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Dave Moecher

Research Interests:
Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
Structural Geology

B.S. Geology University of Wisconsin-Madison (1979); M.S. Geology University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984); Ph.D. Geology University of Michigan (1988)


My research and that of my students (see their research summaries below) in petrotectonics spans the range of phenomena that operate at the grain to terrane scale. We apply petrology (igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary), geochemistry (petrologic thermodynamics and phase equilibria; stable and radiogenic isotopes;microbeam analysis), bedrock mapping and structural geology in field-based research projects that attempt to decipher the tectonic history of the Appalachian-Caledonian and Grenville orogens. My primary research tools are the electron probe microanalyzer and scanning electron microscope. At UK we have a CAMECA SX50 electron probe microanalyzer with CL detector for imaging zircon growth zoning histories. We also make heavy use of a new JEOL scanning electron microscope for high resolution imaging. I teach igneous and metamorphic petrology for undergaduate majors, isotope geochemistry for graduate students, and run regional field trips to New England, Canada, the western U.S., and the Appalachian Blue Ridge. Besides research and teaching, I have a keen interest in undergraduate education and alumni relations. I am now in the seventh and final year as Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. My personal interests include cycling around the Bluegrass, one of the best places to ride a bike in the U.S.

Current Graduate Students

Mitchell Clay is originally from Pennsylvania, recieved his B.S. from Lockport State, and completed the M.S. degree at Montclaire State University in New Jersey. HIs thesis research was a petrogenetic analysis of Cascade back-arc basalts, which included major and trace element geochemistry and Nd, Sr, and Pb isotope analysis. Mitchell's Ph.D. research will involve detrital zircon U-Pb geology of Midcontinent Precambrian basement sediments to determine their provenance. 


Recent Graduate Students

Felicia Harris is from Georgia, she is an Army veteran, and received the B.S. in Geology from the University of West Georgia. Felicia completed an ambitious detrital zircon U-Pb provenance study of sandstones from southwestern Brazil in order to explore for potential Laurentia-Amazonia connections during the Grenville orogeny and assembly of Rodinia. She was fortunate to get a wild Brazilian frontier experience. Felicia successfully defended her thesis on "A Tale of 3000 detrital zircon ages..." this "COVID Summer" 2020.

Dr. Ann Hislop completed the Ph.D. mapping proto-faults in the rugged Little San Bernardino Mountains of western Joshua Tree National Park. Her EDMAP-supported research attempted to quantify, via detailed geologic mapping, the magnitude of dextral offset along a fault system that hosted the 1992 Landers and Joshua Tree earthquakes. Ann received her B.S. and M.S. at the University of Calgary - yes, she's a Canadian! She is currently employed by the Kentucky Geological Survey.

Steven Zotto is from Oklahoma and received his B.S. from Oklahoma State University. Steven worked on our NSF-funded research project that quantified sedimentary recycling in clastic sedimentary systems using zircon and monazite "double-double dating". He is currently employed as a petroleum geologist in Dallas.

Kevin Walsh, is a Chicagoland native who received his B.S. from the Univ. of Southern Illinois. For his M.S. thesis research Kevin is examined the evolution of high grade rocks that comprise the Cartoogechaye basement terrane in western North Carolina using zircon LA-ICP-MS geochronology and whole rock geochemistry. Kevin is now a geologist at the Greens Creek Au-Ag mine in Alaska .

Samantha Burk completed M.S. thesis related to our NSF-funded "Hot Granites" research project, which entails zircon geochronology, trace element analysis, and modeling of granite crystallization histories. Sam is originally from New Hampshire and her B.S. is from the Univ. of Maine at Farmington. Sam worked for several years as a mine geologist at a Cu-Ag-Au ore deposit in southwest Utah. After defending her M.S. thesis she worked in gold exploration in Alaska then moved on to environmental consulting in Rhode Island.

Emma Larkin is from Salem, Massachusetts. She received her B.S. in Geology from Salem State University, Massachusetts. Emma's thesis research delineated the extent of Grenville basement rocks in the eastern Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. This research involved bedrock mapping, structural analysis, petrology, and zircon U-Pb geochronology. Emma's mapping program was funded by the EDMAP program of the U.S. Geological Survey. Emma was initially employed by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet in the Underground Storage Tank branch, then moved on to environmental consulting in Massachusetts.

James McCulla is from Virginia, attended the College of William and Mary, and worked for a couple years with the USGS in Virginia before coming to UK. His M.S. thesis involved dating the timing of transpression in central New England using primarily monazite SIMS U-Pb geochronology and EPMA U-Th-Pb chemical age dating geochronology. James completed an internship with then went to work for Pioneer Natural Resources in Dallas.

