Phillips – Student Advisees

Students (current; most are co-advised with other faculty)

Brad Sion – PhD student

Brad is finishing his Ph.D., working on using fluvial terraces along the Rio Grande and tributaries to help understand the history of the Socorro Magma Body (SMB). The SMB is a huge sill (the second-largest molten intrusion known today) underlying the Rio Grande Valley at 19 km depth. Geodetic measurements indicate that part of the area over the sill is bulging upward at ~2 mm/yr. Brad is mapping terraces and using their relative elevations to determine whether this is a one-time event or whether there is a history of similar events in the past.

Kylian Robinson – MS student

Kylian is analyzing the geochemical systematics of groundwater in the area of Cuesta, New Mexico, which is in the Rio Grande Valley north of Taos. The area has experienced recent well failures and water quality issues, in part due to a giant pile of mine tailings from a now-closed molybdenum mine. Kylian extensively sampled groundwater throughout the area and is using end-member mixing analysis and other statistical and geochemical techniques to understand the sources and flowpaths of the groundwater, and hence vulnerability to water-quality degradation or aquifer decline.

Esther (Fei) Xu and Gabriel Parrish – MS students

Esther is responsible for the focused-recharge component of the New Mexico Statewide Water Balance Project. This project, funded by the New Mexico State Legislature, seeks to quantify the water balance for the entire state. New Mexico Tech has contributed the evapotranspiration model and the diffuse groundwater recharge model. These are high spatial resolution (250 m2) and temporal resolution (daily time step) water-balance models based on the dual crop coefficient method for calculation of evapotranspiration and multi-layer soil-water-capacity model for recharge. Esther is using empirical data to calculate runoff as a function of precipitation intensity and duration and to convert the calculated runoff to focused recharge.

Gabe is working on the diffuse recharge component of the same project. The amount of diffuse recharge at any point is dependent on the soil-water history there and the water-holding capacity, parameterized as Total Available Water (TAW). Obtaining adequate data to characterize TAW from physical measurements at the scale of the entire State of New Mexico is not practical, so Gabe is pursuing an innovative approach in which TAW can be characterized over a large area by quantifying evapotranspiration over a period of time using analysis of remote sensing images and matching model outputs to observed evapotranspiration.

Christine Burrill – PhD student

Christine is starting a Ph.D. on testing alternative models for global scaling of the production of cosmogenic nuclides using 39Ar/40Ar dated lava flows from the summit of Mt. Erebus in Antarctica. The production of nuclides such as 3He, 10Be, and 36Cl varies with altitude and latitude, mainly due to attenuation through interaction with the earth atmosphere and due to interaction with the magnetic field of the earth. The mathematical formulations designed to describe this variation are termed ‘scaling models’. Two models have emerged as well supported in the past 5 or 10 years, but the data necessary to distinguish between them are not available. The places where the predictions of the models differ the most are at low latitude and low altitude and at high latitude and high altitude. Recent advances in 39Ar/40Ar dating should allow Christine to accurately and precisely date lava flows at high altitude and latitude on the summit of Erebus. She will measure 3He and 36Cl in the same flows and determine which scaling model is the most accurate.


Christine lying down on the job in Alaska.


Graph showing that the two cosmogenic production scaling methods give significantly different predictions at Mt. Erebus.

Brandon Lutz – PhD student

Brandon is in the midst of a Ph.D. project to quantify the tectonic displacements of the southern Great Basin over the past 12 Ma. Geological evidence demonstrates that over that time period the southern Great Basin has extended by a large amount, however, the fault geometries and slip rates responsible have never been quantified. Brandon has compiled most available geological studies for the area into a single map and has reconstructed cross-sections illustrating a quasi-three-dimensional geometry of the faults and displaced units. He will use these as the basis for a true 3-D kinematic model using the software MOVE. The MOVE reconstruction, in turn, will provide the basis for understanding the changes in surface and groundwater flow systems over this time.

