Montana State University

Department of Earth Sciences

Montana State University
P.O. Box 173480
Bozeman, MT 59717-3480

Tel: (406) 994-3331
Fax: (406) 994-6923
Location: 226 Traphagen Hall

Department Chair

Dr. David Mogk

Kenneth L. Pierce

Affiliate Professor of Geology

Contact Information



B.A., Stanford University, 1959
Ph.D., Yale University, 1964

Research Interests

My research is in the field of Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology. I am interested in natural landscapes and the geologic processes responsible for their formation. My research has focused on the following topics (see references):

    • Pleistocene glaciations of the Rocky Mountains and adjacent areas.
    • Yellowstone caldera unrest
    • The track of the Yellowstone hotspot: Volcanism, faulting and uplift
    • Quaternary faulting and neotectonics
    • Geologic controls on ecology of the greater Yellowstone area

Committee Participation

I have appreciated serving on the following student committees, and as of December 2004, I am on about 4 additional graduate student thesis committees.

  • Cal Ruleman, 2002, Quaternary tectonic activity within the northern area of the Yellowstone tectonic parabola and associated seismic hazards, southwest Montana
  • Denny Capps, 2004, Glacial geology of the Lake Ashley area, northwest Montana
  • Nicole Davis, 2004, Glacial lake Musselshell, central Montana
  • Scott Patterson, 2006, Sedimentology and geomorphology of quaternary alluvial fans with implications to growth strata, Lost River Range, Idaho
  • Karen Jacobs, 2006, Fire and vegetation history of the last 2000 years in Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • Falene Petrick, 2008, Scarp analyusis of the Centennial normal fault, Beaverhead County, Montana and Fremont county, Idaho
  • Mariana Huerta, 2008, Postglacial vegetation, fire, and climate history of Blacktail Pond, northern Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Selected Publications

Licciardi, J.M., and Pierce, K.L., 2008, Cosmogenic exposure-age chronologies of Pinedale and Bull Lake glaciations in greater Yellowstone and the Teton Range, USA: Quaternary Science REviews 27, p. 814-831, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.12.005.

Morgan, L.A., Pierce, K.L., and Shanks, W.C., 2008, Track of the Yellowstone hotspot: Young and ongoing geologic processes from the Snake River Plain to the Yellowstone Plateau and Tetons: Geological Society of America Field Guide 10, p.

Pierce, K.L., Despain, D.G., Morgan, L.A., and Good, J.M., 2007, The Yellowstone hotspot, greater Yellowstone ecosystem, and human geography, in Morgan, LAl (Ed.), Integrated Geoscience STudies in the Greater Yellowstone Area--Volcanic, Tectonic, and Hydrothermal Processes in the Yellowstone Geoecosystem, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1717, p. 1-40.

Saunders, A.D., Jones, S.M., Morgan, L.A., Pierce, K.L., Widdowson, M., and Xu, Y.G., 2007, Regional uplift associated with continental large igneous provinces: The roles of mantle plumes and the lithospere, in I.H. Campbell and A.C. Kerr, editors: Chemical Geology, v. 241, Issues 3-4, p.  (2007), doi:10.106/j.chemgeo.2007.01.017.

Pierce, K.L., Cannon, K.P., Meyer, G.A., Trebesch, M.J., and Watts, Raymond, 2007, Post-Glaicial Inflation-Deflation Cycles, Tilting, and Faulting in the Yellowstone Caldera Based on Yellowstone Lake Shorelines, in Morgan, L.A., editor, Integrated Geoscience Studies in the Greater Yellowstone Area--Volcanic, Tectonic, and Hydrothermal Processess in the Yellowstone Geoecosystem, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1717, Chapter E, p. 131-168.

Pierce, K.L., 2004, Pleistocene glaciations of the Rocky Mountains, in Gillespie, A.R., Porter, S.C., and Atwater, B.F., eds., The Quaternary Period in the United States: Developments in Quaternary Science, v. 1, Elsevier Amsterdam, p. 63-76.

Parrett, Charles, Cannon, Susan, and Pierce, K.L., 2004, Wildfire-related floods and debris flows in Montana in 2000 and 2001: U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Investigations Report WRIR 03-4319, 22 p.

