department of Geological Sciences

University of Colorado, Boulder


We use thermochronology, geochronology, and geologic observations to address problems in continental tectonics and mantle dynamics, with particular focus on understanding the coupling of deeper Earth and surface processes over extended (10s-100s Ma) timescales. Our (U-Th)/He geochronology lab, containing an Alphachron He extraction line and an Agilent 7900 quadrupole ICPMS, emphasizes the development and refinement of both conventional (e.g., apatite, zircon) and novel (e.g., conodonts, perovskite, rutile) He thermochronometers. We especially seek creative, collaborative applications of (U-Th)/He data to problems in fields in which the technique has not typically been utilized. Recent studies include a NASA project utilizing zircon (U-Th)/He thermochronology to decipher the impact history of the Moon, use of apatite (U-Th)/He data from cratonic regions (e.g., Canadian shield, southern Africa) to calibrate mantle dynamic models, dating kimberlite emplacement with perovskite (U-Th)/He geochronology, work to constrain and exploit the influence of radiation damage on the diffusion kinetics of different minerals (e.g., titanite, apatite, zircon), and a modeling investigation to better understand the influence of rock erodibility on the interpretation of thermochronologic data.

Our research group aims to foster a collaborative, supportive, and motivated environment in which we emphasize high-quality data and high-quality thinking over data quantity. Our goal is to consistently remain open-minded to new ways of thinking about the significance of our results.

The primary missions of our lab are to promote innovative, interdisciplinary, and high-caliber research, while also having a positive impact on the broader community by providing data and geochronology training to those outside our immediate research group at CU. If you are interested in acquiring (U-Th)/He data then please visit the CU TRaIL website and contact either me or Dr. Jim Metcalf. While we commonly provide data to experienced users on a contract basis, we also often work with users who are new to (U-Th)/He thermochronology, including students and early career faculty who are starting new research efforts. We are flexible in our approach to working with outside users depending on the project needs.