Paul Heller Research Statement

Here are examples of projects that are ongoing by my students and me, some are mostly finished, others are just getting started:

A distinct and well known change in climate at the end of the Paleocene (the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) provides an opportunity to study if and how fluvial systems responded to a relatively short lived climatic event. Sections studied so far include northern Wyoming, western Colorado, western Washington and Alberta. Status: Brady Foreman PhD, 2012.

Wasatch Fm.

Wasatch Formation near De Beque, Colorado. PETM is at top of section.

This project is centered around the question of "why is it that fluvial stacking patterns tend to be bimodal?" That is, the rock record of fluvial deposition tends to be either very sandy (>60% net to gross ratio) or very muddy (<40% net to gross ratio) as shown here. What controls this? Is it that natural rivers tend to switch between two end-member styles? Or is that the stratigraphic record tends to selectively preserve the end-member cases? There are a variety of places and approaches to study this stratigraphic question. Recent students (Deirdre Ratigan and Sheila Trampush) completed M.S. theses on the Morrison Formation. More questions remain. I do have some funding for this work at the moment.

Morrison Fm


Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation along the San Rafael Swell, Utah

Along with Drs. Shuman and Holbrook at UW, I would like to develop a project in Searles Valley, California identifying the interaction of climate vs. tectonic controls on basin filling. Status: Looking for a Ph.D. student who wants to work on seismic stratigraphy and paleoclimate reconstruction before we search for funding.

Searles Lake

Searles Valley, California

Isopach patterns of Latest Cretaceous through Eocene sedimentary units in Wyoming can be used to evaluate the mechanical behavior of Laramide basin formation. Preliminary work suggests that some Wyoming basins are too deep for their width to simply be formed by tectonic loading on an infinite elastic plate. Regional flexural modeling needs to be done to evaluate proposed models of basin formation. Status: in need of a student.

Lance Fm. Wyoming

Isopach map of the Lance Formation in the Wind River and Powder River basins of Wyoming.

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Recent work I completed in southwestern Colorado has suggested that the size and distribution of some Uranium deposits is closely scaled to aspects of fluvial channel geometries. An interesting, and potentially economically useful, study involves quantifying aspects of preserved channel fills and relating this to avulsion processes and ultimately to a prediction of ore body distributions. Status: When the price of Uranium rises, I will return to this study.

Amalgamated channel deposits exposed in an active Uranium mine near Uravan, Colorado.

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updated: Oct 19, 2013


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