Research Facilities

The Department has well-equipped labs for studies in paleontology, mineralogy and mineral physics, geomorphology and Quaternary geology, sedimentary geochemistry, and computational geophysics. In addition, we have the specialized labs described below.

Central Facility for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis - The Analytical Electron Microscopy Facility (CFAMM) is a universal research and service facility for microscopic characterization of organic and inorganic materials, biological tissue and minerals, applying microscopy techniques and utilizing state-of-the-art equipment. The faculty personnel conduct research and provide collaborative assistance, training and service to faculty and students as well as to non-university users. The CFAMM incorporates two transmission, two scanning electron microscopes, and a confocal laser microscope system. Three basic kinds of information in the micron down to atomic scale range are provided by the electron microscopes; images, crystal structure, and chemical analysis. The laser confocal microscopy offers the opportunity for imaging of fluorescent samples and 3D optical reconstructions.

Digital Geologic Map Center - The Digital Geologic Map Center, a GIS center, is part of the U.S. Geological Survey and California Division of Mines and Geology's Southern California Aerial Mapping Project (SCAMP). The center is responsible for developing and producing 2-D, 3D, and 4-D digital geologic, geochemical, and isotopic databases. The most common database is large and small-scale digital geologic maps. There is a heavy student involvement in the preparation of the digital bases. Both UNIX and NT platforms are used along with a variety of hardware including a large format scanner, digitizing tables, and plotters. Software includes ARC/INFO (2-D), ERDAS ORTHOMAX (3-D), and EARTHVISION(3-D).

EMSOC Facility - In partnership with the University of Washington and the University of Utah, UCR has built a national magnetotelluric instrument pool for electromagnetic studies of the continent (EMSOC). Funded by NSF and the participating universities, the facility houses 3 commercial broadband MT systems and 14 long period instruments. For more information contact

Geochemical Kinetics Laboratory - The laboratory is used to conduct studies of the rates and mechanisms of geochemical reactions. Facilities include reaction vessels, constant temperature heating/cooling circulation baths, UV-visible spectrophotometer's with flow-through cells, pH meters and supporting analytical instrumentation.
The laboratory also houses a heating/freezing fluid inclusion stage with optical microscope and closed-circuit color camera system. Polishing labs for thin and thick section preparation are also housed in the laboratory.
GIS and Remote Sensing - The Geographic Information Systems laboratory is used to support departmental research in geological sciences, spatial analysis, fire ecology, and vegetation dynamics using Geographical Information Systems. This area also serves as a major node of the interdepartmental GIS resource at UCR, as well as the location of a number of GIS course work and information servers.

Inorganic Geochemistry Labs - There are 5 separate labs with full wet chemical and extraction facilities for aqueous geochemistry equipped with a Thermo Finnigan Delta V Plus Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS)interfaced with:

  • Costech Instruments - 4010 Elemental Combustion System (EA) for C, N and S isotope ratio determinations.
    Thermo Scientific - Thermo Chemical Elemental Analyzer (TC-EA) for routine (automated) on-line analysis of 18O for carbonate-associated sulfate CAS (as BaSO4) and silver phosphate (derived from biogenic apatite) via high-temperature pyrolysis, and with additional collectors for routine, automated analysis of 33S as SO
  • Agilent 7500ce collision/reaction cell quadrupole Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS) for trace metal analysis and sulfate concentration determinations.
  • Eltra - CS-500 Total Carbon/Sulfur Determinator w/ Total Inorganic Carbon Module.
  • Morphometics Laboratory - The morphometrics lab is available for graduate student and faculty research requiring electronic 2-D image acquisition and morphometric data acquisition in 2-D and 3-D. The laboratory houses MAC based image analysis hardware linked via CCD video camera to research microscope and/or photographic copystand. Flat-bed and slide scanning facilities are also available. 3-D digitization and CAD manipulations are available on a PC-based system.

