Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability
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Associate Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsThe research interests in the Sperling Lab are Earth history and the evolution of life, and the interactions between the biosphere and the geosphere. As such this research can generally be considered paleontology, insofar as paleontology encompasses all aspects of the history of life.
Consequently, we define our research agenda by the questions we are interested in, rather than the tools used. This research incorporates multiple lines of evidence, and multiple tools, to investigate questions in the history of life. These lines of evidence include fossil data, molecular phylogenetics, sedimentary geochemistry, and developmental and ecological data from modern organisms. Ultimately, the goal is to link environmental change with organismal and ecological response through the lens of physiology.
Our field research takes place all over the world--current areas include:
-NW Canada (Yukon and Northwest Territories): Research has been conducted on the early Neoproterozoic Fifteenmile Group, Cryogenian and Ediacaran Windermere Supergroup, and on the Ordovician-Devonian Road River Group in the southern Richardson Mountains
-Southern Canadian Cordillera: Work here has focused on the early Cambrian Mural Formation and its soft-bodied fauna.
-England and Wales: Cambrian-Silurian successions in the Welsh Basin
-Namibia: Ediacaran Nama Group
-Upwelling zones: We study the oxygen minimum zone offshore California as an analogue for ancient low-oxygen oceans.
Professor of Geological Sciences, Emeritus
Current Research and Scholarly Interestsstructure and dynamics of crystalline, glassy, and molten inorganic materials and how these relate to geologically and technologically important properties and processes; solid state Nuclear Magnetic Resoance (NMR); mineralogy; igneous petrology; glass science
Associate Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and, by courtesy, of Civil and Environmental Engineering and of Geophysics
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsRock Physics, Fossil Energy Exploration, Volcanic and Geothermal Environments and Microseismicity
Anjani D Varma
Assistant Director of Student Services, Earth & Planetary Sciences
Current Role at StanfordStudent Services Officer for Undergrads, Coterms & Masters at Materials Science and Engineering Dept.
Adrian A. Wackett
Ph.D. Student in Geological Sciences, admitted Autumn 2022
BioAdrian A. Wackett was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota (unceded Wahpekute/Dakota lands). He double majored in Chemistry and Geosciences at Trinity University (TX) before returning to Saint Paul and completing his MS degree in Land & Atmospheric Sciences (specifically pedology/biogeochemistry) at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he studied global w'o'rming. Before coming to Stanford as an NSF GRFP Fellow he traveled extensively through Latin America and SE Asia (by bike) and worked as an independent researcher affiliated with the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Umeå University and the Climate Impacts Research Centre in Abisko, Sweden. He is broadly curious in learning how the world works, and this informs his outlook towards research. Previous topics of inquiry include: coupling ant bioturbation to the erosion and weathering of hillslope soils in SE Australia, exploring earthworm invasions and their deterministic effects on soil carbon stocks and forms in Fennoscandian and Alaskan forests, and examining the biogeochemical diversity of ‘black smoker’ plume particles at deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
Postdoctoral Scholar, Geological Sciences
BioXiaolong Wei is a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Stanford University. He is a member of the Stanford Mineral-X Initiative. Xiaolong focuses on addressing significant challenges associated with critical mineral exploration, and leading to a step change in the discovery of new mineral deposits.
Xiaolong is currently working with Prof. Jef Caers on exploring nickel, cobalt, and copper resources as well as quantifying the uncertainties of mineral deposits in the Mufulira area of Zambia using geochemical and geophysical measurements.
Before joining Stanford, Xiaolong received his Ph.D. in geophysics advised by Prof. Jiajia Sun at University of Houston in 2022. His doctoral dissertation has made innovative contributions to airborne gravity and magnetic methods of exploring minerals. Xiaolong developed effective methods to analyze the spatial variabilities of geological units and the uncertainties of geophysical (joint) inversions.
Xiaolong has extensive experience with real field case studies. He has explored for niobium in the Elk Creek, Nebraska, metagabbro in the north-east Iowa, diamond in the Northwest Territories, copper-gold in the Quest, British Columbia, and nickel-cobalt-copper in the Mufulira, Zambia.
Xiaolong is a passionate volunteer in the community. He has been a peer-reviewer for Geophysics, GJI, Geophysical Prospecting, IEEE TGRS, Geocarto International, and SEG conference proceedings. He chaired the Mining Session at the IMAGE (SEG and AAPG joint annual meeting) in 2021 and 2022.
