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Nelia W. Dunbar

Nelia Dunbar

Director & State Geologist,
Geochemist & Advisor for Electron Microprobe Lab

New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources 
Earth and Environmental Science Department, New Mexico Tech
801 Leroy Place, Socorro NM 87801-4796
(575) 835-5783

Complete Vita (PDF)


  • George School
    Graduated, 1979
  • Mount Holyoke College
    BA summa cum laude in geology, 1983
    overall GPA 3.76 GPA in geology 3.90
    Honors thesis: Mineralogical and geochemical investigation of Cascade Range tephra.
  • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
    MS in geology, 1985
    PhD in geochemistry, 1989
    Dissertation: Investigation of volatile contents and degassing systematics of rhyoltic magmas from the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand.

Grants & Awards

  • NSF-ANT-1142069. Collaborative Research: Developing an Antarctic Tephra Database for Interdisciplinary Paleoclimate Research 
  • NSF-ANT-1142115.  Tephrochronology of the WAIS Divide Ice Core:  Linking ice cores through volcanic records
  • USGS-MRERP- Rare Earth Element (REE) potential and origin of the Cambrian-Ordovician syenite/episyenites in the Caballo and Burro Mountains, southern New Mexico.
  • NSF-OPP-. Subcontract to ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf Project.   Characterization of the Volcanic Record in the ANDRILL MIS Core
  • NSF-OPP-0636515. Collaborative Research: 2000+ Year Detailed, Calibrated Climate Reconstruction from a South Pole Ice Core Set in an Antarctic-Global Scale Context.  Collaborative research with University of Maine
  • NSF-OPP-0636767. Collaborative Research: Microparticle/tephra analysis of the WAIS Divide ice core.  Collaborative research with University of Maine
  • NSF-OPP-0230348. Collaborative Research: Refining a 500-kyr Climate Record From the Mt. Moulton Blue Ice Field in West Antarctica. Collaborative research with University of Pennsylvania and University of Colorado.
  • NSF-OPP-0125549. A 700 year tephrochronology of the Law Dome Ice Core. Collaborative research with University of Maine.
  • NSF-OPP-9814428. Initial examination of the 500,000-year climate record at Mt. Moulton, West Antarctica. Collaborative with University of New Hampshire
  • NSF-OPP-9725910. Late Pleistocene inland West Antarctic Ice Sheet elevations at Mt. Takahe. Collaborative with Albion College
  • NSF-OPP-9615167. Volcanic record from the Siple and Taylor Dome Ice cores. Collaborative with University of New Hampshire
  • NSF-OPP-9527373. Volcanic record in Antarctic ice: Implications for climatic and eruptive history and ice sheet dynamics of the South Polar region. Collaborative with University of New Hampshire
  • NSF-EAR-9526642. 40Ar/39Ar dating of fluid inclusions.
  • NSF EAR-9413900. Acquistion of an analytical scanning electron microscope.
  • NSF EAR-9316467 Acquisition of an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer.
  • NSF OPP-9316505. Volcanic Record in Antarctic Ice.
  • NSF EAR-9219758. Mobility of elements during potassium metasomatism by alkaline, saline brines.
  • NSF EAR-8916402. Investigation of the pre-Eruptive Volatile Contents of the Taupo Ignimbrite: Implications for Plinian-Ignimbrite transitions
  • NSF EAR-8803694. Collaborative Research: Investigation of Volatile Gradients in Silicic Magma Chambers
  • Mineral Institute Fellowship (4 years support in graduate school)
  • Sigma Xi grant to support graduate research
  • Geological society of America grant to support graduate research
  • Associated Western Universities grant to support summer research
  • American Metals Climax Scholarship (grant for summer field camp) 


  • Geological Society of America Fellow (elected 2014)
  • New Mexico Geological Society Honorary Member (elected 2014)
  • Mary Lyon Scholar ("outstanding young alumna", Mt. Holyoke College, awarded 1998)
  • Sarah Williston Scholar (top 15% of class after sophomore year)
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Sigma Xi

