Earth Surface and Environmental Processes

This cross-departmental research theme focuses on the predictive understanding of modern societally relevant questions related to the Earth's surface. Earth surface and environmental processes are essential for humanity's food and water resources, which are under mounting pressures from burgeoning populations, two centuries of anthropogenic contamination, and climate change. Environmental consultancies and State and Federal Agencies consistently require broadly trained geoscientists in these areas, and many former Dartmouth EARS students have established successful careers in this field.


Research areas currently include hydrology and watershed processes, including fluvial and glacial geomorphology (Chipman, Kelly, Magilligan, Palucis, Renshaw), and low temperature biogeochemistry in soils, water, and sediment, including carbon cycling and contaminant and solute transport (Feng, Jackson, Leavitt, Renshaw, Sharma, Slotznick). The Department already benefits from long-standing cross-departmental collaborations with Geography (Chipman, Magilligan), Biology (Chen, Hicks Pries), and the Geisel Medical School (Karagas). The affiliated faculty's research is designed to provide a quantitative and mechanistic basis of environmental processes, predict the extent and magnitude of geological problems, and to design effective remediation strategies.


Xiahong Feng

  • Hydrochemistry and Solute Transport; Low-Temperature Geochemistry

Brian Jackson

  • Analytical Geochemistry

Meredith Kelly

  • Glacial and Quaternary Geology, Paleoclimatology

Joshua Landis

  • Short-lived Radionuclides

William Leavitt

  • Geomicrobiology & Microbial Geochemistry

Marisa Palucis

  • Surficial Processes and Geomorphology

Carl Renshaw

  • Hydrology

Mukul Sharma

  • Radiogenic isotope geochemistry

Sarah Slotznick

  • Mineralogy


Jonathan Chipman (GEOG)

  • Remote sensing and GIS

Celia Y. Chen (BIOL)

  • Aquatic Ecology and Contamination

Caitlin E. Hick-Pries (BIOL)

  • Terrestrial Carbon Cycle and Soil Biogeochemistry

Margaret Karagas (GEISEL)

  • Human Health and Epidemiology

Frank Magilligan (GEOG)

  • Fluvial Geomorphology


The Department has excellent facilities and instrumentation in this area. Please see detailed information in the links below or in the Labs and Facilities tab.

Geomicrobiology & Microbial Geochemistry Lab

  • A facility led by Dr. Leavitt for performing laboratory experiments to study microbes from common and extreme environments, stable isotope geochemistry, and biogeochemistry.

Magnetics Lab

  • A facility led by Dr. Slotznick for characterizing the composition and magnetism of Earth materials.

Planetary Data Analysis and Visualization Lab

  • A facility led by Dr. Palucis for performing analyses of planetary surface processes using advanced computing.

Planetary Surface Dynamics Lab

  • A facility led by Dr. Palucis for the examination of sediment transport.

Quaternary Geology Lab

  • A facility led by Dr. Kelly for cosmogenic nuclide dating and sediment core analysis.

Radiogenic Isotope Lab

  • A facility led by Dr. Sharma for radiogenic isotopes.

Stable Isotope Lab

  • A facility led by Dr. Feng for stable isotope geochemistry.

Toxic Metal Research Program

  • A cooperative research group including Drs. Renshaw and Jackson and faculty from biology, chemistry, and Geisel medical school.

Trace Elements and Analysis Core

  • A facility led by Dr. Jackson for major and trace element geochemistry.