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Cal Poly Pomona Experts Guide


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Nicholas Van Buer

Nicholas Van Buer applies petrologic and geochronologic techniques to field-based study of tectonics, with an emphasis on geologic mapping. Many of his active projects focus on the Cretaceous volcanic and tectonic history of the Mojave Desert.


In early 2022, Van Buer hiked more than 500 miles across the Mojave Desert from the Mexican border near Yuma, Arizona, to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near Olancha, California. Covering from 6 to 31 miles per day, he crossed 20 wilderness areas and 15 mountain ranges, with elevations ranging from -280 to 7440 feet, and more cumulative elevation gain than climbing Everest from sea level twice.


His goals were to learn more about the desert’s more rarely studied geologic features, collect samples and create a YouTube series to inspire young people to pursue STEM studies. He now uses portions of those videos in his geology classes.


Van Buer is the faculty representative to the California State University Desert Studies Consortium, serving as vice chair since 2022. As a postdoctoral associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he  led a geologic mapping expedition to the Indian Himalaya where the team discovered a new active fault.


Selected Publications:

  • With R.C. Economos, K.A. Howard, C.F. Miller and D.M. Miller, “Cretaceous Plutonic Rocks of the Mojave Desert: GSA Cordilleran and Rocky Mountain Joint Section Meeting Field Trip, March 12-14,”  2022
  • With S.F. Trevino, B. Tikoff, S.J. Wyld and H. McLachlan, “Exploring the emplacement of Cretaceous arc granites and dextral shear zones in northwestern Nevada, USA, using the StraboSpot data system” in GSA Section Meeting Guides: Geological Society of America Field Guide 61 (J. Florsheim, C. Koeberl, N. Riggs and M.P. McKay, eds., 2021)
  • With D.Z. Shulaker, M. Grove, J.K. Hourigan, G. Sharman, K. Howard, J. Miller and A.P. Barth, “Detrital K-feldspar Pb isotopic evaluation of extraregional sediment transported through an Eocene tectonic breach of southern California’s Cretaceous batholith,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters v. 508, p. 5-17, 2019
  • With O. Jagoutz, R. Upadhyay and M. Guillong, “Mid-crustal detachment beneath western Tibet exhumed where conjugate Karakoram and Longmu–Gozha Co faults intersect,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters v. 413, p. 144-157, 2015
  • Preliminary Geologic map of the Sahwave and Nightingale Ranges, Pershing County, Nevada,” Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Open File 12-2, 1:62,500 scale, 12 p. text, 2012
  • With E.L. Miller, “The Sahwave Batholith, NW Nevada: Cretaceous arc flare-up in a basinal terrane,” Lithosphere v. 2, p. 423-446, 2010
  • With E.L. Miller and T.A. Dumitru, “Early Tertiary paleogeologic map of the northern Sierra Nevada Batholith and the northwestern Basin and Range,” Geology v. 37 (4), p. 371-374, 2009



B.S., Geology, California Institute of Technology

Ph.D., Geology, Stanford University

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