For prospective students


Thank you for your interest in our program here at Lehigh University. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) has 14 full-time faculty that cover a broad range of disciplines in Geology, Ecology, and Environmental Science. I am a fluvial and tectonic geomorphologist specifically interested in the long-term evolution of landscapes, the fluvial response to active tectonics, and watershed response to human-dimension climatic change. EES has active research programs in all of these areas and we are aggressively recruiting outstanding graduate students to build the graduate program in these and related disciplines. The faculty I collaborate and interact with most closely here are Peter Zeitler (tectonics and geochronology), Ed Evenson (glacial geology and geomorphology), Joan Ramage (Remote Sensing, InSAR), Anne Meltzer (seismology, geophysics), and David Anastasio (structural geology). I've got a new collaborations underway with our ecologists, paleoecologists, hydrologists, and climate modelers (Don Morris, Bruce Hargreaves, Zicheng Yu, Steve Peters, and Ben Felzer) working on the ecology and physical hydrology of the Lehigh River watershed.   And I maintain close research ties to Les McFadden, and John Geissman at the University of New Mexico (my former institution), as well as to Mark Brandon at Yale University. Visit these pages to learn more about our labs and active, collaborative research projects.

Tectonics Research Group        Surface Processes Research Group       Environmental Change Research Group        Geomorph Facilities

Research in surficial processes is well represented across the board in EES. It is one of the few Departments nationwide with two geomorphologists of complementary expertise on staff (Pazzaglia and Evenson); Peter Zeitler and Bruce Idelman (research staff) have brought a new He/U-Th thermochronology lab on line dedicated to understanding near-term exhumation of orogens; the ecology group has a long standing excellent reputation for expertise in limnology (Heargreaves and Morris) and paleoecology (Yu) and our geochemist (Peters) has an active research programs in watershed-scale aqueous geochemistry. Our commitment to excellence in surficial processes is complimented by our recent hires of a soil geologist/ecologist and paleoecologist.


OK, OK!!!  This is not the view from the University (wish it was).  But this place is real close by!  It is the view looking northwest at the five water gaps at Harrisburg - perhaps the one, most important place where Davis and company struggled to understand the origin of transverse drainages.  Lehigh University is actually located on the northern flank of Pennsylvania’s Blue Ridge (South Mountain) and has a commanding view of the Lehigh Valley (Great Valley) and Ridge and Valley of the Appalachians to the northwest. This is the landscape of Davis and Hack. It is where the great geomorphic discourses on long-term landscape evolution were born and continue to be lively debated. Far from a "dead" orogen, the Appalachians have a complicated post orogenic exhumational history and stand as one of the best studied orogens in the decay stage of its evolution. These studies, some of which are now ongoing funded research projects in the EES Department, are investigating the causes of late stage rock-uplift and exhumation through the relatively new technique of He/U-Th thermochronology. Over a distance of only 250 km, one can travel from the subsided Tr-J rift-flank uplift buried under a wedge of Coastal Plain sediments, across the Fall Zone, a flexurally-maintained hinge of the isostatically-rising continent and subsiding Coastal Plain, through the high grade metamorphic heart of the formerly Andean-scale late Paleozoic Appalachians on the Piedmont, to a continental rift basin formed during a time when the area around Lehigh looked like the Basin and Range, into the Ridge and Valley, the fold and trust belt of the late Paleozoic Appalachians, and finally, the Allegheny Plateau, the seaward facing escarpment marking the present-day location of the drainage divide in its slow, but methodical westward march.

In addition to the exciting orogen-scale tectonic geomorphology research in the Appalachians, the setting is well suited to studying climatic, ground water, and coastal processes. A wide range of glacial and periglacial deposits in central and eastern Pennsylvania preserve a rich record of the effects of past climate changes on landscapes. Ground water geomorphology is well-expressed in the numerous karst systems underlying Pennsylvania’s carbonate valleys. And easy access to beaches on the Atlantic coast provide a hands-on experiences of coastal processes and change.

Research and the Student Experience

The research and graduate program for geomorphology students is decidedly field-intensive and designed to afford opportunities to learn about the geomorphology in Lehigh’s own backyard, as well as the individual's location of study. Current research is motivated by three primary interests:

All students will be expected to acquire and/or master four primary skills in their graduate study: At a minimum, interested graduate students should have completed two semesters (or the equivalent) of calculus, chemistry, and physics as supporting sciences to a geology or related degree, and have attended a summer geologic field camp. (NOTE, these are FJP’s preferred program prerequisites and not the official requirements of EES).

Current geomorphologic and related research projects include the studies of three Ph.D. students, one M.S. student, and a post-doc.

