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Recent & Active Research

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The current and recent research projects shown below are listed in random order.
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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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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Do Martian manganese oxide deposits reveal biosignatures?
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The recent discovery of manganese oxides on Mars suggests more oxygen was present in the Martian atmosphere the originally thought. A pilot project was recently funded by NASA to test the feasibility of discovering biosignatures in manganese deposits on Mars with payload instruments. There are two primary goals for this project; the first is to identify key chemical signatures and second to identify key mineralogical signatures in natural biologic and abiologic manganese materials. The pilot project will focus on three field sites in New Mexico that display features of formation that range from at or near the surface then extend to the deeper subsurface; essentially examining manganese deposits from surface, cave, geothermal springs, finally fossil hydrothermal environments. Should sufficient variation be noted during the pilot project, additional funding to the project will further characterize terrestrial occurrences for comparison to Mars by utilizing rover payload instruments

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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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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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Overview of Fresh and Brackish Water Quality - Capitan Reef
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The Capitan Reef is a fossil limestone reef of middle Permian age that is dramatically exposed along the southeast flank of the Guadalupe Mountains in Eddy County, New Mexico, reaching its maximum elevation in west Texas, in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. In New Mexico, the reef serves as the host rock for the Big Room in Carlsbad Cavern. A few miles northeast of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the reef dips into the subsurface and passes beneath the city of Carlsbad, where it forms a karstic aquifer that is the principal source of fresh water for that community (Land and Burger, 2008). The Capitan Reef continues in the subsurface east and south into Lea County, then south for ~150 miles to its southeasternmost outcrop in the Glass Mountains of west Texas.

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AML Project: Inventory and Characterization of Legacy/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. Past funding has been from the Army Corps of Engineers, the New Mexico Abandoned Mine Lands Bureau of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, and EPSoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research; http://archive.nmepscor.org/). Some of this project is now funded under the U.S. Geological Survey EARTH MRI program (Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI) | U.S. Geological Survey (usgs.gov).

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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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Upper Paleozoic Stratigraphy, central NM
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Bruce Allen

A variety of geological studies involving Upper Paleozoic strata, conducted during the mid-twentieth century, produced a preliminary stratigraphic nomenclature for Carboniferous and Permian sedimentary rocks in New Mexico, and a general understanding of the lithostratigraphy, age and distribution of these rock units. Ongoing investigations by geologists from the NMBGMR, universities, museums, and industry are aimed at refining this understanding. For example, strata pertaining to the Pennsylvanian System are often poorly delineated and/or subdivided on geologic maps, due in large part to their lithostratigraphic complexity and a loosely defined stratigraphic nomenclature. Progress has been made during the past 15 years toward improving the stratigraphic nomenclature for Upper Paleozoic strata in New Mexico, and documenting stratigraphic patterns, both of which should provide a better foundation for ongoing and future studies of these rocks.

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