Montana State University

Bozeman geologist to be honored at Geological Society of America event

May 16, 2014 -- MSU News Service

Geologist Ken Pierce, an MSU affiliated faculty member in the Department of Earth Sciences and geologist emeritus with the U.S. Geological Survey, spent a career doing interdisciplinary research in the Greater Yellowstone. Pierce will be honored for his contributions to the scientific understanding of the Greater Yellowstone region during a joint meeting of the Rocky Mountain and Cordilleran sections of the Geological Society of America, May 19-21 at the Strand Union Building on the Montana State University campus. USGS Photo.   High-Res Available

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BOZEMAN – Geologist Ken Pierce will be honored for his contributions to the scientific understanding of the Greater Yellowstone region during a joint meeting of the Rocky Mountain and Cordilleran sections of the Geological Society of America, May 19-21 at the Strand Union Building on the Montana State University campus. 

Pierce, who is an MSU affiliated faculty member in the Department of Earth Sciences and geologist emeritus with the U.S. Geological Survey, spent a career doing interdisciplinary research in the Greater Yellowstone, with topics that include: Pleistocene glaciations of the Rocky Mountains and adjacent areas; Quaternary faulting and neotectonics; Yellowstone caldera unrest; volcanism, faulting, and uplift along the track of the Yellowstone hotspot; and geologic controls on ecology of the greater Yellowstone area.

“Ken Pierce shows us what one geologist can accomplish when given the opportunity to explore one place – the Greater Yellowstone region – for most of a career,” said Cathy Whitlock, MSU professor of earth sciences and co-director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems. “Ken’s scientific discoveries have expanded our understanding of the Earth system, and his enthusiasm for Yellowstone geology has inspired all who have been lucky enough to spend time in the field with him.”

Pierce will be honored during a session on Wednesday, May 21 from 8 a.m. to noon in the Procrastinator Theater.

Although Pierce officially retired in 2003 he continues to work as geologist emeritus through the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center (NOROCK) in Bozeman, where he publishes geologic reports and maps. He is member of of the USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center based in Denver.

“I have always been fascinated by natural landscapes,” Pierce said. “I have been privileged to work at understanding the geologic origin of the dramatic, as well as subtle, landscapes of the Greater Yellowstone area.”

During his career Pierce was awarded the distinguished Kirk Bryan Award of the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of the Geological Society of America for his 1979 report on Yellowstone glaciation. 

Pierce received his doctoral degree from Yale University in 1964 and joined the USGS regional office in Denver in 1965, where he spent almost 35 years of his career. In 2000, he joined NOROCK to focus on research in the Yellowstone region. He officially retired in 2003 and remains in active emeritus status at NOROCK.

Pierce's work spans much of the fields of Quaternary geology and geomorphology, especially natural landscapes and the geologic processes responsible for their formation.

In 2012, Pierce received the Distinguished Career Award of the American Quaternary Association (AMQUA) and the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of the Geological Society of America.

On May 22, Ken Pierce will lead a field trip entitled “Glacial and Quaternary Geology of the Northern Yellowstone Area, Wyoming and Montana,” taking participants to the Paradise Valley and the northern part of Yellowstone. During the day, the group will focus on: moraines and outwash of the northern Yellowstone outlet glacier, post-glacial vegetation and fire history, Quaternary faulting and volcanism, glacially and landslide-generated flood deposits, Pinedale recessional glacial deposits, and the relationship of glacial deposits to Yellowstone’s Northern Range.

Contact: Suzanna Soileau, (406) 994-7257, ssoileau@usgs.gov.