Organic Geochemistry Labs - We specialize in retrieving and identifying lipid biomarker signals from ancient sedimentary rock bitumen (the solvent-extractable organic material), kerogens (insoluble polymeric organics) and oils, although we also analyze modern sediments, cultured biomass and meteorites. Two new laboratories are equipped with fume hoods, storage, bench space and all services for wet chemistry along facilities for routine rock preparation and crushing, solvent extraction (microwave-assisted extraction kit) of rocks, catalytic hydropyrolysis (HyPy) for kerogen/geomacromolecule analyses and gas chromatographic separation and detection of molecular biomarkers (GC-MS). Key equipment includes:

  • SPEX 8515 shatterbox with alumina ceramic puck mill for rock crushing.
  • CEM MARS microwave extractor for solvent extraction of sediments, meteorites, cultures, etc.
  • Custom-built Catalytic Hydropyrolysis (HyPy) reactor for kerogen degradation and retrieval of bound ancient biomarkers and for rapid screening of microbial cultures for identifying novel lipid biomarkers.
  • Agilent 7890A GC coupled to a 5975C MSD mass spectrometer (GC/MS) for molecular biomarker analyses. GC has a cold on-column and a PTV injector.
  • GC-C-IRMS facility (Agilent 6890 GC with autosampler linked to a Thermo Finnigan Delta V Advantage isotope ratio mass spectrometer via a GC/C-III combustion interface) for compound-specific organic work for 13C analysis on individual biomarker compounds.

Stable Isotope Laboratory - An isotope ratio and gas mass spectrometry lab is operated by the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics in the Geology building. The facility's automated isotope ratio mass spectrometer is capable of performing high precision analysis of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen isotopes and may be easily adapted for making isotopic ratio measurements on other elements in inert gaseous compounds. Preparation facilities for water samples (hydrogen, oxygen and dissolved gases); carbonate minerals (oxygen and carbon); and purification of a number of other gaseous samples of geological interest presently exist in the laboratory.
The laboratory also supports a sensitive gas mass spectrometry system designed to quantitatively measure gas compositions in microscopic fluid inclusions in a wide variety of rock and mineral specimens.

Tectonophysics Laboratory - This laboratory is dedicated to research into the rheology and petrology of rocks and minerals at high temperatures and pressures, and the effect of stress on phase transformations with an eye to increasing our understanding of mountain building, mantle convection, and subduction-zone processes such as ultra-high pressure metamorphism and the mechanisms of intermediate and deep earthquakes. Most of the work involves experimental deformation of rocks of the mantle and analogue compounds that can yield insight into minerals that only exist at very great depth and cannot be studied directly.

Equipment includes deformation apparatuses capable of attaining temperatures of 1900 K and pressures of 2 GPa, 3 GPa and 5 GPa, respectively. A multianvil apparatus provides the capability to achieve 3000 K and 25 GPa, providing experimental access to conditions throughout the upper mantle and transition zone. A series of state-of-the-art optical microscopes are present in the laboratory, including a revolutionary microscope that allows stereoscopic imaging of thin sections even at very high magnification. An advanced polishing laboratory for preparation of thin and polished sections is available including a polishing system that allows relief-free surfaces to be produced, even with minerals that differ significantly in hardness. An ion-beam thinning device is also available for preparation of specimens for transmission electron microscopy in the new state-of-the-art Campus Facility for Microscopy and Microanalysis (CFAMM).

The Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics - The Department has strong links to The Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP). The IGPP promotes basic research at UCR into the structure, origin, and evolution of the universe. In pursuit of this mission, IGPP research extends from the earth's core to the far reaches of space. Interdisciplinary research by faculty and students of the colleges of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences focuses on astrophysics, space physics, solid earth geophysics, geochemistry, archeometry, and tectonophysics.

The IGPP has two centers - the Center of Plasma and High Energy Astrophysics and the Center for Earthquake Physics. It manages UCR's Central Facility for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis (also known as the UCR Analytical Electron Microscopy Facility), which houses state-of-the-art transmission and scanning electron microscopes, a new laser-confocal microscope, and other microanalytical facilities, and the ElectroMagnetic Studies of Continents pool of electromagnetic instruments.