Lucas Rohrer, from Princeton, Kentucky earned a B.A. in Chemistry from  Asbury University. Lucas's M.S. thesis examined the tectonic history of a zone of dextral transpression in central Conn., Mass., and N.H. This research involved detailed bedrock mapping and structural analysis at a range of scales to test the extent of transpressional deformation in central New England. Lucas completed an entire summer and fall term of independent field mapping in central Massachusetts. Highlights of that work included dealing with a bull moose whose territory overlaps with Lucas's field mapping area. Lucas now teaches high school science in his hometown of Princeton, KY.

Daniel Spaulding recently completed his M.S. degree (M.S. 2014), and is from Hazard, Kentucky. He received his B.A. in Geology from UK. Dan mapped part of a quadrangle in the rugged and remote eastern Great Smoky Mountains, including part of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which served as the basis for research focused on deteremining if Taconian metamorphic isograds were telescoped during late Paleozoic ductile shearing and folding. Daniel completed his mapping during the Spring 2013 term, and then did a summer internship with Pioneer Natural Resources in Summer 2014. He did so well in his internship that Pioneer offered him a job and he joined the many other UK alumni working at Pioneer in Dallas.

Evan Kelly (M.S. 2014) is from Wisconsin and earned dual degrees in Geology and Economics from Vanderbilt University. Evan worked on the provenance of uppermost Ocoee (Walden Creek Gp.) clastic sediments in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mtns. area. He used a variety of provenance tools, such as sandstone petrography, microprobe analysis of detrital feldspar, and detrital zircon U-Pb and monazite Th-Pb geochronology. Evan is another of the UK alumni working for Pioneer Natural Resources in Dallas.

Susan Leib (M.S. 2013) is from the "Quad Cities", and earned her Bachelor's degree from Olivet-Nazarene University. Susan worked on the P-T history of metamorphosed pseudotachylytes from a ductile normal detachment fault in the Caledonides of northern Norway. Susan's research employed petrology, microprobe analysis, and thermobarometric calculations. Susan completed a M.S. degree in the Museum Studies program at University of Western Illinois, then decided to go on for the Ph.D. at Texas Tech University.

Gabriel RiCharde (M.S. 2013) is from Boston and earned his Bachelor's degree from Wheaton College. Gabe worked on the P-T history of eclogites from Liverpool Land, East Greenland. Gabe first job was as a geologist for Schlumberger in Madrid, Spain.

Ryan Quinn (M.S. 2012) completed an M.S. thesis project on the petrogenesis of Grenville basement rocks in the eastern Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. Ryan's research employed whole rock major and trace element geochemistry, Nd and Pb isotope geochemistry, and zircon U-Pb geochronology. Ryan attended the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Eric Anderson (M.S., 1997, Ph.D., 2011) completed a dissertation on the tectonic evolution of the eastern Great Smoky Mtns. basement. This work was published in two papers (Anderson and Moecher, 2007, 2009).

Dr. Suvankar Chakraborty completed a dissertation study (Ph.D., 2010) on the provenance of the Ocoee Supergroup in the southern Appalachians. After spending two years at UK as a postdoctoral research associate, Dr. Chakraborty took a position as a lab technician at the Universtiy of Utah. His dissertation research was published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin (see Chakraborty et al., 2012, in Moecher's recent publications list). Suvankar now co-manages the stable isotope lab at the University of Utah.

Dr. Matthew Massey completed a dissertation (Ph.D., 2010) that documented a zone of crustal extrusion within a regional zone of dextral transpression in central Massachusetts. This work was based on a 1:24000 scale bedrock map and included structural analysis at a range of scales, along with U-Pb geochronology. The map was published as an open file report with the Massachusetts Geological Survey and as an NEIGC field guide in 2008. The second chapter of his dissertation (see Massey et al., 2011, in my recent publication's list), published in Journal of Structural Geology, was awarded the JSG Student Paper of the Year Award for 2011. Matt started was a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UK ifrom 2014 to 2016. He is now a staff scientist at the Kentucky Geological Survey in the mapping section.

Tom Walker (M.S., 2011) mapped the East Brookfield 7.5 min. quadrangle in south-central Massachusetts and established the tectonic history of an area straddling the Bronson Hill-Central Maine zone boundary. Tom worked for Schlumberger for a year after graduation, then as a Mineral Resource Specialist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and is now a Staff Geologist at Terranear PMC Inc. in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Donny Loughry (M.S., 2010) completed a thesis on the composition and geochronologic evolution of eastern Great Smoky Mtn. basement rocks. He is now employed by Pioneer Natural Resources, Dallas, TX.

Tim O'Brien (M.S., 2008) mapped the Winchendon 7.5 min. quadrangle in north-central Massachusetts, another area straddling the Bronson Hill zone-Central Maine zone boundary. Tim is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University.