Recent Graduates

Carlos Ramírez-Torres, MS 2017 Soil erosion rates in the evolution of a first-order catchment in central New Mexico: Insights from runoff plots and measurement of dual cosmogenic nuclides

Peter ReVelle, MS 2017 Evapotranspiration in mountain terraine – Applying topographic-based energy constraints to evaluate the distribution of water fluxes and effect of vegetation cover change

David Ketchum MS 2016 High-Resolution Estimation of Groundwater Recharge for the Entire State of New Mexico Using a Soil-Water Balance Model

Casey Gierke, MS 2012 Sourcing tree water in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico: A stable isotope study

Andre Bleu Ocean Ritchie, MS 2011 Hydrogeologic framework and development of a three-dimensional finite difference groundwater flow model of the Salt Basin, New Mexico and Texas

Marty Frisbee, PhD 2010 Streamflow generation processes and residence times in a large mountainous watershed in the southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA

Sophia Sigsted, MS 2010 Environmental tracers in groundwater of the Salt Basin, New Mexico, and implications for water resources

Jeremiah “Croaker” Morse, MS 2010 The hydrogeology of the Sacramento Mountains using environmental tracers

Shasta Marrero, MS 2009 Chlorine-36 production rate calibration using shorelines from Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, Utah

                                 Ph.D. 2012 Calibration of cosmogenic chlorine-36

Jaron Andrews MS 2009 Arsenic removal using iron-modified zeolites

Elizabeth Bastien, 2009 Solute budget of the Rio Grande above El Paso, Texas

Heather (Lacey) Hallett, MS 2006, Quantification and characterization of chloride sources in the Rio Grande.

Renee Sandvig, MS 2005, Ecohydrological controls on soil-moisture fluxes in arid vadose zones.

Naomi Davidson-Rosenau, MS 2004, Groundwater and produced water quality of the Permian Basin, Southeast New Mexico.

Samuel Earman, PhD 2004, Groundwater recharge through mountain-basin systems of the Southwest: A case study in the Chiricahua Mountains – San Bernardino Valley system, Arizona and Sonora.

Suzanne Mills, MS 2004, Quantifying salinization of the Rio Grande using environmental tracers.

John R. Boulanger, MS 2003, Stable isotope analysis of evaporation and transpiration following a precipitation event, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

Gabrielle Kurth, MS 2003 Cosmogenic nuclide dating of old, high Pluvial shorelines in the Western Great Basin.

Alyssa Olson, MS 2002, Carbon-13 in hydrologically-closed systems: Experimentation and modeling.

Mitch Plummer, PhD 2002, Paleoclimatic conditions during the last deglaciation inferred from combined analysis of plural and glacial records – a paleohydrology study of the Owens Valley.

Michelle Walvoord, PhD 2002, Unifying conceptual model to describe water, vapor and solute transport in deep arid vadose zones.

John P. Ayarbe, MS 2001, Calibrating a fault scarp diffusion model with cosmogenic 36Cl to provide a new means for establishing rupture chronologies in arid and semiarid environments.

Laura M. Bexfield, MS 2001, Occurrence and sources of arsenic in ground water of the Middle Rio Grande Basin, central New Mexico.

Joseph M. Sterling, MS 2001, Controls on, and modeling of, chloride deposition at the continental scale.

Gina DeRosa, MS 1999, Experimental evidence of hyperfiltration-induced precipitation of heavy metals.

Michelle Walvoord, MS 1999, Characterization of Groundwater Flow in the Southeastern San Juan Basin: Implications for Microbial Origins in the Deep Subsurface near Cerro Negro, New Mexico.

Susan J. Colarullo, PhD 1998, Multiple Scale Characterization of Alluvial Aquifer Heterogeneity.

Claire Chia-Lan Hsu, MS 1998, Trapping of Non-aqueous Phase Liquids at Sand/Shale Interfaces.

James W. Moore, MS 1998, Monitoring infiltration of atmospheric chloride across the land surface in central New Mexico.