Kierran Maher

Kierran Maher

Assistant Professor of Economic Geology
Department of Earth and Environmental Science
New Mexico Tech
Socorro, NM 87801

Office: MSEC 310
Phone: (575) 835-6354
Fax: (575) 835-6436
Email: kierran.maher at

PhD, Washington State University

Greetings.  I work in mineral deposit geology (aka, economic geology) and my principal goal is to prepare students to fill roles in the minerals industry. This includes both teaching and research.

Mineral deposit geology utilizes most aspects of the other sub-disciplines of geology in an effort to explore for and extract economic concentrations of mineral resources. Society’s demand for natural resources was an important impetus for the founding of the New Mexico School of Mines, now known as the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Economic geology and resource extraction are as important today as they were in 1889. Many things have changed both in academia and in society relative to resource extraction since the establishment of the School of Mines. Even though our understanding of geoscience has also evolved, some things remain the same, such as the need to make detailed and thoughtful geologic observations as part of our work. I emphasize basic geoscience skills in my classes, such as hands on field and petrographic work. These form the foundation for proper interpretation of all other analytical techniques.

New Mexico Tech is a great place to study geology due to our location in beautiful New Mexico, a place with diverse, interesting and well-exposed geology, including a significant range of mineral deposit types in the area. The university is well-equipped to support geoscience education and research with a geoscience faculty having diverse yet cross-disciplinary research and teaching interests, as well as a well-equipped research infrastructure. You can get a great undergraduate or graduate geoscience education at New Mexico Tech.

My present teaching responsibilities include Introduction to Mineralogy (ERTH 200), Stable Isotope Geochemistry (GEOC 565), Exploration Geochemistry (ERTH 431/GEOC 531), and two semesters of  Advanced Mineral Deposits (GEOL 572) and I team-teach Mineral Deposits (ERTH 462) with Dr. William Chavez.

Hands-on laboratories are always a major component of my classes. I emphasize hand sample and thin section petrography in my classes. Major emphasis is placed on becoming proficient in geologic information acquisition and then understanding the “big picture” of what you are looking at.

I have an open door policy, which means if my door is open, and I’m not talking to another person, you are welcome to talk to me.

Short Courses

I’d like to thank the Student Chapter for the Society of Economic Geologists in la Universidad Nacional San Agustin for inviting me to deliver a four day short course (19-23 December 2016) titled: “La utilización de alteración hidrotermal: su ensamblajes, condiciones, y química”. Ever Paricahua (Chapter president) helped to organize the event attended by 40 participants. I appreciate the reception I received there and the interest expressed by the participants. I hope to see many of you again.

Research Interests
My broad research interests seek to develop a better understanding of geochemical and mineralogical vectors to mineralized systems. Much of this comes from my experience working in the exploration industry where I saw the need to develop more efficient and predictive methods for exploring for ore deposits. Exploration costs are rising and many new discoveries of ore systems will be of hydrothermal systems that are poorly expressed or even unexposed at the earth’s surface. I use a number of techniques in this quest including field mapping, core logging, alteration mineralogy, trace element and stable isotope geochemistry.

I am also interested in developing ways companies can better use the vast amount of geochemical data that is routinely gathered during exploration, but mostly underutilized. The goal is to develop tools that help exploration become more efficient. I am also interested in understanding how isotopic systems help us to understand mineralization mechanisms, particularly in the hypogene environment. This includes research into the behavior and fractionation mechanisms of copper isotopes. My research interests are of a necessity based upon a sound understanding of the local geologic system.

Phyllic Alteration

I have students working on projects involving the origin and geochemical features of various kinds of hydrothermal alteration. The focus of one project involves the characterization of early phyllic alteration in porphyry copper deposits. This style of alteration is commonly lumped together with the other “flavors” of phyllic alteration. We seek to understand the distribution of this type of alteration in porphyry systems, its genesis, and understand how it differs from the more common, and volumentrically more extensive, later phyllic alteration. In some systems this forms a large volume of high grade hypogene ore. We are examining a number of “natural laboratories” where this style of alteration is present.

Other topics:

Distal expression of LS epithermal systems

Skarn mineralogy and mineral compositions

Precipitation mechanisms in ore deposit systems

Prospective Graduate Students

I’m happy to correspond with any person regarding his/her interests in pursuing graduate studies at NMT. I will say that, at present, for various reasons I am not considering taking on any prospective PhD students who do not have significant financial sponsorship via a third party (i.e., government scholarship or industry sponsor). I also prefer that prospective PhD students have obtained a MSc degree before starting a PhD. I am considering new MSc students, particularly those with interests in working in the minerals industry. I am happy to discuss with any prospective applicants ways in which you might seek external funding.

Estudiantes prospectivos latinos

Yo tengo interés en desarrollando colaboraciones con universidades y estudiantes latinos en Sud América para trabajar juntos en investigaciones científicas. Estoy feliz conversar sobre las posibilidades de investigaciones y requisitos para estudiar en maestría aquí en New Mexico Tech. Me contactan con sus preguntas.

Donate to our Teaching Collection

One of our deficiencies in academia is access to high quality teaching samples. Industry friends and alumni, if you are looking for well-prepared graduates, we need your help to train them. Drill core logging is one of those things you likely want your new recruits to do, so help us in getting them up to speed more quickly. Please donate drilling samples to NMT.  This can include drill core from mined out areas of deposits where you work, or from “discarded” exploration properties. We will train them on mineral and rock ID, alteration styles, estimating modes of minerals, IR spectroscopy measurements, etc., from core that you donate. I am looking for 50-100m intervals of drill core from porphyry or skarn systems, or shorter intervals from structurally controlled systems (e.g., veins) showing downhole variations in alteration to supplement our hand sample collections.

We can also use additional representative suites of hand samples from the following types of hydrothermal systems. We primarily need altered wall rocks.

  • greisen – Sn-W
  • VHMS systems
  • kimberlite (diamond)

Your help with this would be greatly appreciated, and possibly tax deductable. If you have suggestions on the skills that you would like to see in graduate recruits please let me know.