Matt Bennett is a second-year year Ph.D. student interested in fluvial bio-geomorphology.  Matt is working on modeling the production of DOC and its transport out of watersheds by streams.  Given that a lot of previous research has shown that land use impacts DOC production, Matt is looking across a gradient of land uses in Pennsylvania, beginning with rare virgin forest watersheds and ending with heavily-impacted watersheds underlain by legacy sediments.  He is combining hydrology, paleohydrology, and NetLogo modeling to learn if correctly managed watersheds can be net sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Matt's project is currently not funded.

Chris Dempsey is a first-year Ph.D. student interested in fluvial ecology.  Chris is co-advised by Don Morris.  Chris is interested in understanding the microbial ecology of small streams where DOC metabolism takes place.  He has set up experiments of microbial bio-reactors that are modeling the metabolic activities of impacted to virgin watershed microbial communities.  Chris's project is currently not funded

Ryan McKeon is a second-year Ph.D. student interested in thermochronology, tectonic geomorphology, and landscape evolution.  He is co-advised by Peter Zeitler.  Ryan is interested in studying several poorly-understood aspects of the U-Th/He low-temperature thermochronometer on cooling ages, namely the impacts of slow cooling and natural grain abrasion. In addition, he is testing the possibility of using whole-sample dating of mudstone as a viable thermochronometric method.  He is using the Appalachians as the natural laboratory for his studies.

Kellen Gunderson is a second year M.S. student studying active tectonics in northern Italy.  Kellen is co-advised by Dave Anastasio.  Kellen's project is a unique blend of mag-strat geochronology with active tectonics, using Milankovitch-tuned stratigraphy to document the unsteadiness in anticlinal fold growth.  That unsteadiness may be driven by surficial processes, a hypothesis he is testing by comparing the growth of two adjacent, but unlinked structures. 

Claudio Berti is a post-doc co-supported by Joan Ramage.  Claudio has developed our tectonic geomorphology InSAR lab as a component of the broader Remote Sensing lab.  Claudio is a geologist, geomorphologist, and InSAR geodesist with a specific  interest in Apennine active tectonics and general interest in landscape evolution of mountainous regions worldwide.
Come learn InSAR at Lehigh - one of the few tectonic geomorphology programs that has integrated InSAR into its research and education.






Current, pending, and just some ideas for research projects in addition to those associated with the above students include:

What are they doing now?

A reasonable measure of what prospective students might expect out of a graduate degree from Pazzaglia's program at Lehigh is to know what former students are now doing.  Keeping in mind that these folks have driven their own success, here's a list of the current activities of former students where I was the major advisor (more or less in the order of their graduation):

Antonio Garcia (M.S.) (Ph.D. UCSB)                                   Associate Professor - Dept of Physics, Cal Poly State University (San Luis Obispo)
Merri Lisa Formento-Trigilio (M.S; PhD Penn State)          Exxon/Mobile Research and Development - Houston
Dan Koning (M.S.)                                                                 Employed by New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources.
Paul Wisniewski (M.S.)                                                          Environmental Consulting firm - Hawaii.
David Mitchell (M.S.)                                                              Employed by private environmental consultant, Massachusetts.
Joel Pederson (Ph.D.)                                                           Associate Professor - Utah State University.

Justin Pearce (M.S.)                                                              Employed by William Lettis and Associates, Oakland California
Sarah Newland (M.S.)                                                           Employed by SFEI, San Francisco California
Jeremy Laucks (M.S.)                                                           Professional River Kayaker
Sarah Flanagan (M.S.)                                                          Medical School
Matt Wendell (M.S.)                                                               Middle School Teacher Earth Science Teacher, North Penn School Dsitrict

Kurt Frankel (M.S.) (PhD USC)                                            Assistant Professor - Dept of Earth and Atmospheric Science, Georgia Tech University.
Patrick Belmont (Ph.D.)                                                         Post-Doc, NCED, University of Minnesota; Assistant Professor, Utah State University.

Josh Galster (Ph.D.)                                                              Assistant Professor - Dept of Earth and Environmental Science, Montclair State University.
rl Wegmann (M.S. UNM, Ph.D. Lehigh)                           Washington State DCNR; Assistant Professor - North Carolina State University.


The graduate student in geomorphology can expected to take a wide range of course offerings in EES as well as supporting related sciences from other Departments, particularly Civil Engineering. Specific course offerings (400-level are graduate courses) in any two year teaching cycle may include (* = core course):

For more information, please feel free to contact the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. You can fill out and submit an application via the web by following this link. Also, please feel free to email or call Frank Pazzaglia at (610) 758-3667.

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