Geochronology Facility

Members of the Geochronology Lab use a laser or a furnace to melt grains of rock and release argon gas, which they can date using a mass spectrometer and the 40-argon/39-argon dating technique. They use this method to solve geological and geophysical mysteries in Alaska and elsewhere, including the eruptive history of Alaska’s volcanoes, the rate of uplift of Alaska’s mountains, and the tectonic history of Alaska and Russia. Lab users have dated fragments of stone-age tools in an attempt to find the sources of the tools and ancient trading patterns.


Dr. Paul W. Layer (Lab Supervisor)

2016 Analytical Fees




A large number of the glaciers along the Denali Fault are surge-type glaciers.

UAF College of Natural Science and Mathematics

UAF Geology Department


Student Research Opportunities

University of Alaska Undergraduates:

Please contact Dr. Benowitz and/or Dr. Layer if you are interested in taking part in an undergraduate research project involving geochronology techniques.

Past-ongoing undergraduate projects:

Kailyn Davis: Paleo-drainage history of the Nenana River as a proxy for the topographic development history of the Alaska Range.

Patrick Terhune: Uplift history of Mount Prindle, Alaska.

Galen Vansant: Long-term slip history of the eastern Denali Fault.

Graduate students:

Please contact Dr. Benowitz and/or Dr. Layer if you are interested in pursuing a graduate program involving geochronology applications.

Patrick Terhune assisting Dr. Benowitz

Patrick Terhune assisting Dr. Benowitz with an NSF-funded project investigating the Mount McKinley restraining bend

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