I head west most summers for research, bringing students with me to the mountains of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and southern British Columbia. My research addresses two major questions: (1) what can the information contained in sedimentary rocks and the basins in which these rocks formed tell us about what was happening on Earth?; and (2) can we determine how ancient sedimentary basins formed and evolved?
Because petroleum, natural gas, and coal formed in ancient sedimentary basins, researching these questions is critical for targeting energy resource exploration. Also, the success of current efforts to capture carbon and store it underground depends on a detailed understanding of the layering and structure below the surface. Finally, these are fundamental research questions because sedimentary basins are essential to understanding the formation and destruction of past mountains and ocean basins, changing climates, and the evolution of life. My research focus is on sedimentary basins in the Cordilleran mountain belt of the western United States and Canada.
Ph.D., Stanford University
B.A., Amherst College
Orme, D., and Surpless, K.D., 2019, The Birth of a Forearc: The basal Great Valley Group, California: Geology, vol. 47, no. 8, p. 757-761.
Surpless, Kathleen D., Clemens-Knott, D., Barth, A.P., and Gevedon, M., 2019, A survey of Sierra Nevada magmatism using Great Valley detrital zircon trace element geochemistry: The view from the forearc: Lithosphere, 17 p., doi.org/10.1130L/L1059.1.
Surpless, Kathleen D., and Gulliver, K.D.H., 2018, Provenance analysis of the Ochoco basin, central Oregon: A window into the Late Cretaceous paleogeography of the northern U. S. Cordillera, in Ingersoll, R., Graham, S.A., and Lawton, T., eds., Tectonics, Sedimentary Basins and Provenance: A Celebration of William R. Dickinson's Career: Geological Society of America Special Paper 540, no. 11, p. 235-266.
Greene, T. J., and Surpless, K. D., 2017, Facies architecture and provenance of a boulder-conglomerate submarine channel system, Panoche Formation, Great Valley Group: a fore-arc basin response to middle Cretaceous tectonism in the California convergent margin: Geosphere, vol. 13, no. 3, p. 838-869.
Surpless, Kathleen D., 2015, The Hornbrook Formation, California and Oregon: A Sedimentary record of the Sierran magmatic flare-up event: Geosphere, vol. 11, no. 6, p. 1770-1789.
Surpless, Kathleen D., 2014, Geochemistry of the Great Valley Group: An integrated provenance record: International Geology Review, vol. 57, no. 5-8, p. 747-766.
Surpless, Kathleen D., Sickmann, Z. T., and Koplitz, T. A., 2014, East-derived strata in the Methow Basin record rapid mid-Cretaceous uplift of the southern Coast Mountains batholith:Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, vol. 51, no. 4, p. 339-357.
Earth's Environmental Systems
Sedimentology & Stratigraphy
Majors Field Trip
Honors & Awards
In 2019, I was elected to Fellowship in the Geological Society of America and named one of Trinity's Best of the Best Faculty.
I have been awarded grants from the American Chemical Society's Petroleum Research Fund and from the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program to support my research in Cretaceous basins of the North American Cordillera. These grants, totaling more than $450,000, enable a closer integration of my research and teaching and have allowed me to expand my research focus and involve more undergraduate students.
Community service & Involvement
Through Trinity's HHMI-sponsored Science Academy, I co-taught middle school students from three middle schools and two SAISD academies over four days during the Science Academy (Earth Science unit) held at Trinity since 2006. I also worked with elementary and middle school teachers lacking a science background to help them improve both their content knowledge and their understanding of the process of science during Trinity's Science Teaching Institute.
I have served on the Trinity University United Way Committee, Lecturers and Visiting Scholars Committee, Trinity Women in Science and Technology (TWIST) Steering Committee, and the Undergraduate Research Committee. I'm also the Faculty Adviser for Trinity's Sigma Gamma Epsilon chapter and the Geology Club.