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Research and Analytical Facilities


The Geomorphology Lab is equipped with new GIS computing and digitizing facilities, which include the latest ArcGIS licenses and a new 64-bit quad-core PC workstation. This is supported by the large Remote Sensing/GIS group on campus with extensive UNIX and Windows-based teaching and research labs, personnel, and campus-wide software site licenses. The Geomorphology Lab has two Topcon RTK GPS instruments (with access to a third), Leica total stations, Trimble GeoExplorer 3 GPS units, laser rangefinders, a large-format digitizer, and 42” color plotter.


The Geophysics Lab is equipped with computational resources that include an AMD-Opteron quad-core dual-processor workstation, six multicore Mac OS-X desktops and a small (two-station) network of legacy Sun workstations. Additional computational resources are available through USU’s Center for High Performance Computing ( Modeling and analysis software include BERNESE5.0 for GPS data analysis, various CIG deformation & flow modeling software including Relax, PyLith, and GALE; and a large suite of geophysics software developed in-house, including continental and planetary-scale isostatic analysis software, nonlinear fault slip inversion software, and codes for analysis and joint inversion of seismic receiver function data. Geophysical instrumentation includes four Topcon GPS/RTK instruments, two MetPak3 meteorological instruments, a SuperSTING R1IP resistivity instrument, a fluxgate magnetometer and EG&G hammer seismic instrument


The Department of Geology has a trailer-mounted Giddings auger drill rig and equipment for drilling water test wells and soil sampling to depths of 40 feet in unconsolidated sediments.

Hydrology equipment also includes an ISCO water sampler, Geoguard combination stainless steel bailer, air-lift sampler, and bladder pump, two Campbell Scientific data loggers, four Geokon vibrating wire pressure transducers, a YSI temperature, conductivity, and salinity meter, an Orion pH meter, Hanna dissolved oxygen meter and two electric well sounders.

Mineralogy and Geochemistry

The X-Ray Analysis Laboratory is equipped with a Panalytical PW2400 XRF Spectrometer with 60 KV Rh tube, 3.0 KW power rating, 3 detectors, and complete sample preparation facilities for major and trace element analyses, as well as software for data reduction and a range of USGS and international rock standards. The lab also includes a Panalytical X’Pert Pro X-ray Diffraction Spectrometer with monochromatic Cu K-alpha radiation, using the High Score software program to index peaks and identify minerals.


Panalytical PW2400 XRF Spectrometer

The Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) Lab is used to determine elemental analyses and isotopic speciation. The primary instrument is a Thermo X Series 2 Quadropole ICP-MS. This will analyze liquid solutions or solids (with laser), capable of measuring most periodic chart elements with part per trillion detection limits. Includes the New Wave Research UP-213 nm Laser Ablation System for analysis of solids and programmable automated stage for multi-spot analyses, with spot size as small as 20 microns.

Laser AblationThermo  Series ICP with New Wave Laser Ablation System

Light stable isotopes are analyzed via two instruments – a ThermoFisher Scientific Delta V Advantage Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS) with a Gasbench II Interface and Costech 4010 Elemental Analyzer and a Picarro G110-I Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometer with AutoMate Sampler. The former is for research-grade analyses of stable isotopes of C, H, O and N. The Picarro is configured for stable carbon isotope analyses and is capable of real-time analyses of carbon isotopes in the laboratory or field.  For more information, please contact the Dennis Newell Stable Isotope Laboratory.

ThermoFisherThermoFisher Advantage Delta V IRMS


Picarro Spectrometer

AutoMate Sampler

AutoMate Sampler

Optically Stimulated Luminesence

The Luminescence Geochronology Laboratory is unique in the state of Utah and is one of only six in the western US. The Luminescence Lab is equipped with two automated TL/OSL dating systems (Risø TL/OSL-DA-20A/B), the latest generation luminescence reader, with a laser-driven single-grain attachment that allows for the dating of individual sand grains. The lab has all the facilities needed for OSL analysis including a dedicated sample preparation lab under constant amber safe-light conditions, which includes a HF-certified fume hood, centrifuge, drying oven, de-ionized water system, full set of sieves, and the required acids and heavy liquids for sample processing. The Luminescence lab is also equipped with a field portable gamma spectrometer for in-situ dose-rate measurements and an AMS hand auger system for core sample collection. The Luminescence Laboratory is directed by Geology Professor Tammy Rittenour.

Sample prep lab

OSL Sample Preparation Laboratory

Luminescence Reader

Riso Luminescence Reader


The Department has several research-grade petrographic microscopes, including two Zeiss microscopes with analog and digital photography as well as five additional research microscopes and sixteen student scopes. There are complete sample preparation facilities for rocks and soils, including thin section and probe mount equipment, rock saws and hand-portable and bench mounted rock coring drills.


The Sedimentology Lab has a Malvern Instruments Mastersizer 2000 laser particle size analyzer. The Malvern will analyze grain sizes from 0.1 micron to 1000 microns (clay to coarse sand). The lab also includes standard sieve sets, a microdrill for stable isotope sampling and standard thin-section preparation equipment.

Scanning Electron Microscopy

Geology students and faculty have access to the USU Core Microscopy Facility located in the nearby Science Engineering Research Building (SEER). This facility hosts an environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) and is directed by Geology Professor John Shervais.

Electron MicroscopeEnvironmental Scanning Electron Microscope

Core Laboratory

The Geology Department maintains a core laboratory for storage and analysis of rock cores in the nearby “Art Barn.” The laboratory currently houses core from the Green River CO2 project and Project Hotspot, the Snake River Plain drilling project. A saw for splitting cores, core subsample drill, computers and photography equipment are available in the lab.

Core Storage Facility

Core Storage Facility

Other Equipment

The Department of Geology also owns and maintains three 4WD SUVs for field work