Dr. Chris Berg completed his M.S. at UK in 2001, which involved petrology and stable isotope analysis of metapelites in the Bronson Hill zone in Connecticut. Chris then completed a Ph.D. at the University of Texas, and is now Associate Professor in Geology at the University of West Georgia.

Elizabeth Haynes completed the M.S. in Geology at UK in 2000, working on the stable isotope systematics of Precambrian carbonatites in the Grenville province. After attending Colorado School of Mines, Elizabeth held positions as petroleum geologist with BHP-Billiton and Conoco.

Selected Publications:

Moecher, D.P., Badenszki, E., Daly, J.S., Chew, D.M., 2023, Beyond Zircon: Incorporating detrital feldspar Pb isotope analysis into the multi-proxy toolbox for sedimentary provenance analysis – an example from a long-lived eastern Laurentian clastic system. Journal of Geology, v. 130, p. 429-445.

Moecher, D.P., Zotto*, S.C., Samson, S.D., 2023, The critical role of recycling of post-Grenvillian, Neoproterozoic sediments for Phanerozoic clastic systems: Evidence from detrital zircon and monazite geochronology and textures. In press. Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 93, p. 118-144.

Harris*, F.R., Moecher, D.P., Tohver, E., 2023, Detrital Zircon U-Pb provenance analysis of Precambrian and Paleozoic strata from southwestern Brazil: Assessment of potential Grenvillian sediment input and Amazonian-Laurentian tectonic interaction. Gondwana Research, v. 113, p. 14-30.

Moecher, D.P., Tohver, E., Samson, S.D., 2023, Potential terrane relationships between Laurentia and Amazonia during the Grenville Orogenic Cycle: A synthesis of the U-Pb zircon and Pb isotope records, in Whitmeyer, S.J., Williams, M.L., Kellet, D.A., and Tikoff, B., eds., Laurentia: Turning Points in the Evolution of a Continent: Geological Society America Memoir 220,, p. 251-268.

Moecher, D.P., Tohver, E., Samson, S.D., 2023, Potential terrane relationships between Laurentia and Amazonia during the Grenville Orogenic Cycle: A synthesis of the U-Pb zircon and Pb isotope records, in Whitmeyer, S.J., Williams, M.L., Kellet, D.A., and Tikoff, B., eds., Laurentia: Turning Points in the Evolution of a Continent: Geological Society America Memoir 220,, p. 251-268.

Clay*, J.M., Moecher, D.P., Bowersox, J.R., 2021, Detrital Zircon U-Pb Geochronology of the Late Mesoproterozoic Middle Run Formation, (Kentucky – Ohio, U.S.A.): Implications for Grenvillian Orogenesis and Foreland Basin Evolution in the North American Midcontinent. Precambrian Research, v. 364, 106332.

Makovsky, K., Samson, S., Moecher, D., and Amidon, W., 2021, Timing of Grenville magmatism in the French Broad Massif, southern Blue Ridge, North Carolina, USA: New in situ zircon U-Pb geochronology and implications for timing of Rodinian Orogenesis in eastern Laurentia. Precambrian Research, v. 363, 106313.

Moecher, D.P., McCulla*, J.K., Massey*, M.A., 2021, Zircon and monazite geochronoogy of the Palmer zone of transpression, south-central New England, USA: Constraints on timing of deformation, high-grade metamorphism, and lithospheric foundering during late Paleozoic oblique collision in the northern Appalachian orogen: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 133, 1021-1038.

Moecher, D.P., Harris*, F., Larkin*, E.A., Walsh*, K.B., Quinn*, R.J., Anderson*, E.D., Satkoski, A.M., Samson, S.D., Tohver, E., 2020, Zircon U-Pb geochronology and Nd-Pb isotope geochemistry of Blue Ridge basement in the eastern Great Smoky Mountains, U.S.A.: Implications for the Proterozoic tectonic evolution of southeastern Laurentia: American Journal of Science, v. 320, p. 677-729.

Zotto*, S.C., Moecher, D.P., Niemi, N.A., Thigpen, J.R., Samson, S.D., 2020, Persistence of Grenville dominance in Laurentian detrital zircon age systematics explained by sedimentary recycling: Evidence from detrital zircon double-dating and detrital monazite textures and geochronology. Geology, v. 48, in press.

Moecher, D.P., Kelly*, E.M., Hietpas, J., Samson, S.D., 2019, Proof of recycling in clastic sedimentary systems from textural analysis and geochronology of detrital monazite: Implications for detrital mineral provenance analysis. Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 131, p. 1115-1132.

Moecher, D.P., Bowersox, J.R., Hickman, J.B., 2018, Zircon U-Pb geochronology of two basement cores (Kentucky, U.S.A.) and implications for Late Mesoproterozoic sedimentation and tectonics in the eastern Midcontinent. Journal of Geology, v. 126, p. 25-39.

