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Recent & Active Research

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The current and recent research projects shown below are listed in random order.
Development of 3D Aquifer Maps
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It is surprising that New Mexico does not have a detailed map of all of the productive and accessible aquifers across the state. In a state with as little as 0.24% of our land surface covered with water (the least in the country!), having detailed maps of our groundwater resources and aquifers, is essential. Some of our neighboring states, like Texas and Colorado, have these maps already available, and are successfully being used to administer and conserve water. We have started a new multi-year project to develop 3D maps of aquifers.

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Bureau scientists in Antarctica uncover climate knowledge frozen in time
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Bureau scientists study Antarctic volcano to better understand ice sheet behavior

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Annual Albuquerque Water Table Mapping
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Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority

Water-table mapping for the City of Albuquerque

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Ignimbrite Calderas
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Ignimbrite calderas are large volcanic depressions, often 10-20 miles in diameter, that form when a large-volume, gas-charged viscous magma body ejects huge columns of ash that collapse and inundate the surrounding countryside with a thick blanket of welded ash (called ignimbrite) while the shallow roof of the chamber collapses. Caldera-forming eruptions are relatively rare catastrophic events, second only in scale to large asteroid impacts. Deep magma systems that feed these "supervolcanoes" appear to march to the beat of there own drummer; eruptions are both episodic and irregular in timing and intensity.

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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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Rare Earth Element Critical Minerals Studied in a Hydrothermal Diamond Anvil Cell
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The world is changing fast. Advanced electronics such as smartphones and tablets are a staple of everyday life. Critical to these devices are the rare earth elements (REE). Unfortunately, the supply of REE around the world is limited, thus research into how REE mineral deposits form is needed to help guide us to new sources of these metals. One aspect of REE geochemistry that is not fully understood is how REE are transported in the hydrothermal fluids that form these deposits. How easily these elements can be transported depends upon the composition of the fluid and what ligands (negatively charged molecules) the REE elements bond to in the fluid, which is called complexation.

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Water Data Act
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The Water Data Act (NMSA 1978, § 72-4B) marks the first time in New Mexico’s history that a law has been enacted to identify and integrate key water data. In response to this 2019 legislation, the directing agencies including NM ISC, NM OSE, NMED, and EMNRD, as convened by the NMBGMR, are working toward developing an integrated Water Data Service for New Mexico. Multiple working groups have been convened, working to ensure that the data and useful information about the data is findable, accessible, interoperable, and usable for those seeking water information for decision making related to water management and planning – the primary goal of the legislation. The initial data platform can be found at newmexicowaterdata.org as a first data inventory step for this multi-year project.

Project lead: Stacy Timmons

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Snowy River Passage, Ft. Stanton Cave
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The main objective of this study is to examine hydrogeologic processes in Snowy River Passage by analysis of individual flood events. For a specific flood event, we will measure:

  1. The volume of water that infiltrates downward through the Snowy River streambed
  2. The volume of water that evaporates from the Snowy River stream
  3. The volume of water that discharges at Government Spring

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Critical Minerals in Mine Wastes

There are tens of thousands of inactive mine features in 274 mining districts in New Mexico (including coal, uranium, metals, and industrial minerals districts). However, many of these mines have not been inventoried or prioritized for reclamation or reprocessing. Many of these mines have existing mine wastes, generated during mineral production, which could have potential for critical minerals, especially since the actual mineral production was generally for precious and base metals and not critical minerals. The purpose of this project is to inventory, characterize and estimate the critical mineral endowment of mine wastes using USGS sampling procedures. This project is important to the state of New Mexico because critical mineral resources must be identified before land exchanges, withdrawals or other land use decisions are made by government officials. Future mining of mine wastes that potentially contain critical minerals will directly benefit the economy of New Mexico. Possible re-mining and/or reprocessing of mine wastes could clean up these sites and pay for reclamation. Furthermore, this project will include training of younger, professional geologists and students in economic and reclamation geology by the PIs.

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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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