Pierce, K.L., Despain, D.G., Whitlock, Cathy, Cannon, K.P., Meyer, Grant, Morgan, Lisa, and Licciardi, J.M., 2003, Quaternary geology and ecology of the Greater Yellowstone area, in Easterbrook, D. J., editor, Quaternary Geology of the United States, INQUA 2003 Field Guide Volume, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada, p. 313-344.

Love, J.D., Reed, J.C., Jr., and Pierce, K.L., 2003, Creation of the Teton Landscape, a Geological Chronicle of Jackson Hole and the Teton Range, Grand Teton Natural History Association, Moose, Wyoming, 132 p.

Pierce, K.L., Morgan, L.A., and Saltus, R.W., 2002, Yellowstone plume head: Postulated tectonic relations to the Vancouver slab, continental boundaries, and climate, in Bill Bonnichsen, C.M. White, and Michael McCurry, editors, Tectonic and Magmatic Evolution of the Snake River Plain Volcanic Province: Idaho Geological Survey Bulletin 30, p 5-33.

Pierce, K.L, Cannon, K.P., Meyer, G.A. w J. Trebesch, M.J., and Watts, Raymond, 2002, Post-Glacial Inflation-Deflation Cycles, Tilting, and Faulting in the Yellowstone Caldera Based on Yellowstone Lake Shorelines, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-0142, 30 p plus 16 Figures and 4 tables.

Machette, M.N., Pierce, K.L., McCalpin, J.P., Haller, K.M., and Dart, R.L., 2001, Map and data for Quaternary faults and folds in Wyoming: U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 01-461, map and 155 pages.

Licciardi, J.M., Clark, P.U., Brook, E.J., Pierce, K.L., Kurz, M.D., Elmore, D., and Sharma, P., 2001, Cosmogenic 3He and 10Be Chronologies of the Northern Outlet Glacier of the Yellowstone Ice Cap, Montana, USA, Quaternary Research, v. 29, no 12, p. 1095-1098.

Pierce, K.L., and Friedman, Irving, 2000, Obsidian hydration dating of Quaternary events, in Noller, J.S., Sowers, J.M., and Lettis. W.R. editors, Quaternary Geochronology, Methods and Applications: AGU Reference Shelf 4, p. 223-240.

Pierce, K.L., Lundstrom, Scott, and Good, John, 1998, Geologic setting of archeological sites in the Jackson Lake area, Wyoming, in Connor, Melissa, Final Report on the Jackson Lake Archeological Project, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: Midwest Archeological Center, National Park Service, Lincoln, Neb., Technical Report No. 46, p. 29-48 and 19 figures on p. 222-242.

Good, J.D., and Pierce, K.L., 1996, Interpreting the Landscapes of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Recent and Ongoing Geology: Grand Teton National History Association, 58 p. 57 illus., Second printing, revised and reprinted, 1998.

Sturchio, N.C., Pierce, K.L., Morrell, M.T., and Sorey, M.L., 1994, Uranium-series ages of travertines and timing of the last glaciation in the northern Yellowstone area, Wyoming-Montana: Quaternary Research, v. 41, p. 265-277.

Smith, R.B., Pierce, K.L., and Wold, R.J., 1993, Seismic surveys and Quaternary history of Jackson Lake, Wyoming, in Snoke, A.W., Steidtmann, J.R., and Roberts, S.M., Geology of Wyoming: Wyoming Geological Survey Memoir No. 5, p. 668-693.

Pierce, K.L., and Good, J.D., 1992, Field guide to the Quaternary geology of Jackson Hole, Wyoming: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 92-504, 49 p.

Pierce, K.L., and Morgan, L.A., 1992, The track of the Yellowstone hot spot--volcanism, faulting and uplift, in Link, P.K., Kuntz, M.A., and Platt, L.W., eds., Regional geology of eastern Idaho and western Wyoming: Geological Society of America Memoir 179 (in honor of Steve Oriel), p. 1-53, 24 figs., 1 color map.

Colman, S.M., and Pierce, K.L., 1992, Varied records of early Wisconsin Alpine glaciation in the Western United States derived from weathering-rind thicknesses, in Clark, P.U., and Lea, P.D., eds., The last interglacial-glacial transition in North America: Geological Society of America Special Paper 270, p. 269-278.

