Graduate Opportunities

Graduate opportunities  at Northern Arizona University.

The Dust-Drought Nexus in the Four Corners Region

We invite applications for prospective Ph.D. students interested in conducting research on how dust and drought interact as part of this newly-funded 5-year project.

Drought and dust in southwestern US are strongly linked, and the Colorado Plateau is a model laboratory for understanding their interaction in a changing climate. Drought kills plants, increasing dust in the atmosphere, inhibiting convection, exacerbating and prolonging drought. Dust accumulation on snow accelerates snowmelt, altering the water budget. Dust transports nutrients and microorganisms, affecting plant growth and disease. These impacts influence air quality and water security for the region, and food security for the nation. Despite this, dust-drought-climate interactions have received little attention.

Interested students should apply to the PhD Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability – Climate and Environmental Change emphasis.

Paleoclimate Informatics

We invite applications for prospective graduate students interested in researching and developing paleoclimate infrastructure. Paleoclimatology is a highly collaborative and increasing data-driven science; however the cyberinfrastructure and informatics framework for paleoclimatic research is just beginning to be developed. Our lab is leading the development of this new discipline, and we seek prospective graduate students with background and/or strong interest in both paleoclimate and data science to contribute to ongoing funded research.

Students in this research area will pursue a graduate degree (MS or PhD) through the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, and will also be involved in research and coursework through the newly formed School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Security.

Arctic Glacial Lakes, Catchments and Climate Linkages

We invite applications from prospective graduate students to join our NSF-funded project focusing on glacial-lacustrine sedimentation to investigate past and future climate change. This interdisciplinary project is aimed at understanding the major processes that govern sedimentation in Arctic lakes in glaciated catchments. New glacier, hydrology, limnology, and sediment modern-process studies will provide the input data to calibrate and test process-based earth system models. Students will be involved in Arctic fieldwork, where they will gain a more comprehensive understanding of how glaciers, hydrology, and lakes relate to the Arctic system. Please contact Darrell Kaufman or Nick McKay for more information, or visit the project website:

Degree options include:

               • MS Geology

               • MS Environmental Sciences & Policy – Paleoenvironments emphasis

               • PhD Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability – Climate and Environmental Change emphasis


Sedimentary records of annual- to millennial-scale Holocene climate in southern Alaska

Applications are invited for graduate students to study Holocene climatic variability in southern Alaska based on proxy climate evidence from lake sediments. Field sites include both glacial-fed and non-glacial lakes from which sediments can be analyzed for a variety of biological and physical properties and used to infer hydroclimatic variability on time scales ranging from annual to millennial. Volcanic ash layers and annually laminated sediment provide the basis for precise geochronology.  These new records will build on a strong regional network of proxy proxy climate records from tree rings glacier ice and other sources to improve the understanding of how shifts in the mean state of climate during the Holocene were associated with changes in north Pacific climate variability. Contact Darrell Kaufman for more information.

 Degree options include:

               • MS Geology

               • MS Environmental Sciences & Policy – Paleoenvironments emphasis

               • PhD Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability – Climate and Environmental Change emphasis


USGS AstroGeology (Flagstaff) - NAU project:  Flynn Creek crater project


 ***  Two years of funding for fall 2015 to Spring/summer 2017

Flynn Creek crater is a 3.8 km diameter, 360 million year old impact structure located in north central Tennessee. The impactor that produced the crater likely struck a shallow sea, punching a flat hole into underlying Ordovician marine limestones, with the crater being filled with black Devonian muds that underwent lithification to become the Chattanooga Shale. Between 1967 and 1979, Dr. David Roddy of the USGS conducted a drilling program at Flynn Creek crater. The drilling program produced more than 3.8 km of nearly continuous core from 18 separate bore holes. These samples are now contained in 2,600 standard core storage boxes archived at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona. Using these cores, previous studies have laid the groundwork for understanding this unique impact structure. Since those initial studies, new techniques and technological advancements have made it possible to revisit this crater and the drill core collection such we can fill gaps in the knowledge base and further define the spectrum of marine impact craters. The overarching goal of this three year project is to first document and characterize the drill cores using a combination of bulk rock and microbeam analyses, which in turn will be used to inform and constrain numerical models of the impact event. This intentionally broad approach will use iterations between complementary techniques to address multiple, critical issues regarding the effects of carbonate melting, shock deformation, and impact-induced hydrothermal activity within a well-document marine impact crater. 

Contact for more information:  

Project details:  Dr. Justin J. Hagerty

U.S. Geological Survey

Office Phone: (928) 556-7173




SESES Graduate School Program Inquiries, please contact Amy Wolkwinsky, Graduate Program Coordinator