My long-term research interests include the tectonics and regional geology of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, particularly within the eastern crystalline core of the chain. Numerous embedded orogen-parallel ductile shear zones in this area contain kinematic indicators for strike- or oblique-slip during mid- to late-Paleozoic deformation that is more characteristically compressional in the western part of the mountain belt. In addition to the Paleozoic kinematic significance of these structures, many shear zones also were reactivated to nucleate Mesozoic rift basins. I have continued to evaluate all of these relationships in field sites throughout North Carolina and Virginia.
Part of my research in continuous deformation is theoretical. It is clear in many ductile shear zones that deformation cannot be exclusively pure shear or simple shear. This recognition leads to the need to establish models for shear that incorporate vorticity components of pure and simple shearing. The result of this analysis is the kinematic vorticity number, a measure of the balance between shearing components that has been found to be verifiable with field studies. This line of research is intermittent, but continues to be of interest.
I also am involved in studies of neo-tectonics. In the Appalachians, “neo-tectonics” often refers to the identification of structures that could be related to Tertiary and/or Quaternary activity. I have previously studied potential neo-tectonic areas along the Fall Line in eastern Virginia. Presently, I am planning an investigation of possible Quaternary faulting in the western Virginia Piedmont in the Mountain Run fault zone, which lies at the physiographic boundary between the Blue Ridge and Piedmont provinces. Recently I have been working with Missy Eppes and John Diemer to investigate an area of active deformation along the northern piedmont of the San Bernardino Mountains in California. There we have used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to delineate sub-surface structures in an active faulted anticline. This work continues with additional near-surface geophysics and structural mapping to provide a model for the fault-fold relationship there.
I teach applied geophysics and also use some of these tools in field research. In addition to the GPR work in California, with John Diemer and Missy Eppes and a class of graduate students we have done GPR profiles of pond sediment and colluvial debris in the western Piedmont of North Carolina. Also, with Craig Allan and John Diemer we have compiled a grid of GPR profiles in Ontario, Canada to assist in the study of the sub-surface component of a watershed study.
I am currently involved in an on-going research project with John Diemer and Missy Eppes to study the source and distribution of home radon in the eastern Inner Piedmont of North Carolina. This project area, which is funded by the NC Radiation Protection Office, is located where radon concentrations are known to be above background values for the region.
I maintain a program of outreach and innovation in geoscience education. For several years, I have taught an intense, hands-on summer institute for in-service K-12 schoolteachers. This field- and lab-based course is oriented on content and experience. I also am actively involved in developing online physical geology courses for non-science majors or teachers through UNC Charlotte and through the UNC general administration.