Research Update!

I write this post with the hope of stumbling upon a mental strategy to narrow down my own research question for my Master’s thesis. This past weekend I completed my first round of field work in north-central New Mexico, focusing on finding evidence to elucidate the evolution of the Rio Grande and its tributaries. I couldn’t have asked for better winter weather, or better people to aid in my field efforts. I was able to collect samples of sand and gravel from river terraces and samples of basalt that overlie and underlie these terraces. I will use geochronologic techniques to obtain accurate ages of these samples with the hope of understanding the timing of river incision and aggradation of the Rio Grande. This data would allow me to tap into several different conundrums, which I will need to define more precisely.

Collecting basalt samples with help from Matt Heizler!
Collecting basalt samples with help from Matt Heizler!
Standing on the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge
Standing on the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge

Joining my advisor and me were several veteran geologists who have mapped all over the Rio Grande river basin in northern New Mexico, and shared with me their incredible wealth of knowledge on the area. If it weren’t for them, I would not have been able to differentiate river terrace gravels from alluvial fan or rift fill deposits, nor would I have been able to identify the provenance of the terrace gravels once they were found. If it weren’t for these guys I also wouldn’t be having such a difficult time narrowing down my thesis topic. After learning so much from them, I discovered how many questions about the Rio Grande’s evolution remain unanswered, and how much of the river valley needs to be remapped! Having so many possibilities it quite wondrous, however, for now I need to focus on one problem and try to solve that problem.


1. Make a list of all possible research problems that I could solve.

2. Find a way to encompass all listed problems into one cohesive question.

Easier said than done I suppose.

Wish me luck!

Red River gorge with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background



One thought on “Research Update!

  1. WOW Marisa….you are traveling along the Beauty & Wonder that Mother Earth has formed as The Rio Grande. Wish I could help you out by suggesting a name for your Thesis, but you are now Out of My League (or am I out of your league?). But I will Wish You Luck with this truly adventurous Project.
    All The Best,


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