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Dr. Nelia Dunbar

Dr. Nelia Dunbar
Emerita - Director & State Geologist
New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources
New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology
801 Leroy Place
Socorro NM 87801-4796
(575) 835-6333 fax

My scientific background is in geochemistry, mainly in the study of volcanic rocks, and I received funding for and previously directed the electron microprobe laboratory, where I now act as advisor. I am an adjunct faculty member in the Earth and Environmental Science department at New Mexico Tech, where I have taught classes and advised graduate students. Following 7 years as director of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, I now serve in an emerita role and, in this capacity, will be engaging in a range of research and outreach projects, including editing the bureau's Earth Matters publication. I also look forward to continuing outreach activities related to the Frye Award-winning Bureau of Geology Bulletin 164 — Climate Change in New Mexico Over the Next 50 Years: Impacts on Water Resources.

(See Curriculum Vitae)


  • George School
    Graduated, 1979
  • Mount Holyoke College
    BA summa cum laude in geology, 1983
    overall GPA 3.76 GPA in geology 3.90
    Honors thesis: Mineralogical and geochemical investigation of Cascade Range tephra.
  • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
    MS in geology, 1985
    PhD in geochemistry, 1989
    Dissertation: Investigation of volatile contents and degassing systematics of rhyoltic magmas from the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand.


  • Emerta Researcher and State Geologist/Adjunct Faculty: January 2024-present. Research and outreach activities.
  • Director and State Geologist/Adjunct Faculty: Oct. 2016-December 2023. New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources/ Earth and Environmental Science Department, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Oversight of research and service activities for the New Mexico state geological survey. Represent the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at the state legislature, to other state agencies, and at national meeting. Act as advisor for the electron microprobe laboratory, and carry out limited research.
  • Interim Vice President for Research at New Mexico Tech: March 2022-January 2023. On temporary leave from Director and State Geologist role, which is being filled by Dr. Mike Timmons.
  • Director and State Geologist, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources: Oct. 2016-present.
  • Geochemist/Adjunct Faculty: Aug. 1992-Oct. 2016. New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources and Earth and Environmental Science Department, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Research on a volcanology, igneous petrology, and economic geology, particularly on tephrochronology and New Mexico and Antarctica, as well as on magmatic processes. Manager of the NMBG Cameca SX-100 electron microprobe facility.
  • Antarctic Researcher: Numerous seasons (1983/84; 1984/85; 1985/86; 1987/88; 1988/89; 1989/90; 1990/91, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1994/95, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2018/19). Volcanological field work in various parts of Antarctica, as field assistant, graduate researcher, or principal investigator. Work mainly included mapping recent volcanic rocks and measuring volatile outputs of an active volcano.
  • Adjunct Faculty Member: 1995-present. Earth and Environmental Science Department, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
  • Research Associate: March, 1991-Aug. 1992. Oak Ridge National Labs. Petrology and gas geochemistry of In Situ Vitrification project.
  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate: Sept., 1988-Feb, 1991. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Research on volatile contents and gradients in the Bishop and Bandelier Tuffs and Taupo Ignimbrite. Supported by the National Science Foundation grants.
  • Field Assistant: Summer, 1985. Inyo domes drilling project. Core logging on a young obsidian dome.
  • X-Ray Lab Technician: Summer, 1984. New Mexico Bureau of Mining and Mineral Resources. Preparing and analyzing standards for x-ray fluorescence and diffraction.
  • Petrology Internship: Summer, 1983. Chevron Oil Field Research Company, La Habra, CA. Preparing and analyzing standards for x-ray diffraction.


  • New Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering "Impact" Award (2023)
  • Geological Society of America Frye Award recipient (2023)
  • New Mexico Tech Distinguished Research Award (2021)
  • Five College Distinguished Lecturer in Geology (2019)
  • Geological Society of America Fellow (elected 2014)
  • New Mexico Geological Society Honorary Member (elected 2014)
  • Mary Lyon Scholar ("outstanding young alumna", Mount Holyoke College, awarded 1998)
  • Sarah Williston Scholar (top 15% of class after sophomore year)
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Sigma Xi

Professional Memberships & Service

  • American Association of University Women
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Association of American State Geologists (secretary 2018-2023)
  • Geological Society of America (GSA)
  • GSA Academic & Applied Geoscience Relations Committee (member 2019- )
  • International Women's Forum- New Mexico chapter member (elected 2020)
  • Microbeam Analysis Society
  • National Academy of Science Board on Earth Sciences and Resources (member 2019-2023 )
  • National Academy of Science America's Geoheritage Workshop II committee (member 2020-2021)
  • New Mexico Governor's Task Force on Water and Infrastructure (2022)
  • New Mexico Geological Society Executive Committee (2009-2013)
  • New Mexico Geological Society (member since 1983, elected honorary lifetime member 2014)
  • New Mexico Tech Comprehensive Campaign Cabinet Co-Chair (2020- )
  • New Mexico Tech Foundation Board Member (2021- )
  • University of Maine External Graduate Faculty Member (2016-2026)