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Recent & Active Research

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The current and recent research projects shown below are listed in random order.
Geology of the Engle and Palomas Basins, Sierra County, New Mexico
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Geologists and hydrologists have been interested in basin-fill sediments of the Engle and Palomas Basins in Sierra County since the early 1900s. These Rio Grande rift basins contain packages of sediment shed from the surrounding uplifts over the last ~27,000,000 years. Well logs indicate that these basin-fill deposits, named the Santa Fe Group, are as much as 2 kilometers thick in places.

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Detrital zircon provenance of the Paleozoic Morrison Block
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Pre-Cordilleran rocks of western North America are predominantly composed of inboard, more stratigraphically coherent assemblages and more outboard assemblages with tectonostratigraphic histories obscured by extensive deformation, magmatism, and metamorphism. Inboard assemblages generally represent autochthonous deposits of the western Laurentian continental margin that formed in response to the breakup of the Rodinian supercontinent whereas outboard packages define a tectonic collage representing westward continental growth since mid-Paleozoic time . Detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology of metasedimentary strata across western North America has revealed varied sedimentary sources from both within and without the Laurentian craton that shift through time and space.

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MINES Thermodynamic Database
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The MINES Thermodynamic Database is an initiative to generate a revised internally consistent thermodynamic dataset for minerals, aqueous species and gases for simulating geochemical processes at hydrothermal conditions in the upper crust (≤5 kbar and ≤600 °C) with focus on ore forming processes.

Alexander GysiEconomic Geologist

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AML Project: Inventory and Characterization of Inactive/abandoned mine (AML) features in New Mexico
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The NMBGMR has been examining the environmental effects of mine waste rock piles throughout New Mexico since the early 1990s. There are tens of thousands of inactive or abandoned mine features in 274 mining districts in New Mexico (including coal, uranium, metals, and industrial minerals districts), however many of them have not been inventoried or prioritized for reclamation. The New Mexico Abandoned Mine Lands Bureau of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department estimates that there are more than 15,000 abandoned mine features in the state. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently estimated that more than 10,000 mine features are on BLM lands in New Mexico and only 705 sites have been reclaimed. The U.S. Park Service has identified 71 mine features in 7 parks in New Mexico, of which 12 have been mitigated and 34 require mitigation. Additional sites have been reclaimed by the responsible companies and the Superfund program (CERCLA).

The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources has collected published and unpublished data on the districts, mines, deposits, occurrences, and mills since it was created in 1927 and is slowly converting historical data into a relational database, the New Mexico Mines Database. More than 8,000 mines are recorded in the New Mexico Mines Database and more than 7,000 are inactive or abandoned. These mines often include two or more actual mine features.

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Geologic Mapping
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Geological Mapping provides the underpinning of most research carried out by our organization. Our goal is to provide state-of-the-art geological maps of sufficient detail to be of benefit for practical applications for the state of New Mexico. These maps can address a wide range specific topics, such as location of geological resources, including mineral and petroleum resources and groundwater, geological hazards, which are all relevant to natural resource use, city planning, and education.

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Mapping suitability for Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) in the Albuquerque Basin
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An aquifer can be considered like a bank account. The deposits or credits typically consist of natural recharge adding water to the aquifer (like precipitation or river water seeping into the ground and reaching the groundwater table). Withdrawals take water out of the aquifer, and can include discharge into rivers or pumping of wells. Most cities are concerned with the withdrawal side of the equation and hope nature takes care of the deposits. But Albuquerque has undertaken the progressive measure of inputting additional recharge (deposits) now so there will be sufficient water for future withdrawals, something called managed aquifer recharge (MAR). To that end, the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) has recently completed a well for deep injection of excess river water into the aquifer, and is currently running surface water down the upper part of Bear Canyon Arroyo for near-surface recharge.

The work is funded by the ABCWUA and conducted by Dan Koning (P.I.), Colin Cikoski, Andy Jochems, and Alex Rinehart (now at NMT EES). The results have been released as Open-file Report 605 and as a summary Fact Sheet.

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Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!
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Actually, its bacteria and elephants and monkeys and humans, oh my! Geochronology (the determination of a rock's age) has a wide variety of applications; one of which is placing absolute age constraints on evolution. The New Mexico Geochronology Research Laboratory mainly focuses on projects in New Mexico and the Southwestern USA. However, in a role that fulfills its broader commitment to the scientific community, projects are undertaken from throughout the world. Recent collaborations with geologists, archeologists, and biologists have lead to exciting advances in our understanding of

  1. Mammal evolution in South America, including a refinement of when North American and South American critters began walking the present land bridge between the continents,
  2. When humans arrived in Java, Indonesia, and
  3. Confirmation that bacteria have lived in salt crystals found near the WIPP site in New Mexico for more than 200 million years

Publication and/or submission of these findings are being recognized in internationally acclaimed journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature, Science, and Geology.

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Laramide Tectonics
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Jacob Thacker

The Laramide orogeny was a mountain building event that affected the US western interior during the Late Cretaceous to Paleogene (approximately 90–45 million years ago). Many of the iconic mountains and major oil and gas producing intermontane basins of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau, such as the Wind River range in Wyoming and the San Juan Basin here in New Mexico, formed during this time as Earth’s crust was compressed. The Laramide orogeny remains a major point of controversy, as it is difficult to explain how tectonism proceeded so far into the North American plate.

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Geothermal Resources in New Mexico

New Mexico currently utilizes low and intermediate temperature geothermal resources for aquaculture, greenhouses, recreation, district heating, and space heating. In recent years there has been renewed interest in exploring and developing these geothermal resources, and in determining the sustainability of existing resources statewide.

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Precursors to Supereruptions at the Valles Caldera, New Mexico
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Matt Zimmerer

Despite recognition as one the most iconic volcanoes on the planet, there is still much to learn about Valles caldera in north-central NM. A new collaboration between researchers at the Bureau and from UT Austin is seeking to understand the events leading up to supereruptions. In particular, the team is studying the Cerro Toledo Formation, a group of volcanic domes and related ashes that erupted between the large caldera forming events at 1.61 and 1.23 million-years-ago.

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