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About Cliff Riebe

My lab group focuses much of its research on the critical zone -- the life-sustaining layer that extends from the top of vegetation to the lower limits of groundwater at depth under soil. As the interface between air and rock, the critical zone integrates everything from the biologically-mediated breakdown of minerals to the effects of climate change and tectonics on soil formation and sediment transport. Hence, there's lots of exciting, cross-disciplinary potential in the work we do.
My group's interest in the critical zone stems at least in part from recognition that Earth's surface is where we all live. To find a way to live sustainably on this planet before it's too late, people of the world will need to overcome many hurdles, including some that arise from an incomplete understanding of how the critical zone will respond to perturbations such as climate change and land-use intensification.
My group's recent work on quantifying factors that affect the quality of salmonid spawning substrates in rivers is an example of the kind of Earth-surface research that can shed light on optimizing critical zone services in an increasingly managed world. Although such short-term studies are important, it's also crucial to have a solid appreciation for the context of human-induced change, gained from understanding how the critical zone has evolved over long timescales. Hence, quantifying long-term rates and styles of Earth surface processes is major thrust my group's research.
In our studies of surface processes, my group employs a variety of techniques including: cosmogenic nuclide methods, which reveal long-term rates of physical erosion and chemical weathering of soils and rock; detrital thermochronology, which sheds light on the sources of eroded material in streams and sedimentary deposits; and near-surface geophysics, which reveals the architecture of weathering and water storage potential in the critical zone. Together these measurements yield quantitative insights on erosion, weathering, regolith formation, watershed geochemistry, and landscape evolution. Hence our measurements are key to making advances on many cutting edge problems in critical zone research.


Present Assistant Professor of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming


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Contact Information

Office Phone: 1 307 766-3965
1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, Wyoming 82071
Office: ESB 2008