USF School of Geosciences

4202 East Fowler Ave.
NES 107   (Office: SCA 507)
Tampa, FL 33620

Links to:

Current Graduate Students:

  • Mary Beck (Ph.D.: Geoscience Education - student engagement/persistence strategies in 2 year colleges)
  • Vic Ricchezza (co-advisor) (Ph.D.: Geoscience Education - quantitative literacy in geoscience programs and curricula)
  • Antonio Luna (Ph.D.: Mobile element systematics of IODP expedition 352 boninite whole rocks; Shipboard Scientist, IODP Expedition 367 (current))
  • Ray Johnston (Ph.D.: petrology/geochemistry (shipboard scientist IODP Expedition 366)
  • Anita Marshall (Ph.D.: geoscience education - field geoscience education for students with disabilities)
Recent Graduates:
  • Keir Sanatan (MS: Mobile element systematics in IODP Expedition 352 glasses and vein assemblages)Undergraduate Researchers:

Undergraduate Researchers:

  • Gabriel Ahrendt, Zachary Gude, Daniel Wood (Amphibolites from Glade Gap and their relationships within the Buck Creek Suite, NC)
  • Jesse Scholpp, Bradford Mack (Origins of Anomalous MIneral Zoning in IODP Expedition 352 Boninites)

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I pursue investigations in "domain" geoscience, specifically in hard-rock petrology and geochemistry, and in geoscience education, emphasizing the applications of information and computer technologies in the instruction of geology majors.


The geoscience research I do is very strongly instrument-based: I examine unusual and sometimes difficult-to-measure tracers in rocks as a means of understanding large-scale dynamic and chemical processes in the Earth. Toward these ends I am involved as both a user and manager of the USF Center for Geochemical Analysis, which houses our ICP-MS and DC plasma emission spectrometry instruments; and I'm an original co-PI and core user of the electron microprobe/SEM facilities of the Florida Center for Analytical Electron Microscopy (FCAEM).

I'm interested in the chemical and petrologic manifestations of the phenomenon of plate convergence, which has had me investigating a variety of questions in subduction zone and orogenic belt settings. Most recently this has involved the examination of shallow forearc metamorphic rocks, and arc lavas in subduction settings where the parameters of subduction (convergence rate, slab dip, slab age, inferred slab surface temperatures) show along-strike variation. Making use of "fluid-mobile" elemental and isotopic tracers (B, Cs, As; B isotopes) we can identify and quantify the role of shallowly released, H2O-dominated slab outfluxes in the petrogenesis of arc lavas, and the relationships between this outflux and other recognized slab-derived releases related to the melting of subducted sediments and the dehydration and/or melting of subducted ocean crust.  I will  be serving as a Shipboard Inorganic Geochemist on IODP Expedition 366 to the forearc of the Mariana subduction system at the end of 2016, to further examine shallow subduction related fluid-rock exchange phenomena associated with the serpentinite seamounts and mud volcanoes that are found there.

The development and preservation of subduction-modified mantle wedge reservoirs can also be tracked using fluid-mobile tracers, as well as Li and Li isotopes, which are particularly sensitive to the modification of the mantle by alkali-rich slab fluxes. The creation of such mantle domains can best be studied during the initiation and cessation of subduction. Thus, I participated in the International Ocean Discovery Program's drilling Expedition 352, which sampled the full section of volcanic strata associated with the initiation of the Izu-Bonin subduction zone; and I have been involved in the study of volcanic rocks in Anatolia, where a subduction system shut down and transitioned into extension.

In collisional settings I've pursued a variety of investigations that have involved geochemically unraveling the long and complex metamorphic histories of ancient orogenic belts, toward identifying key lithologic associations that can be used to place constraints on tectonic events.  In the US Appalachians, we have focused on constraining the origins of highly metamorphosed mafic and ultramafic rocks that occur as minor, if ubiquitous, lithologic constituents within the Central and Eastern Blue Ridge provinces in North Carolina - current efforts here include an undergraduate-driven project that is characterizing amphibolite sequences south and west of the Buck Creek ultramafic body in Clay County, NC.  We have expanded and varied off of this core effort (via the elbow grease of some highly motivated graduate students!) into examinations of the latest Precambrian meta-volcanic assemblages of the Mount Rogers Formation in SW Virginia; the petrology and origins of the Balkan-Carpathian Ophiolite in Bulgaria and Serbia; and the petrogenesis of Carboniferous, post-collisional granitoids in the Danubean domain of the southern Carpathians of Romania.  Other motivated graduate students have led me into extraterrestial realms of inquiry, looking at late Cenozoic meteor impact sites in Panama, questions in astrobiology, and most recently in trying to link spectrally anomalous "A-class" asteroids to the existing global collection of meteorites.   In all these cases students have taken heavy advantage of the analytical geochemistry facilities at USF and our partnering institutions in pursuing their research.

Geoscience Education:

Undergraduate researchers have been heavily engaged in our Appalachian efforts, both as part of a five-year REU Site program (1997-2002), and individually - some 70 students have taken part in and "run with' pieces of this work over the years.  This and my longstanding involvement with the Council on Undergraduate Research has led me into a range of scholarly directions in the broad area of geoscience education. 

I'm currently involved in an NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM Program-funded project that seeks to expand the classroom use of  geoanalytical research activities for undergraduates and test their educational benefits, making use of the remotely operable FCAEM electron microprobe and scanning electron microscope instruments in introductory and upper-level geoscience courses at four different FL colleges and universities; and in GEODE (Google Earth for Onsite and Distance Education), an NSF-TUES national-scale project seeking to engage geoscience faculty in the use of Google Earth-based educational resources and in testing their effectiveness.  These projects build on my earlier efforts, piloting microprobe-based investigations in a mineralogy/petrology course at USF, and in helping develop "MARGINS Mini-Lessons," in which the interrogation of research datasets from past NSF-MARGINS projects is facilitated via a specialized geospatial platform (GeoMapApp).  A newly funded project will focus on the development and testing of scientifically accurate animations of deep-earth geological processes for use in introductory and upper-level classrooms.

Faculty Development for Geoscientists:

From 2003-2005 I served as the Geosciences Program Director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the NSF, and since that time I have been heavily involved in faculty development efforts for geoscientists on a national scale.  The RTUGeoEd project (an NSF-TUES Type 2 collaborative effort, with Jill Singer at Buffalo State College) seeks to help faculty identify and address "on the ground" challenges in geoscience education through the development of classroom implementation and/or resource development projects to be submitted to the NSF for grant support.   I am on the convening committee for the Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education (which has held several events:most recently on January 8-10, 2016), which seeks both to identify the state-of-the-art in Bachelor's level geoscience educational practice for the benefit of our community today, and respond to emerging needs in the discipline, and as regards STEM education generally, into the future.  I was a presenter in the 2015 National Research Council Convocation on the Integration of Discovery-Based Research into Undergraduate STEM Curricula, which seeks to engage faculty and institutions across the STEM disciplines in bringing undergraduate research a "high impact" educational practice, into wider use in introductory-level science courses as a means of growing the number of STEM graduates nationally - the convocation report outlines a range of strategies and practices, including our work with remotely operable instrumentaiton.   Both the GEODE project and our remote instruments Type 2 effort involves extensive faculty development opportunities to help put these new instructional tools and practices in the hands of all the earth sciences faculty who may benefit from them.