Focus on the acquisition, improvement and application of U-Pb geochronologic data; Early solar system studies
B.S., Geology, 2004, University of Kansas M.S., Geology, 2006, University of Kansas Ph. D., 2012, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Measuring geologic time is of fundamental importance to understanding the history of our Earth and solar system. The age constraints provided by geochronology are critical for determining the rates of many physical, chemical and biologic processes that shape our planet. My research focuses on the acquisition, improvement and application of U-Pb geochronologic data. The U-Pb system is highly versatile, capable of providing extremely high-precision timing constraints on the formation and cooling history of rocks. Terrence Blackburn's specific research projects are diverse, from linking global extinction events to large igneous province eruptions, to measuring the thermal and erosional history of Earth’s oldest continental crust, the latter of which reveals how the crust can survive exposure to surface processes over billions of years. In each of these studies, the precision afforded by modern high-precision U-Pb techniques yields an improved understanding of Earth processes. Blackburn has additional research interests in early solar system studies. Currently, he is working to understand how chondrites - unmelted remnant material that accreted early in our solar system - avoided melting at a time when short-lived radioactive elements were abundant. He addresses these questions with a combination of temperature-sensitive geochronologic systems or thermochronology and geodynamic modeling. The temperature and time record provided by thermochronology, when integrated with thermal models describing chondrite thermal and accretionary histories, can distinguish between different models for chondrite accretion and parent body size. The mechanical and thermal evolution of chondrite parent bodies will help to shed new light on how planetary bodies were constructed and the origin of water on Earth.