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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Geology and the Shaping of the American Southwest

Earthwatchers researched the geology of the Rio Grande Rift to learn about climate change and water supply.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

The Bandelier Tuff in Northern New Mexico controls the flow of groundwater to local communities.

Earthwatchers helped shed light on the complex geologic processes that have occurred throughout time.

Much of the landscape in the area where Earthwatchers worked was formed by volcanic activity. One of the most notable features of the Espanola basin is the Bandelier Tuff, an expanse of rocky canyons and mesas formed by a mixture of ash and gas that spewed from the nearby Valles Caldera volcano over one million years ago. The Bandelier Tuff controls much of the flow of groundwater beneath the communities in the area, so understanding the material properties of the Bandelier Tuff can help researchers better understand a number of regional environmental issues, such as groundwater contamination and earthquake hazards.

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Using a variety of methods and techniques, Earthwatchers collected data that could help illuminate the relationship between tectonics (earth movements) and volcanism in this section of the Rio Grande Rift. This research has implications not only for local issues, but also for understanding rift systems and related water storage and flow worldwide—an especially important issue now that climate change and overconsumption have begun to deplete water resources around the world.

About the research area

Northern New Mexico, Southern Colorado, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Aviva J.
Sussman
Research Scientist, Los Alamos National Laboratory and University of New Mexico

ABOUT Aviva J. Sussman

Dr. Sussman is a geoscientist specializing in structural geology.

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