Areas of expertise within the Department include: studies on arid land geomorphology; barrier island evolution and coastal erosion; systematic mineralogy and petrology; tectonic history of the Appalachians and other mountain belts; volcanology; estuarine water quality and sediment geochemistry; the effects of acid precipitation on biogeochemical cycles of metals in small watersheds and lakes; the solution chemistry of carbonate groundwaters, the kinetics of geochemical reactions; and the occupance of trace metals in groundwaters in Virginia. Fields of application within geosciences include: coastal process consulting; engineering geology; land use planning and management; groundwater pollution research and consulting; and sedimentary process modeling.


Geomorphology/Earth-surface Processes

Research in geomorphology and surface processes at the University of Virginia spans terrestrial, marine and planetary environments and ranges from particle-scale to the scale of drainage basins. Modeling oriented studies include simulations of drainage basin evolution and sediment transport on the continental shelf. Field studies include effects of floods and debris flows on stream channels, sediment erosion and deposition in coastal wetlands and physical controls on the distribution of beachface fauna.

Land-atmosphere Interaction

Within the Department there is a strong focus on the interactions between the Earth’s surface and its atmosphere. These efforts integrate hydrological, ecological, and meteorological principles to understand the exchange of water, heat, and trace gases between the land and the atmosphere. Much of the interest in these mass and energy fluxes centers on the nonlinear feedback effects between the surface and the atmosphere, and the resulting impacts to the biosphere and atmosphere.


Aqueous geochemists, hydrolgists, and microbial ecologists interact on a number of hydrogeological problems. Topics under investigation include: modeling of catchment hydrochemistry; bioremediation and biodegradation; solute, colloid, and bacterial transport through porous media; and modeling of groundwater flow, mass transport, and biogeochemical reactions. The Program of Interdisciplinary Research in Contaminant Hydrogeology (PIRCH) focuses on problems of contaminant hydrogeology, and involves researchers from Chemical and Civil Engineering.