Skip to main content

Solid Earth Research Group

Eight Earth Sciences faculty (Baldwin, Fitzgerald, Hoke, Karson, Moucha, Samson, Scholz, Thomas) conduct research in tectonics, with extreme breadth of geography and expertise. Members of this group work on all seven continents and under the ocean. Research interests span the evolution of orogenic belts and continents, circulation in the mantle, the formation of oceanic lithosphere, the development of rift systems, how landscapes form, the interaction of climate and tectonics, and even extra-terrestrial (Martian and lunar) projects, plus experiments utilizing man-made lava pours. Researchers are process-oriented and use field-based, analytical, and modeling approaches to understand how the Earth has evolved over time.  Publications in top journals such as Nature, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Geology and Journal of Geophysical Research exemplify this excellence in research.  This group is often favorably compared to tectonics groups in many larger and higher-ranked Earth Sciences departments, remarkable given the overall size of the group and the department.

This group is extraordinarily well-linked to other universities - in central NY state, nationally, and internationally, through collaborations and shared interests. A number of actively engaged adjunct faculty have been added to this group from RPI (Professor Bruce Watson), SUNY(Oswego) (Professor Paul Tomascak) and the University of Venezuela (Associate Professor Mauricio Bermúdez). Well funded, this group has scored notable successes in landing large grants in Continental Dynamics and Instrumentation and Facilities, as well as grants in other NSF programs such as Tectonics. Funding also comes from NASA, the Petroleum Research Fund, as well as industry consortiums. With the addition of Moucha, and the earlier hiring of Hoke, tremendous synergy now exists within this group for a natural integration of efforts to address cross-disciplinary fundamental scientific questions.
Members of this group conduct multi-disciplinary studies beyond the fields of tectonics. On this they may collaborate with other members of the department, or outside the department. For example, Hoke and Samson are co-PI’s with Lautz, Siegel and Zunli Lu on an NSF funded project for collaborative work in the southern part of NY State to establish a baseline for existing water quality and geochemical fingerprinting tools to be used should hydraulic fracturing result in groundwater contamination. Baldwin, as part of the NY Center for Astrobiology (funding through NASA) conducts research to determine an absolute paleohydrologic timescale on Mars, to access if H2O was available for sufficient durations for the development of life. Karson has linked with sculptor Bob Wysocki (Department of Art) to produce natural-scale lava flows.
An excellent array of analytical equipment is housed within the department in support of tectonics, and this is added to, and upgraded continuously. Samson heads the Syracuse University Radiogenic Isotope Laboratory (SURIL) that includes two thermal ionization mass spectrometers, housed within newly renovated lab space complete with brand new state-of-the-art Class 1000 "metal free" clean labs. Scholz has a broad array of geophysical research equipment for acquisition of high-resolution seismic reflection data, plus field-equipment such as boats and generators largely used on African lakes. Baldwin heads the Syracuse University Noble Gas Isotope Research Lab (SUNGIRL) that includes a magnetic-sector noble-gas mass spectrometer, on which all noble gases in terrestrial and extraterrestrial samples are analysed. Two laser systems and a dedicated Helium extraction line also reside in SUNGIRL. Fitzgerald heads the fission-track laboratory that includes a number of research grade petrographic microscopes, automated stage system and camera systems. Moucha has recently acquired with his start-up funds, a super computer cluster, housed in the environmentally controlled Green Data Center building on south campus. Our JEOL 8900 and JEOL 8600 electron microprobes round out the available instrumentation. GIS-outfitted computers are available in a number of locations around the department, including the computer-teaching lab.
This contributes to the central core of the curriculum, teaching all three required undergraduate core courses (sedimentary geology, structure, mineralogy) and a wide range of other classes from introductory earth sciences to a plethora of majors courses including those in mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, geophysics, geochemistry, geomorphology, sedimentary processes, energy, volcanoes and earthquakes, plate tectonics, GIS, geodynamics and quantitative/numerical methods. Undergraduate students are also directly engaged in major research projects. The potential to interact with investigators at all levels provides an exceptional opportunity for students to acquire a broad background in tectonics, geo- and thermochronology, geodynamics and geomorphology.