Recent & Active Research
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The current and recent research projects shown below are listed in random order.
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.
Development of 3D Aquifer Maps
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.
Directly dating ductile deformation
Directly dating the timing of deformation remains a challenging task. An ongoing collaboration seeks to establish U-Pb dating of titanite grains involved in ductile deformation as a promising new deformation chronometer by applying this technique to Laramide-age shear zones in Joshua Tree National Park.
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.
Prelude to the ‘plano’: Assessing the contribution of Jurassic crustal thickening to growth of the Cretaceous Nevadaplano
PhD. Student, Drew Levy, from the University of Nevada-Reno received an award for his proposal and will be working with Dr. Matthew Heizler.
The New Mexico Geochronology Research Laboratory (NMGRL) is a participant in the “Awards for Geochronology Student Research” program (AGeS2 ). AGeS2 grants are funded by the National Science Foundation Earthscope program, in conjunction with the Geological Society of America, and are designed to link students with geochronology laboratories to facilitate in depth student understanding of geochronology methods with hands on experience ultimately leading to publication of new data.
Geology of the Engle and Palomas Basins, Sierra County, New Mexico
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.
AML Project: Inventory and Characterization of Inactive/abandoned mine (AML) features in New Mexico
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.
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.
High Plains Aquifer Monitoring
The NMBGMR is working with the Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy to measure water levels in the High Plains Aquifer system near Clovis, New Mexico.
Precursors to Supereruptions at the Valles Caldera, New Mexico
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.