Professional Memberships & Editorial Service

  • American Geophysical Union
  • Geological Society of America
  • New Mexico Geological Society (Honorary Member and Publications Chair)
  • Microbeam Analysis Society


  • Geochemist/Adjunct Faculty: Aug. 1992-present. New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources and Earth and Environmental Science Department, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Research on a volcanology, igneous petrology, and economic geology, particularly on tephrochronology and New Mexico and Antarctica, as well as on magmatic processes. Manager of the NMBG Cameca SX-100 electron microprobe facility.
  • Antarctic Researcher: Numerous seasons (1983/84; 1984/85; 1985/86; 1987/88; 1988/89; 1989/90; 1990/91, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1994/95, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2010/11). Volcanological field work in various parts of Antarctica, as field assistant, graduate researcher, or principal investigator. Work mainly included mapping recent volcanic rocks and measuring volatile outputs of an active volcano.
  • Adjunct Faculty Member: 1995-present. Earth and Environmental Science Department, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
  • Research Associate: March, 1991-Aug. 1992. Oak Ridge National Labs. Petrology and gas geochemistry of In Situ Vitrification project.
  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate: Sept., 1988-Feb, 1991. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Research on volatile contents and gradients in the Bishop and Bandelier Tuffs and Taupo Ignimbrite. Supported by the National Science Foundation grants.
  • Field Assistant: Summer, 1985. Inyo domes drilling project. Core logging on a young obsidian dome.
  • X-Ray Lab Technician: Summer, 1984. New Mexico Bureau of Mining and Mineral Resources. Preparing and analyzing standards for x-ray fluorescence and diffraction.
  • Petrology Internship: Summer, 1983. Chevron Oil Field Research Company, La Habra, CA. Preparing and analyzing standards for x-ray diffraction.

Teaching Experience

  • Adjunct Faculty member: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Earth and Environmental Science Department. Responsibilities include advising graduate students, and teaching Geoc. 575 "Theory and Practice of Electron Microprobe analysis". This class is taught every semester. Spring 2009 co-taught a web-based class on “Calderas”.  Collaborating instructors:  John Stix (McGill), Fraser Goff (LANL), Tobias Fischer (UNM), Jeff Johnson (NMT).  Guest lecturer for a summer 2009 geophysics course in Ecuador.
  • Teaching Assistant: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Preparing, teaching and grading work for mineralogy labs (fall, 1983, 1984) and x-ray fluorescence labs (spring, 1984).
  • Teaching Assistant: Mount Holyoke College. Preparing, teaching and grading labs for physical geology (fall, 1981,1982) and historical geology (spring, 1982).

Graduate Students Advised

Cox, J. (MS), Barton, M. (MST), Bell, S. (MS), Crain, J. (MS), Dickens, A. (MS), Ennis, D. (MS), Eschenbacher, A. (MS), Frey, B. (MS), Frisch, P. (MS), Hartman, M. (MS), Isopolatov, V. (PhD), Kalteyer, D. (MS, University of Maine), Kammerer, M. (MS), Koffman, B. (PhD, University of Maine), Kelly, P. (MS), Kimball, C. (MS), Kulis, J. (MS), Harpel, C. (MS), Horning, R. (MS), Iverson, N. (MS), Latysh, N. (MS),Law, R. (MS), Lynch, S. (MS), Marrero, S (MS/PhD), Nenuji, V. (PhD), Nybo, J. (MS) O’Keefe, M. (MS), Parmalee, D. (MS), Phillips, E. (MS), Rasmussen, D. (MS), Riggins, A. (MS), Rinkleff, P. (MS), Ross, J. (MS/PhD), Rourke, R. (MS), Sweeney, D. (MS), Voisons, D. (MS, University of New Hampshire), Wardell, J. (PhD), White, R. (MS), Wilson, J. (PhD), Wilson, S. (MS), Winick, J. (MS)