I am primarily interested in constraining the processes that govern the evolution, differentiation and stratification of continental crust through petrographic (studying minerals and whole-rock compositions) and experimental studies of volcanics related to subduction and extension.


As an outdoor enthusiast and geologist, I enjoy discovering how the combined effects of tectonics and magmatism lead to the production of continents and fabulous landscapes in the US. My research on the origin and evolution of continental crust (silica-rich, buoyant sections of Earth’s crust) incorporates both field and experimental work, with several field sites in the western US, Caribbean and the Aleutians. I currently have an active undergraduate research group examining compositions, the mineral phases, and pre-eruptive conditions (i.e., temperature, pressure, and dissolved volatile contents) of volcanics that erupted from South Sister Volcano, OR. I currently have NSF funding for a suite of experiments on alkaline magmas to develop a calibration for a new hygrometer model based on the sanidine liquid exchange reaction. Please email me if you are interested in joining my research program.


NEW! Quantifying the effects of glaciation on crustal stress and eruptive patterns at Mt. Waesche, Executive Committee Range, Antarctica (NSF Polar Programs Funded Project)

The PhD student will collect whole rock and mineral compositions to determine how the magmatic system beneath Mt. Waesche, a volcano in the Executive Committee Range in Antarctica, responds to changing ice-overburden. The PhD student will gain expertise in sample processing, preparation of materials for electron microbeam analysis (microprobe and scanning electron microscope). The PhD student will also gain expertise in applying models to mineral compositions and interpreting the resultant intensive variables in the context of volcanic systems. Results will be incorporated into a geodynamic model of the lithospheric stress field surrounding Mt. Waesche. Opportunities exist for experimental approaches to this project. Prospective candidates must have a BS/BA degree or MS in Geology, Earth Science or related field and abundant scientific curiosity. Please email ( if you are interested.

Waesche Image



Sanidine Hygrometer

My graduate student, Magdalen (Mags) Grismer and I, are currently conducting experiments that equilibrate sanidine (a K-rich mineral) and a variety of melt compositions to create a suite of experiments that can be used to calibrate a hygrometer. The hygrometer will be able to yield estimates of pre-eruptive H2O contents for a variety of melt compositions based on pre-eruptive temperature, sanidine compositions and melt compositions. These experiments are carried out in the low-pressure apparatus in the west-side of MSEC135. We currently have 18 experiments to add to the calibration. We discovered, much to my chagrin, that peralkaline melts make a single crystalline composition (±5 mol% orthoclase) and our model design will only be applicable to metaluminous and peralumious melts. We hope to release the hygrometer models soon!

Pre-eruptive conditions of Valles Grande Rhyolites, Valles Caldera NM

Magdalen (Mags) Grismer is interested in understanding the origin and formation of silicic melts in resurgent caldera systems. Mags is documenting the petrology and pre-eruptive storage conditions of the domes, experimentally testing those storage conditions, and, finally, addresses the kinetics of sanidine crystallization. We have identified halogen concentrations as signaling infiltration of reduced fluids that have the fundamental potential to change the petrology and major element chemistry of the Valles Magmatic system.

Mags Grismer

Rare Earth Element (REE) Viability of the Cornudas Mountains

My student, Mason Woodard, is currently using petrologic methods to determine temperature-pressure conditions of intrusive bodies in the Cornudas Mountains that are associated with REE deposits. The project is in collaboration with Ginger Macklemore and Nels Iverson in the Bureau of Geology. Mason is collecting mineral compositions, whole rock compositions and sample petrology and using model thermometers and barometers from the literature to determine their intrusive temperatures, pressures and fluid contents.


Molecular complexation of rare earth elements (REE) in high temperature and pressure supercritical geologic fluids (DOE Funded Project)

This project aims to generate a comprehensive set of solubility measurements of Rare Earth Element (REE)-bearing phosphates using synthetic REE end-member crystals, which will be equilibrated with a variety of neutral and acidic solutions between 500 – 700°C and pressures of 0.5 to 2 kb, in cold seal pressure vessels. Debarati Banerjee is one of three PHD students, working to understand REE solubility in hydrothermal fluids at high temperature (>500°C). The project is part of a collaborative DOE grant lead by Dr. Alex Gysi and in conjunction with Dr. Nicole Hurtig at NMT. Project work will be collaborative between NMT, Los Alamos and University of Indiana. 

REEinfographicUSDOEDebarati Banerjee

If you are interested in other opportunities related to experimental petrology, geo-thermometry and barometry and petrogenesis in the context of origin of the continents and understanding magmatic transport in storage in Earth’s crust, also send me an email!


2020- present             New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Assistant Professor,                                                                Dept. of Earth & Environmental Science

2019-2020                    Mineralogical Society of America, Distinguished Lecturer

2017-2019                     Sonoma State University, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Geology

2017-2018                    Keck Geology Consortium Project Director

2015-2017                    National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Peter S. Buck                                                  Post-Doctoral Fellow

2014                             University of Michigan, Post-Doctoral Researcher

2008-2013                  University of Michigan, Doctorate of Philosophy in Experimental                                                                       Geochemistry and Volcanology

2004-2008                 Juniata College, Bachelors of Science in Geology


Waters, L.E., Cottrell, E., Coombs, M.E., Kelley, K.A. (in review) Generation of Calc-Alkaline Magmas During Crystallization at High Oxygen Fugacity: An Experimental and Petrologic Study of Tephras from Buldir Volcano, Western Aleutian Arc, Alaska, USA

Waters, L.E. and Frey, H.M. (2018) Crystal-poor rhyolites and rhyodacites from Volcán Tepetiltic, Mexico: Evidence for melt formation, crystallization and eruption over short timescales. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 361, 36-50.

Waters, L.E. and Lange, R. A. (2017) Why aplites freeze and rhyolites erupt: controls on the accumulation and eruption of high-SiO2 (eutectic) melts. Geology 47 (available online).

Waters, L.E. & Andrews, B.J. (2016) The Role of Superheating in the Formation of Glass Mountain Obsidians (Long Valley, CA) inferred through Crystallization of Sanidine. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 171, 79 (1-19).

  • Tags: