Congratulations to Kristin, Neal, and Sarah on successful defenses!

Three of the four current graduate students in the Sedimentary Systems Research group defended their theses over the past week.

Kristin Chilton (M.S.)

Thesis title: Terrigenous grain-size record of the Newfoundland Ridge contourite drift, IODP Site U1411: The first physical proxy record of North Atlantic abyssal current intensity during the Eocene-Oligocene Transition

Kristin’s work resulted in generation of an important paleoceanographic record of the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (~34 Ma) in an area (North Atlantic Ocean) where this important global climate shift is typically expressed as a hiatus or erosional unconformity. We will be integrating this record with other paleoceanographic proxy records being generated by collaborators. If you’re going to AGU next week, come by on Friday afternoon to see Kristin’s poster.

Kristin is staying in the department to work on a Ph.D. but is shifting topics to geomorphology with my colleague Jim Spotila.

Sarah Jancuska (M.S.)

Thesis title: Sedimentology and architecture of a partially contained slope deposit, Cerro Solitario, Magallanes Basin, Chilean Patagonia

Sarah’s master’s thesis research was part of the Chile Slope Systems consortium and examined the sedimentology and stratigraphic architecture of a Cretaceous turbidite-dominated succession exposed in the Patagonian Andes. Sarah focused on a 40-60 meter thick package exposed along a ~3 km transect and interpreted the unit to record a partially ‘contained’ (or ‘ponded’) intra-slope setting.

Sarah’s next move is to apply her sed-strat expertise in industry … she is currently talking with a major environmental consulting firm about a potential job opportunity characterizing aquifer stratigraphy.


Figure from Sarah Jancuska’s master’s thesis of part of the Cretaceous turbidite outcrop she studied.

Neal Auchter (Ph.D.)

Dissertation title: Basin evolution and slope system dynamics of the Cretaceous Magallanes Basin, Chilean Patagonia

Neal’s work was also part of the Chile Slope Systems program. Not only did a lot of work for his dissertation, but also spanned multiple disciplines. Although the work is focused on questions related to deep-marine slope sedimentation, he used and developed tools involving structural geology and geochemistry. Sedimentary geoscience is a multi-disciplinary endeavor and Neal’s Ph.D. work is a great example.

Neal has three chapters in his dissertation:

  1. Slope readjustment revealed by stratigraphic architecture and evolution of a submarine fan system, Tres Pasos Formation at Cerro Cagula, southern Chile
  2. Influence of deposit architecture on intrastratal deformation, slope deposits of the Tres Pasos Formation, Chile [published in Sedimentary Geology in July 2016]
  3. Detrital strontium isotope stratigraphy: Applications for basin analysis from the Tres Pasos Formation, Upper Cretaceous Magallanes-Austral Basin, Patagonia

Chapters 1 and 3 will be submitted for publication in early 2017.

Neal will be starting a job with Shell’s geoscience R&D team in Houston, TX next month.

Figure from Neal Auchter's dissertation showing one of the many exceptional outcrop exposures of submarine fan deposits in southern Chile.

Figure from Neal Auchter’s dissertation showing one of the many exceptional outcrop exposures of submarine fan deposits in southern Chile.

As an advisor, this moment is bittersweet. It’s been very rewarding to mentor and collaborate with Kristin, Sarah, and Neal. I will definitely miss having them around! They have all helped me (a pre-tenured assistant professor) develop my young program to what it is now. The thesis work described above does not capture all the day-to-day interactions and help getting field gear prepared, lab instruments working, procedures and workflows honed, and many other thankless tasks graduate students do.

I wish them all the best and hope to collaborate in the future.