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Research Research

     The Earth Sciences faculty and graduate students are engaged in a wide variety of research, primarily within the disciplines of Geography, Geology, and Archaeology. However, much of the research is concentrated within our principal research foci.  Research in these foci are carried out, in part, through cooperative work with the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI), the Center for Partnerships in GIS (CPGIS), the Groundwater Institute (GWI), Chucalisa Museum, as well as with other departments such as Biology, Chemistry, Anthropology, and Civil Engineering.

Research Focus Areas:

1. Hazards

2. Active Tectonic & Dynamic Geomorphology

3. Hydrology & Water Resources

4. Geoarchaeology & Quaternary Studies

5. Spatial & Community Analysis


Many Earth Sciences faculty members and their graduate students do both applied and basic research related to the principal research-focus: Hazards. Their research is intertwined under the auspices of the Center for Hazard Analysis and Research at Memphis (CHARM) and CERI. CHARM is unique in the USA in the large number of diverse faculty devoted to research on all aspects of multi-hazard analysis. CHARM is capable of comprehensive integrated coverage of all important aspects of natural, environmental, and man-induced hazards from understanding the basic causes of hazards through application of multi-hazard-susceptibility analysis to different regions, to the catastrophic impact that hazards have on people through vulnerability and risk analysis, to hazard mitigation, to determination of the economic and policy impact of hazards.

Faculty from all Earth Sciences disciplines are also engaged in basic research on Active Tectonics & Orogenic Belts and Quaternary Studies & Geomorphology which also includes investigations related to landscape evolution, climate change, and paleoecology as well as those related to the causes of natural hazards such as active faults, landslides, flooding, drought, severe storms, and subsidence and karst development. Through the Hydrology and Water Resources focus, in cooperation with the Groundwater Institute and the U. S. Geological Survey, faculty examine both environmental hazards and other issues related to vital water resources. CHARM faculty apply basic hazard-research and Spatial Analysis to determine both the susceptibility of different regions to different types of hazards and to vulnerability and risk analysis, both fundamental tools for planning sustainable growth and development, particularly of urban areas, while protecting people from multi-hazards.

Active Tectonics & Dynamic Geomorphology

Our faculty offer unique opportunities to students who are interested in tectonics related to active deformation and plate motions. Active tectonics projects are being conducted in the United States, South America, Australia, Antarctica, Central America, Caribbean islands, China, Africa, and India. A long standing area of focused research has been the New Madrid seismic zone of the central United States where students and faculty have conducted seismologic, seismic reflection, paleoseismologic, structural, and stratigraphic studies.

The geomorphic research focus centers around four general themes: tectonic, fluvial, arid, and hill slope processes and forms. Building from a foundation of these general areas, The research is international in scope and includes studies in China, Australia, Central America, the Caribbean, Malaysia, India, Taiwan, and numerous locations in the northeastern, southeastern, and western United States.

Faculty members and their graduate students who study tectonics and geomorphology within the Department of Earth Sciences take advantage of interdisciplinary research with the U.S. Geological Survey and other academic departments within the University of Memphis. Students can also participate in tectonic studies in classic orogenic belts such as the Appalachians, Cordilleran, Ouachitas or Grenville or within the cratonic interior of North America. Basin studies may be pursued using recently acquired Landmark Graphics software. This software is particularly suited for petroleum-related research, but is also being applied to earthquake and groundwater studies.

Hydrology & Water Resources

The Department of Earth Sciences offers a focus in Hydrology that builds upon faculty strengths in the physical, biological and human aspects of the hydrologic cycle. Our specialties include modern and paleo- hydrogeology, landform evolution, wetland ecology, large river ecology, aqueous geochemistry, water resource management, hydrogeologic modeling and the impact of climate change on water resources. Our proximity to the Mississippi River contributes to our expertise in large river hydrology and enables international collaboration on water resource management and issues related to large river systems. The location of Memphis in the Mississippi embayment, with its exceptional high-quality aquifers, provides excellent urban and natural laboratories for hydrogeologic research, particularly given our close collaboration with the Groundwater Institute, housed in the Herff College of Engineering here at the University of Memphis. Faculty and researchers involved in the Hydrology focus also include members of the Biology Department, the US Geological Survey and the Center for Earthquake Research and Information.

Geoarchaeology & Quaternary Studies

Geoarchaeology interweaves geologic techniques, GIS, remote sensing, and geophysical techniques into Archaeology research. Quaternary studies branch out to investigate landscape evolution, climate change, paleoecology, and active tectonics over the last two million years. Research activities include field, laboratory, geographic information analysis, and modeling studies that focus on the timing, causes, and mechanisms of natural and anthropogenically forced climate change, and on the effects of past climate changes on the physical, biological, chemical, social, and economic conditions of the earth.  University of Memphis Archaeology programs outside of Earth Sciences can be accessed through the Archaeology web page.

Spatial and Community Analysis

The Department of Earth Sciences offers a focus in Spatial Analysis that builds upon faculty strengths in research, education and applications development in geographic information science and its related technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS), Remote Sensing and Global Positioning Systems. Earth Sciences faculty represent the University of Memphis as a lead delegate at the University Consortium of Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) and explore advancing spatial theory and methods with the GIScience community throughout the nation.

The spatial analysis research focus teaches students GIScience applications and design as well as technical aspects of GIScience, including algorithms, data structures, spatial statistics and field techniques. Research focus areas in the Earth Sciences provide fertile areas for the exploration of spatial analysis tools and theories. These research foci are supported by our Memphis Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis (MCASA). In cooperation with the FEDEX Institute of Technology, faculty use the Memphis metropolitan area as well as national and international settings as a laboratory for their GIS related research.

Field Excursions in Earth Sciences (ESCI 4701/6701), 2009, Wetumpka Impact Structure, Alabama

Students conducting detailed discharge measurements in South Dakota during Geology Field Camp, ESCI 4622.

Field projects for Soils and Soil Processes, 2008, ESCI 4122/6122

Field trip to Arkansas - Crowleys Ridge, Structural Geology, 2010, ESCI 3512

Field trip to Arkansas - lunch!, Structural Geology, 2010, ESCI 3512

Field trip to Arkansas - Ouachita Mountains, Structural Geology, 2010, ESCI 3512

Student conducting geologic field mapping, Fayette County, Tennessee, 2010

Students excavating fossils in Oligocene Brule Fm., South Dakota, 2010

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Last Updated: 8/19/14