Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology

The Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology Group at the University of California, Davis has a wide range of research interests and active research projects. We have a common interest in the petrology of intermediate to mafic and ultramafic rocks, fluid-rock interactions, and the application of petrology to regional and global scale geologic problems. There is an unusual degree of cooperation among structural geologists and petrologists in our department.

Research programs are currently active in the California Coast Ranges, USA; the Northern Sierra Nevada, USA; Mono Basin, California, USA; Alaska, USA; Hawaii, USA; Argentina; Cyprus; Greenland; Iceland. In addition, our faculty maintain an active interest in analytical, experimental, theoretical and geochronological studies.

Our research is supported by a Cameca SX-100 electron microprobe, three stable isotope mass spectrometers (for H,C,O, and S) two quadrapole ICP-MS (one with laser ablation capabilities), one multicollector ICP-MS, fluid inclusion heating/freezing microscope and stage, and high pressure and temperature experimental laboratories.


Kari CooperKari Cooper
kmcooper@ucdavis.edu | 530-754-8826

Geochemistr Isotope and trace-element geochemistry of volcanic rocks; timescales of magma residence and differentiation; origin and distribution of geochemical heterogeneities within the mantle; timing and geochemical record of hydrothermal alteration of oceanic crust.

Chip LesherCharles Lesher
celesher@ucdavis.edu | 530-752-9779

Experimental igneous petrology and geochemistry; phase equilibria and kinetics of silicate systems at elevated pressure and temperature; mantle and crustal properties. Recent projects include (a) Laboratory: low to high pressure phase equilibria studies of basaltic systems; trace element partitioning; chemical and self diffusion studies of silicate melts; solution properties of silicate liquids from thermal diffusion. (b) Field: magmatic evolution of the North Atlantic Ocean basin and the evolution of the Iceland hot spot; petrologic studies of early Tertiary volcanic and plutonic rocks of East Greenland.

Faculty Emeriti

Cathy J. BusbyCathy J. Busby
Professor Emerita

Current research is on late Cenozoic transtensional rift tectonics and volcanology of the Sierra Nevada/Walker Lane and the Gulf of California, as well as an accreted oceanic arc terrane in Baja California, with comparisons to modern oceanic arcs. Cathy’s research is based on detailed geologic mapping of volcanic terranes, supported by petrographic, geochemical, geochronological, paleomagnetic and mineral chemistry.

Howard DayHoward W. Day
Professor Emeritus
hwday@ucdavis.edu | 530-752-2882

Research interests are in the broad field of igneous and metamorphic petrology and geochronology with significant emphasis on thermodynamics and phase equilibria and applications to understanding the evolution of orogenic belts. Continuing projects involve the structure and metamorphism of Mesozoic volcanic arc terranes in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Currently, he is studying the geochronology and petrology of high-grade exotic blocks in Franciscan mélange in the California Coastal Range.

Sarah RoeskeSarah M. Roeske
Research Geologist Emerita
smroeske@ucdavis.edu | 530-752-4933

Current research topics include the tectonic evolution of convergent margins in Alaska and Argentina, with a focus on determining type, age and relative significance of different periods of fault movements. Related problems include uplift of high P/low T metamorphic rocks and role of strike-slip faults at convergent margins.

Peter SchiffmanPeter Schiffman
Professor Emeritus and Research Geologist Emeritus

Interests are in alteration petrology and mineralogy of active and fossil hydrothermal systems in terrestrial and submarine settings.


Rob ZierenbergRobert A. Zierenberg
Professor Emeritus
razierenberg@ucdavis.edu | 530-752-1863

Research topics include the geology and geochemistry of sulfide deposits and hydrothermal alteration in seafloor hydrothermal systems and on-land analogs. The Iceland Deep Drilling Project is providing new opportunities to investigate water/rock interaction in the deep, high-temperature roots of hydrothermal systems.

Scientists and Academic Federation Members

Gordon MooreGordon Moore
Assistant Adjunct Professor
gomo@ucdavis.edu | 530-752-5829

Experimental, igneous and volcanic petrology. Research involves using high pressure and temperature apparatus to investigate the nature of volcanic eruptions and their igneous products.

Peter ThyPeter Thy
Project Scientist
pthy@ucdavis.edu | 530-752-1802

Igneous petrology of gabbros and basalts. Detailed petrographic, mineralogical and chemical studies to understand petrogenesis and crystallization. Current research includes gabbroic intrusions and plateau basalts of the North Atlantic province (Skaergaard intrusion, East Greenland, Iceland). Ocean gabbros and crustal formation (Indian Ocean). Ophiolites (Cyprus and Turkey). Formation of ash and slag in biomass-fueled power plants.

Research Associates

Robert Wiebe