With respect to the Earth focus area, we study Earth’s processes, materials, and history. Earth processes include the study of earthquakes or active fault movement; earth materials include the location of oil and gas resources or ore deposits and study of the minerals that build the solid earth.  The study of Earth history focuses on the study of environments on Earth and how they have changed through time. Our research spans immense temporal and spatial scales. Our faculty utilizes a variety of tools in pursuit of these questions, ranging from field-oriented studies to laboratory analysis and numerical methods.

Faculty in the Earth focus area take advantage of our superb location in Missoula, a northern Rocky Mountain city that lies at the center of five valleys where three great rivers converge. Field work is an important component of most of our research programs. Our research may involve mapping rock units, faults, and other geologic features. Some geoscientists are involved with monitoring earth phenomena such as earthquakes and using sophisticated equipment to measure active plate motions.

Though the work of a geoscientist often begins outdoors with detailed observations, these data are then compiled, for example, into a geological map showing the distribution and relationships of the various rock types, sediments, and ages. These primary observations can then be supplemented by laboratory or computational investigations. This includes the use of modern microscopic techniques, geochemical analysis, radiometric age dating, and advanced computer modeling and visualization techniques.

The Department of Geosciences at the University of Montana has a diverse group of faculty who are nationally and internationally recognized for their research. Our faculty maintain active collaboration with other UM departments and other research institutions throughout the nation and around the world. Faculty have well-funded, active research programs.

Our department is also the home to a number of formal Research Facilities with a range of functions.

Earth faculty and research interests

Julia Baldwin – petrology, geochronology, and tectonics
Rebecca Bendick – tectonics, geodesy, geophysics
Marc Hendrix – sedimentology
Hilary Martens – geophysics
James Sears – structural geology
George Stanley – invertebrate paleontology
James Staub – stratigraphy and sedimentology