Jane Kathryn Willenbring
Associate Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and, by courtesy of Earth System Science
BioJane Willenbring joined Stanford as an Associate Professor in the summer of 2020. Jane is a geologist who solves problems related to the Earth surface. Her research is primarily done to understand the evolution of the Earth’s surface - especially how landscapes are affected by tectonics, climate change, and life. She and her research group use geochemical techniques, high-resolution topographic data, field observations, and, when possible, couple these data to landscape evolution numerical models and ice sheet models. The geochemical tools she uses and develops often include cosmogenic nuclide systems, which provide powerful, novel methods to constrain rates of erosion and mineral weathering. Jane has also started to organize citizen science campaigns and apply basic science principles to problems of human health with an ultimate broader impact goal of cleaning up urban areas and environments impacted by agriculture. She received her B.Sc. with honors from the North Dakota State University where she was a McNair Scholar and in the NDSU scholars program. She holds a Masters degree from Boston University. Her Ph.D. is in Earth Science from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada where she was a Killam Scholar. She was a Synthesis Postdoctoral Fellow through the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics at the Saint Anthony Falls Lab at the University of Minnesota, and an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow and then subsequently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Helmholz GFZ Potsdam, Germany. Jane was previously an Associate Professor in the Geosciences Research Division and Thomas and Evelyn Page Chancellor's Endowed Faculty Fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego where she was the director of the Scripps Cosmogenic Isotope Laboratory (SCI-Lab). She was also a tenure-track professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She will be a Stanford University Gabilan Faculty Fellow in 2021-2023. She is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and was the inaugural recipient of the Marguerite T. Williams award from the American Geophysical Union.
Research Administrator 3, Earth & Planetary Sciences
Current Role at StanfordJeff is responsible for supporting the Earth & Planetary Sciences Department’s sponsored grants portfolio and faculty members' financial accounts. Jeff assists faculty members with budgeting and submitting sponsored research proposals, and managing the financial aspects of their sponsored awards. Additionally, Jeff serves as a department financial liaison with other university departments and schools, the Office of Sponsored Research and other academic institutions involved in collaborative research projects.
Ph.D. Student in Geological Sciences, admitted Autumn 2018
Masters Student in Geophysics, admitted Autumn 2021
BioHong Yang is currently a PhD student in Geological Science working with Wendy L. Mao. He joined Mao’s lab at Stanford University in 2018, after finishing his Master’s Degree at HPSTAR, Shanghai, where he was supervised by Jung-Fu Lin. His Master’s thesis focused on the experimental determination of iron isotopic fractionation behavior of lower mantle phases using the Synchrotron X-ray technique NRIXS. Before that, he was an undergraduate majoring in Geochemistry at the University of Science and Technology of China. There he performed the quality assessment of bottled drinking water and water from Lake Chao under Fang Huang’s supervision.
Hong’s research interests include the chemical (especially isotopic) evolution of the Earth and other planetary bodies; structure and sound velocities of iron-alloys at high pressure; pressure-induced electronic, magnetic, elastic and structural transitions in materials; as well as high pressure photon science. His recent research was published on Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 506, 113-122 (2019), entitled “Iron isotopic fractionation in mineral phases from Earth’s lower mantle: Did terrestrial magma ocean crystallization fractionate iron isotopes?”.
David Zhen Yin
BioDavid Zhen Yin is the program director and co-founder of Stanford Mineral-X Initiative to lead the research of sustainable critical minerals explorations for renewable energy transitions. He is also a research scientist at Stanford Center for Earth Resources Forecasting and Co-PI of the Stanford-KoBold collaboration. He develops data-scientific approaches for prediction, uncertainty quantification, and decision-making in earth resources exploration and developments (including critical minerals, groundwater, and oil and gas).
David developed broad experience working with complex projects involving academia and industry and broad knowledge of the fields. His research delivered several key technologies transferred as in-house technologies in Chevron, Equinor, and KoBold. In addition, his research developments have been implemented on various subjects, from Antarctica bed topography modeling, critical mineral explorations in Canada/China/US, and the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico projects.
Before joining Stanford, David was a Research Associate at Edinburgh Time-Lapse Project in Scotland, leading a geophysical monitoring research project in collaboration with Equinor from 2016 to 2018. He was also a technology consultant at Equinor's Research Center in Bergen, Norway. Then, he was a Chevron CoRE Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford from 2018 to 2021.
David received his Ph.D. in Geosciences from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK, in 2016. His research interests include data science for geosciences, geological uncertainty quantification, and decision-making under uncertainty. He has authored one book and tens of articles in peer-reviewed journals and international conferences.
Adjunct Professor, Earth & Planetary Sciences
BioMarkus Zechner earned an MS degree in petroleum engineering from Mining University of Leoben. He joined OMV in 2008 as a reservoir engineer in Gaenserndorf, Austria. Zechner worked on gas, gas condensate, and oil reservoirs in the Vienna basin. During 2011 through 2013, he worked on the Technology and
Reservoir Engineering Teams in the OMV Head Office on CO2 injection and sequestration, water injection under fracturing
conditions, and polymer injection. In 2013, Zechner started his PhD degree at Stanford University on uncertainty quantification of enhanced oil recovery processes.
Ph.D. Student in Geological Sciences, admitted Autumn 2020
BioBorn in Venice, Italy, I earned my BSc in Aerospace Engineering at Università degli Studi di Padova in 2017. For my MSc degree, I moved to the Netherlands and graduated in Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft in 2019, focusing on space flight, planetary sciences and radiative transfer modeling. Afterwards, I spent a year at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen (Germany), conducting research on neural network applications for cometary gas expansion studies.
I've joined Stanford as a GS graduate student in Fall 2020 and I am part of the Planetary Modeling Group led by Prof. Schaefer.
My focus is on planetary impacts, how they affect the climate and chemical evolution of the atmospheres of planets in their early stages.