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Nyanza Project Faculty



Dr. Kiram Lezzar

Senior Research Associate

Seismic Interpreter, Basin Analysis

University of Arizona
Department of Geosciences
Tucson, Arizona USA


Research Interests

My research activities include basin structural and stratigraphic/sedimentological analysis in East African tropical rift lakes systems using reflection seismic (multi- and single-channel), deep bore-hole, subsurface sediment core. During my PhD, I proposed an Upper Miocene to present-day 3D model of the tectono-volcanic and sedimentary events in active and ancient half grabens forming the Northern Lake Tanganyika Rift Basin. My methodology was to integrate into a complex model all forcing factors that could influence the sedimentary facies (lithology), and both vertical and lateral distribution of sediments (i.e. complex tectonic and hydrological settings, interference of basement- and rift-related Precambrian structures, local volcanic activity, active seismicity, regional and local climatic variations, size and characteristics of basin drainages, etc..). The results of this research are published in the Basin Research Journal, Oxford Publications (Lezzar et al., 1996, and Cohen et al., 1997) and in the AAPG Bulletin (Lezzar et al., 2002). We demonstrated that Lake Tanganyika is a sensitive recorder of past climatic changes affecting successive paleogeographies during the lake basin formation since the upper Miocene (~10 Myrs) up to present day. I am presently applying the same methodology to the Central and Southern Lake Tanganyika Basins, and to other tropical rift lake systems like Lakes Malawi, Edward, and Albert. These models will be of great interest to paleoclimatologists, paleolimnologists, lake sedimentologists, and petroleum geologists exploring ancient lacustrine systems in extensional settings.


Since 1999, I have worked as a Research Associate/Geology Lecturer for Syracuse University (Department of Earth Sciences) where I taught an Environmental Geology class and a History of Earth and Life class. I am currently an Adjunct Faculty at the University of Arizona (Department of Geosciences), and I teach a large Geological Perspectives class. 

In the field, I am the administrative/logistics coordinator and the limnogeology mentor for the Nyanza Project. Rift lake basins contain a treasure chest of information. Through teaching and mentoring, my goal is to help the Nyanza Project students learn how to decrypt the complex history left by a tropical rift lake basin.It is critical to know how to differentiate the rock record between local and regional climatic variations, tectonic events (chronology and geometry of rift segments propagation), and cyclic volcanic activity, and it is important to integrate all these parameters in a simple model of basin evolution. It is not easy to understand the interaction between all these processes, but the results of an integrative/interdisciplinary research approach bring us much closer to what really happened during the life of the lake basin. In the past, scientists have studied these events in isolation, but I prefer a multidisciplinary approach and want to try to teach this approach to young limnologists and limnogeologists. I encourage students to contact me and discuss their research projects before arriving at the the Nyanza Project field program.


I received an Engineer in Marine Geology degree from the University of Algiers in Algeria, and a MSc/PhD in Geology-Geophysics from the University of Western Brittany in France.


When there is no urgent report or a stressful "deadline" to meet, I enjoy playing soccer and swimming. I also like to camp with my wife, our 4 kids, and friends. I enjoy East Africa and its people. It has been great to live and work in this region over the past 13 years.

Contact Information

Dr. Kiram Lezzar
The University of Arizona
Department of Geosciences
Gould-Simpson Building #77
1040 E 4th St., Room 322
Tucson, AZ 85721


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