The Department of Geosciences: A Timeline


The Geology program is established.


University of Arizona Professor William P. Blake of Geology inside Geology classroom about 1902. Blake served as a professor of geology and director of the School of Mines at the University of Arizona from 1895 to 1905.


The Department of Geology forms in the College of Mines and Engineering.


The Department of Geology forms in the College of Mines and Engineering.


The Department of Geology has 13 faculty members.

Around this time, Peter J. Coney takes it upon himself to create the Geologic Cross Section of Cedar Breaks National Monument, Zion National Parks, and the Grand Canyon Region.


The poster above can still be found in National Parks throughout the Southwest.


The first field camp is held at El Coronado Ranch in Turkey Creek, Arizona.


Field camp carry-alls parked at El Coronado Ranch. June 1964.



Students use a plane table to create maps in Turkey Creek. July 1967.


Spencer Titley works with USGS to map the moon using the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope on Kitt Peak for NASA’s Apollo Program.


Spencer Titley (second left) works on the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope with Apollo astronauts Thomas Stafford (far left), Wally Schirra (middle), Ed White (right), Alan Shepard (front left), and Gordon Cooper (front right).



Spencer Titley holds the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field register signed by many of NASA’s Apollo astronauts.


The Department of Geosciences is established by combining the departments of Geology and Geochronology.

The same year, Professor William R. Dickinson (“Hero of Plate Tectonics”) convenes the Geological Society of America Penrose Conference on Plate Tectonics, which led to the definition of “subduction.”


Bill Dickinson in the field.


Geosciences holds its first GeoDaze.

1973 GeoDaze Cover.png

Cover of the program for the first GeoDaze in 1973.


The Gould-Simpson building is completed. It is named in honor of UA geologists Laurence McKinley Gould and George Gaylord Simpson.



Laurence McKinley Gould participates in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly constructed Gould-Simpson Building with Dr. Simpson’s widow, March 21, 1986.


The Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Lab dates the Shroud of Turin.


Professor Paul Damon and colleagues worked with the UA’s first accelerator mass spectrometer to date the Shroud of Turin.


Dr. Damon and colleagues also used accelerator mass spectrometry for the Radiocarbon Dating of 14 Dead Sea Scrolls.



Karl Flessa and David Dettman use shells and fish otoliths to evaluate the effects of upstream water diversions on the Colorado River Delta and estuary to help develop the new field of conservation paleobiology.


"Acres of Clams” - Delta island composed of clam shells.


Joaquin Ruiz, Jonathan Patchett, and George Gehrels discover how to use a new mass spectrometer to generate U-Pb ages much faster than other instruments. Five years later, Laserchron is funded by NSF to operate as a national center for geochronology.


Researchers in the Arizona Laserchron Center generate U-Th-Pb geochronologic data and geochemical information through the use of Laser Ablation ICP Mass Spectrometry to better understand Earth Science.


Andy Cohen begins work with 100+ researchers on the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project with a goal of improving our understanding of the environmental and climatic context of human origins in eastern Africa through the collection of drill cores from ancient lake sediments.

The same year, Peter G. DeCelles leads the COSA Project (Convergent Orogenic system Analysis), a 6-year multidisciplinary research effort sponsored by ExxonMobil involving several faculty members and students in the department, which leads to the production of the GSA Special Volume.


On site at one of the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project’s locations.


Andy Cohen and his team use a combination of lake cores from six sites in Kenya and Ethiopia and modeling to improve our understanding of African climate history over the last 3.5 million years and how human ancestors evolved in response to a changing climate.



DeCelles’ work culminated in the GSA Special Volume above.


US News and World Report ranks UA Geosciences’ geology program #1 in the nation.


Our interdisciplinary research takes us to the highest mountains, remotest oceans, the poles, and beyond. George Davis and Matt Pihokker take part in the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project at the Sanctuary of Zeus above.


Paul Kapp, along with seven other researchers from UA, begins investigating the archetypal India-Asia collision zone in southern Tibet and the northern Himalaya in order to better understand what happens when a continent collides with a Cordilleran-style continental margin.


Paul Kapp’s group visit Mount Everest in 2014 to conduct geological mapping, structural-stratigraphic analysis, geo-thermochronology, stable isotope paleoaltimetry, igneous and metamorphic petrology, paleomagnetism, and geodynamical modeling.



The group’s results suggest that continental lithosphere can subduct deep into the mantle, upper-plate continental mantle may be removed by dripping/delamination, and that parts of collision zones may experience transient phases of surface elevation loss.


Joellen Russell leads the SOCCOM Project (Southern Ocean Carbon and  Climate Observations and Modeling), an observational and modeling research program focused on the role of the Southern Ocean in the anthropogenic carbon budget, ocean biogeochemistry, and climate change. The operational goal of SOCCOM is to deploy nearly 200 Argo-compatible biogeochemical (BGC) profiling floats throughout the Southern Ocean waters south of 30°S. The data from the floats will help to increase our understanding of Southern Ocean processes and reduce the uncertainty of projections of the future trajectory of the Earth’s carbon, climate and biogeochemistry.


These climate-ready BGC-floats are calibrated at the time of deployment by high accuracy biogeochemical measurements, and they operate year-round, including in ice-covered waters.


The Department of Geosciences celebrates its 50th anniversary.


Nancy Cozad Naeser, ‘66, Julie Harlan, ‘71, Howard Harlan, ‘71, and Bill Sauck, ‘72, became friends at El Coronado Ranch field camp in the Chiricahuas in the summer of 1965 and were reunited at the Geosciences Alumni Evening for the first time since 1966.


The new University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum is set to open.


The University of Arizona Gem and Mineral Museum was located in the Library and Museum Building, now the Douglass Building, from 1904 to 1915.



The new museum will be housed in the old Pima County Courthouse building.


UA Geosciences professor Robert Downs works with NASA on their Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads program.


Autonomous rovers weighing 10kg or less will be sent to the moon for scientific studies. Each rover will be equipped with an onboard lidar system to create maps of surface features, sensors to allow the rovers to navigate into shadowed craters, and a drill capable of penetrating 16cm into the lunar regolith.