Pierce, K.L., Adams, K.D., and Sturchio, N.C., 1991, Geologic setting of the Corwin Springs Known Geothermal Resource area-Mammoth Hot Springs area in and adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, in M.L. Sorey, editor, Effects of potential geothermal development in the Corwin Springs Known Geothermal Resource Area, Montana, on the thermal features of Yellowstone National Park: U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigations Report 91-4052, p. C-1 to C-37.

Colman, S.M., and Pierce, K.L., 1991, Summary of Quaternary dating methods, chapter 3 of Rosholt, J.N., ed., Dating methods applicable to the Quaternary, in Morrison, R.B., Quaternary nonglacial geology of the conterminous United States: Geological Society of America, DNAG V. K-2, p. 45-46, and large chart 35 x 28 inches.

Pierce, K.L., and Colman, S.M., 1986, Effect of height and orientation (microclimate) on geomorphic degradation rates and processes, late glacial terrace scarps in central Idaho: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 97, p. 869-885.

Colman, S.M., and Pierce, K.L., 1986, The glacial sequence near McCall, Idaho--weathering rinds, soil development, morphology, and other relative-age criteria: Quaternary Research, v. 25, p. 25-42.

Pierce, K.L., 1986, Dating methods, in Active tectonics: National Research Council, Geophysics Study Committee, Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, p. 195-214.

Scott, W.E., Pierce, K.L., and Hait, M.H., Jr., 1985, Quaternary tectonic setting of the 1983 Borah Peak earthquake, central Idaho: Seismological Society of America Bulletin, v. 75, p. 1053-1066.

Porter, S.C., Pierce, K.L., and Hamilton, T.D., 1983, Late Pleistocene glaciation in the Western United States, in Porter, S.C., ed., The Late Pleistocene, v. 1, of Wright, H.E., Jr., ed., Late Quaternary Environments of the United States: Minneapolis, Minn., University of Minnesota Press, p. 71-111.

Pierce, K.L., Covington, H.R., Williams, P.W., and McIntyre, P.L., 1983, Geologic map of the Cotterel Mountains and northern Raft River valley, Cassia County, Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Investigations Series Map I-1450, scale 1:48,000, 18 ms.-p. text, 2 cross sections, 3 figs., 1 table.

Pierce, K.L., and Scott, W.E., 1982, Pleistocene episodes of alluvial-gravel deposition, southeastern Idaho, in Bonnichsen, Bill, and Breckenridge, R.M., eds., Cenozoic geology of Idaho: Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 26, p. 685-702.

Pierce, K.L., Fosberg, M.A., Scott, W.E., Lewis, G.C., and Colman, S. M., 1982, Loess deposits of southeastern Idaho--age and correlation of the upper two loess units, in Bonnichsen, Bill, and Breckenridge, R.M., eds., Cenozoic geology of Idaho: Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 26, p. 717-725.

Colman, S.M., and Pierce, K.L., 1981, Weathering rinds on andesitic and basaltic stones as a Quaternary age indicator, Western United States: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1210, 56 p., 21 figs., 7 tables, 3 app.

Pierce, K.L., 1979, History and dynamics of glaciation in the northern Yellowstone National Park area: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 729 F, 91 p., 4 pls., 51 figs., 8 tables.

Schmidt, P.W., and Pierce, K.L., 1976, Mapping of mountain soils west of Denver, Colorado, for land-use planning, in Coates, D.R., ed., Geomorphology and engineering: Binghampton, N.Y., Geomorphology, State University of New York, p. 43-54, 7 figs., 1 table.

Pierce, K.L., Obradovich, J.D., and Friedman, Irving, 1976, Obsidian hydration dating and correlation of Bull Lake and Pinedale glaciations near West Yellowstone, Montana: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 87, p. 703-710, 5 figs.

Pierce, K.L., 1971-1974, 4 sole authored and 5 co-authored maps of the surficial geology of Yellowstone National Park.

Pierce, K.L., and Armstrong, R.L., 1966, Tuscarora fault, an Acadian (?) bedding-plane fault in the central Appalachian Valley and Ridge province: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin 50, no. 2, p. 385-390, 3 figs.

Pierce, K.L., 1966, Bedrock and surficial geology of the McConnellsburg quadrangle, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Atlas 109a, 4th series, 111 p., 3 pls., 19 figs.

Pierce, K.L., 1965, Geomorphic significance of a Cretaceous deposit in the Great Valley of southern Pennsylvania, in Geological Survey Research 1965: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 525-C, p. C152-C156, 4 figs.