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Bedrock geologist joins Mapping Program

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Dr. Jacob Thacker collecting a thermochronology sample on Koch Peak in the Madison Range in Montana.
Courtesy of Julian Stahl

Socorro, NM
— June 30, 2020

The Bureau of Geology’s Geologic Mapping Program welcomes new bedrock field geologist and mapper Dr. Jacob Thacker. Dr. Thacker’s background includes broad experience researching the formation and timing of tectonic events in New Mexico and across the western United States.

“Working for the Bureau is a very exciting venture for me, given its reputation of high caliber map and research products, and excellent outreach capacities,” said Dr. Thacker. “New Mexico is a world-class geologic nexus to study persistent questions on intracontinental tectonism, especially of the Laramide orogeny, a mountain-building event across the western US that began approximately 90 million years ago and ended sometime around 40 million years ago.”

Dr. Thacker joins the Bureau with an extensive background in New Mexico geology, having recently completed his Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. For his doctoral research, he used a combination of field mapping, thermochronology, structural analysis, and basin analysis to study the timing of the Laramide orogeny across the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau, and deformation in the Lower Colorado River corridor related to the San Andreas Fault.

Dr. Thacker plans to continue researching Laramide deformation and other aspects of New Mexico’s tectonics in his position at the Bureau, “I spent a lot of time in the field looking for and mapping out various structures, as well as integrating diverse tools to decipher complex geology. Knowing the stratigraphy, seeing and understanding many different kinds of rocks and their relationships, and figuring out the structure as I went along were crucial aspects for successfully conducting my work, and are important skills that I will utilize while mapping.”

Between completing his master’s degree at Montana State University and beginning his doctoral studies, Dr. Thacker worked at Yellowstone National Park as a Geoscientist-in-the-Parks intern. In this position, he developed outreach materials, such as roadside geologic information signs and exhibits, and taught the “Roadside Geology of Yellowstone” field course for the Yellowstone Forever Institute. Dr. Thacker also published a number of geoscience outreach articles with Outside Bozeman Magazine, and wants to continue pursuing outreach activities with the Bureau.

“Geology is very exciting to me, and when I learn something new about our Earth I want to make sure everyone has the same opportunity as me to learn and be excited about it,” said Dr. Thacker. “I am a firm believer that science communication starts with scientists, and that making the intricacies of our Earth accessible to everyone is the best way to not only increase scientific literacy, but also acceptance of the work that we do.”

“Dr. Thacker’s research interests and experience make him an excellent addition to the Bureau that will complement and enhance the Bureau's research capabilities,” said Dr. J. Michael Timmons, Bureau Deputy Director and Manager of the Geologic Mapping Program. “He will continue his research in tectonism in New Mexico and the western U.S. and will likely pursue new interests as he engages with other researchers at the bureau and across the state."