Research Facilities

The Department of Earth Sciences benefits from a number of laboratory and computing facilities located both in the department and around campus. Faculty and students routinely utilize these resources in their research.

OHAZ sensor installed in the field to help detect impending natural hazards

Oregon Hazards Lab

An important part of our department, the Oregon Hazards Lab (OHAZ) uses science, technology, and community engagement to understand, monitor, and mitigate multi-hazards within the Pacific Northwest. Our work advances knowledge of natural and human-caused hazards and the environment, it helps to protect the public, and it contributes to community-level resilience.

OHAZ currently partners in the following efforts: 

  • Pacific Northwest Seismic Network: The West Coast of the United States, and in particular, the Pacific Northwest, has constant seismic activity. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, a collaboration of the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, locates more than 1,400 earthquakes a year greater than magnitude 1.0 in Washington and Oregon. The University of Oregon, through faculty and associated technicians, is responsible for maintaining and monitoring sensors and stations located in Oregon. Data from PNSN contribute to scientific discovery and public safety.
  • ShakeAlert™ is an earthquake early warning (EEW) system that detects significant earthquakes so quickly that alerts can reach many people before shaking arrives. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) along with a coalition of State and university partners is developing and testing the ShakeAlert™ system for the west coast of the United States. In August 2020, The Oregon Legislature awarded OHAZ $7.5M to complete the buildout of Oregon’s ShakeAlert seismic and telemetry network by the year 2023. ShakeAlert will begin delivering alerts to the public in March, 2021.
  • ALERTWildfire is a consortium of three universities—The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), University of California San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Oregon (UO)—providing access to state-of-the-art Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) fire cameras and associated tools to help firefighters and first responders: (1) discover/locate/confirm fire ignition, (2) quickly scale fire resources up or down appropriately, (3) monitor fire behavior through containment, (4) during firestorms, help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness, and (5) ensure contained fires are monitored appropriately through their demise.

Contact OHAZ director, Professor Doug Toomey, for more information.


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Condon Fossil Collection

The Department of Earth Sciences continues to foster a long-standing link with the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The personal fossil collection of Thomas Condon, first professor of Geology at UO, formed the nucleus of the Condon Fossil Collection, which currently numbers around 100,000 specimens. Currently, several Earth sciences faculty and emeriti are involved in the growth and curation of the Condon Collection. As a living research collection, new specimens are constantly being added, both through fieldwork by department faculty and through donations from both professional and amateur paleontologists.

Through its continuous growth, the Condon Collection is steadily becoming a better representation of Oregon’s natural history. Fossil vertebrates and plants from the John Day region in the eastern part of the state have been famous worldwide since Condon’s collections were published in the 19th century; but new collections made over the past 10 years at several late Pleistocene sites at Woodburn, Oregon, in Marion County, have yielded a trove of bones of vertebrates such as camel, bison, and rodents, along with plants and seeds. These fossils come from organic-rich silts and peat layers, a bog setting that is unique within Oregon and, indeed, to the west coast.

The Condon Collection is the only professionally curated university museum fossil collection in Oregon, ranking twelfth in the United States in number of specimens of fossil vertebrates. Historic photographs, field notebooks, a library, as well as skeletons of many recent animals are also maintained by the Condon Collection.

As we move further into the 21st century, the Condon Collection will have an increasing web presence. Currently under development are a web database for searching the collection, using Specify, and a series of web galleries featuring important fossils from both Dr. Condon’s original collection and from our extensive collection of type specimens.

For information about the Condon Collection, call or email Greg Retallack (541-346-4558) or Edward Davis (541-346-3461), and visit the Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

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Experimental Petrology Lab

The department’s experimental petrology lab is directed by James Watkins and is very well-equipped for experimental studies at pressures to about 35 kbar (3.5 GPa, ~500,000 psi, equivalent to about 100 km depth in the Earth), temperatures to ~1500°C, and in some circumstances, with controlled oxygen fugacity.

This lab features:

Two endloaded, 1/2” solid medium piston cylinder apparatii

The larger has a nested ram design with stacked hydraulic cylinders producing up to 300 tons of endload force and 100 tons of master ram force. The smaller press has opposed hydraulic rams, each with a 50 ton capacity. Experimental temperatures are generated resistively with straight walled graphite heater tubes, usually within CaF2 based pressure cells. Temperature is measured and controlled with W5Re/W25Re thermocouples and Eurotherm 808 PID controllers. Quench rates of ~250°/second are possible with this equipment.

Two Deltec VT-31 one atmosphere gas-mixing vertical quench furnaces

These furnaces operate at ambient pressure and allow control of experimental temperature and oxygen fugacity. The furnaces have internal bores of 1.25” and 1.50”. Experimental oxygen fugacities (fO2) are controlled with CO2/H2 mixtures and are measured with ZrO2-based solid electrolyte fO2 sensors using platinum electrodes and breathable grade air as a reference gas. Temperatures are measured with Pt/Pt10Rh thermocouples.

Deltec furnaces, to the left and right, are capable of temperatures to about 1500°C, achieved with MoSi2 elements. Oxygen fugacity is varied and controlled by mixing CO2 and H2 through the mixing panel in the center. Eurotherm 808 controllers (beneath furnaces) control temperature and the emf of the oxygen sensors is monitored using the multimeter on the shelf in the center.

Two rapid-quench cold-seal apparatii with computer-controlled pressure and temperature cycling

These devices were installed in 2007 and combine commercially available- and UO shop-built components to provide a capability not provided by either of the other types of equipment. In particular, this equipment operates at pressures to 2 kbar, greater than possible in the gas-mixing furnaces, and lower than possible in the piston-cylinders. Samples are contained in hot bombs of Rene 41 Ni/Co-based superalloy, coupled to cold bombs of stainless steel, by a coupling nut through which cooling water flows, enabling the rapid quench. Temperature is generated by external furnaces controlled with chromel/alumel thermocouples. The strength limitations of the Rene 41 material limit these devices to 2 kbar and about 900°C, so they are used primarily in studies of subvolcanic, volcanic conduit, and hydrothermal processes. Automation of P and T cycling is accomplished with PCs running LabView software.

Ancillary equipment

The lab also contains all necessary sample preparation and support equipment including a UO shop-built carbon arc microwelder, microbalance, lathe, drill press, diamond wafering saw, drying furnaces, bench hydraulic press, etc.

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Departmental Computing Facility

The departmental computing facility is located in 101 Cascade.


Research in the Department of Earth Sciences is supported by a centralized computational facility maintained by the College of Arts and Sciences Information Technology (CASIT) department. CASIT provides a wide range of services for our faculty and students including access to numerous software applications and licenses and support and education for those using UO’s high performance parallel computing cluster, ACISS.


The Department of Earth Sciences owns a 16-workstation computer lab uniquely designed for enhanced instructor-student interaction. Each workspace contains two student-controlled desktop machines and a third central monitor controlled by the instructor.

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Other Research Facilities

Microanalytical Facility

Stable Isotope Laboratory

High Performance Computing Cluster

Price Science Commons Research Library

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