Samson, S.D., Moecher, D.P., Satkoski, A., 2018, Inherited, enriched, heated, or recycled? Examining potential causes of Earth's most zircon fertile magmatic episode. Lithos, v. 314-315, p. 350-359.

Massey*, MA., Moecher, D.P., Walker*, T.B., O'Brien*, T., Rohrer*, L.P., 2017, The role and extent of dextral transpression and lateral escape on the post-Acadian tectonic evolution of south-central New England. American Journal of Science, v. 317, p. 34-94.

Leib*, S.E, Moecher, D.P., Steltenpohl, M.G., Andresen, A., 2016, Thermobarometry of metamorphosed pseudotachylyte and associated mylonite: Constraints on dynamic co-seismic rupture depth attending Caledonian extension, north Norway. Tectonophysics, v. 682, p. 85-95.

Moecher, D.P., McDowell, S.M., Samson, S.D., Miller, C.F., 2014, Ti-in-zircon thermometry and crystallization modeling support "hot" Grenville granite hypothesis: Geology, v. 42, 362-365.

Hietpas, J., Samson, S., Speir, J., Moecher, D., 2014. Assessing detrital garnet chemical composition as a quantitative provenance tool: A multivariate statistical approach. J. Sed. Res., v. 83, 1181-1197.

Massey*, M.A., Moecher, D.P., 2013, Transpression, extrusion, partitioning, and lateral escape in the middle crust: significance of structures, fabrics, kinematics, and geochronology in the Bronson Hill zone, southern New England: J. Structural Geol., v. 55, p. 62-78.

Chakraborty, S.*, Moecher, D.P., and Samson, S.D., 2012, Provenance of the Ocoee Supergroup, eastern Great Smoky Mountains: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 124, 1278-1292.

Moecher, D.P., and Steltenpohl, M.G., 2011, Petrologic Evidence for Seismogenic Slip in Extending Middle to Lower Continental Crust: Heier’s Zone of Pseudotachylyte, North Norway: “Geology of the Earthquake Source - a Volume in Honour of Rick Sibson”, Special Publication 359, Geological Society, London, 169-186.

Hietpas, J., Samson, S.D., and Moecher, D.P., 2011, Assessing the utility of detrital monazite as a provenance indicator: Examples from six Appalachian foreland basin clastic units: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 310, 488-497.

Steltenpohl, M.G., Moecher, D.P., Andresen, A., Ball, J., Mager, S., 2011, The Eidsfjord shear zone: an Early Devonian, paleoseismogenic low-angle normal fault exposed in Lofoten-Vesterålen, north Norway: Journal of Structural Geology, v. 33, 1023-1043: doi:10.1016/j.jsg.2011.01.017.

Massey*, M.A., Prior, D.J., and Moecher, D.P., 2011, Microstructure and crystallographic preferred orientation of polycrystalline micro-garnet aggregates developed during flattening, grain boundary sliding, and diffusion creep: Journal of Structural Geology, v. 33, 713-730. doi: 10.1016/j.jsg2010.12.009.

Moecher, D.P., Hietpas, J., Samson, S.D., and Chakraborty, S.*, 2011, Insights into southern Appalachian tectonic history from ages of detrital monazite and zircon in modern alluvium and bedrock sources: Geosphere, v. 7, 494-512. doi: 10.1130/GES00615.1

Hietpas, J., Samson, S., Moecher, D., Chakraborty, S., 2011, Enhancing tectonic and provenance information from detrital zircon studies: Assessing terrane-scale sampling and grain-scale characterization: Journal of the Geological Society-London, v. 168, 309-318. doi: 10.1144/0016-76492009-163.

Saha, A., Dhang, A., Ray, J., Chakraborty, S*., and Moecher, D.P., 2010, Complete preservation of ophiolite suite from south Andaman, India: A mineral-chemical perspective. Journal of Earth System Science, v. 119, 1-16.

Hietpas, J., Samson, S., Moecher, D., and Schmitt, A., 2010, Recovering tectonic events from the sedimentary record: detrital monazite plays in high fidelity. Geology, v. 38, 167-170.

Moecher, D.P., and Steltenpohl, M.G., 2009, Calculation of rupture depth for an exhumed paleoseismogenic fault from mylonitic pseudotachylyte. Geology, v. 37, 999-1002.

Anderson, E.D.*, Moecher, D.P., 2009. Formation of high-pressure metabasites in the southern Appalachian Blue Ridge via continental subduction beneath the Laurentian margin. Tectonics, v. 28, TC4012, doi:10.1029/2008TC002319.

Clemons, K.M.*, Moecher, D.P., 2009. Re-interpretation of the deformation history of the Greenbrier Fault, Great Smoky Mountains: Petrologic, structural, and geochemical constraints: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 120, 1108-1122.

*UK Graduate Student