Earth Sciences

Major areas of research within the earth sciences fields are described in the following paragraphs. Links to Core Faculty websites are listed under the different themes, but prospective students should remember that more research themes are available through our Affiliated Faculty.

Atmospheric sciences

Researches focus on hurricane dynamics, hurricane impacts, hurricane boundary layer turbulence structures, atmospheric convection, atmospheric boundary layer and clouds, and cloud-climate feedbacks. Primary faculty under this area are Ping Zhu and Hugh Willoughby.

Geophysics/Paleomagnetism/Remote Sensing

Geophysical investigative techniques using gravity, magnetism, seismic reflection and refraction, earthquake seismology, thermal properties, and satellite imagery. Land-based geophysical studies of the Caribbean and South American seismicity and crustal structure. Environmental geophysical studies in the South Florida and Caribbean Regions. Primary faculty under this area are Dean Whitman, Assefa Melessa, Keqi Zhang, and Brad Clement.

Geoscience Education

Research focuses on geoscience pedagogy, assessment, cognition, public engagement in geoscience, equity, inclusion, and diversity. Research methods include qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods (interviews, focus groups, surveys, and social network analysis). Primary faculty in this area is Kathy Quardokus Fisher.

Hydrogeology/Water Resources/Environmental Geology

Field and modeling approaches to groundwater flow and solute fluxes in subsurface and near subsurface environments. Interaction of surface water and groundwater, solute transport, chemical and isotopic tracing techniques, watershed hydrology in Florida, other US locations, and Central America. Primary faculty under this area are Rene Price, Mike Sukop, Bill Anderson, Michael McClain, Assefa Melessa, and Dean Whitman.

Igneous Petrology/Geochemistry/Economic Geology

Research problems in petrology/geochemistry of igneous and metamorphic rocks with reference to their origin, and relationships in time and space. Origin of hydrothermal and other economic deposits Field occurrence, geochemistry and petrogenesis of crystalline rocks, especially those of the Caribbean region and South America. Generation of associated (often, economically significant) hydrothermal deposits. Application of trace element and isotope geochemistry to the study of these petrogenetic associations. Primary faculty under this area are Gautam Sen, Andrew Macfarlane, Rosemary Hickey-Vargas, Neptune Srimal, Bill Anderson, Stephen Haggerty, and Surendra Saxena.


Research applied to taxonomy, phylogeny, evolutionary processes, paleoecology, taphonomy. and biostratigraphy as applied to select fossil groups. Zonal distribution, facies analysis, and paleoecology of different groups of fossils. Specialization may be in macrofossils, microfossils, applied to several aspects of the paleobiology of particular fossil groups, including biodiversity, paleoecology, response to global climatic changes and time relationships of selected organisms. Primary faculty under this area are Laurel Collins, Florentin Maurrasse, and Jose Longoria.


Sedimentary petrology, sedimentary environments, paleoceanography, sequence stratigraphy, cyclic stratigraphy, microfacies analysis, and basin analysis. Field and laboratory techniques applied to solution of problems in these topics, especially as applied to sedimentary rock sequences of South Florida, the Caribbean and Meso-America. Evolution of the sedimentary basins of these regions and their relationships to global and regional tectonics. Primary faculty under this area are Florentin Maurrasse and Jose Longoria.

Structural Geology/Tectonics

Field oriented research on methods of structural analysis. Analysis of geologic deformations based upon the principles of mechanics and utilizing research data from laboratory and field investigations of folding, fabrics, fracture, and faulting. Structural geology of the Caribbean and South America. Primary faculty under this area are Gren Draper, Michael Gross, and Dean Whitman.

Affiliated Research Centers

The Department of Earth and Environment has excellent research facilities, including analytical, hydrological and computational equipment, and rock preparation laboratories. Major on-site analytical facilities include an electron microprobe, Scanning Electron Microscope, inductively coupled plasma emission spectroanalyzer, and the paleomagnetism laboratory with cryogenic magnetometer. In addition the department owns a complete array of instruments for field geophysics and for field hydrologic studies, and two vehicles for transportation to local field sites. The department has facilities for micropaleontological studies, research in high pressure experimental petrology and experimental structural geology, a class 100 clean laboratory for processing isotopic samples, and a microscopy lab with heating/freezing stage for fluid inclusion studies. Excellent facilities for chemical analysis of water are also available through formal connections with the Southeast Environmental Research Center. A detailed description of our research facilities may be found HERE. Additional facilities and research opportunities at FIU are also available through the Department's formal connections with research institutes and centers on campus including: Center for Study of Matter at Extreme Conditions (CeSMEC), Florida Center for Analytical Electron Microscopy, Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing Analysis Laboratory (GISRSAL), International Hurricane Research Center, Southeast Environmental Research Program (SERP).