Faculty Researcher & Geochronologist
After finishing his thesis. in Geology/Geochemistry atthe Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich (Switzerland) Roland joined the BGC and, in collaboration with Ken Ludwig and Warren Sharp, was involved in establishing the U-daughter laboratory (including chemistry laboratory and thermal ionization mass spectrometry). Roland’s research has mainly focused on applying, developing, refining, and streamlining low-blank U-Pb geochronology on minute samples, and on its application to problems requiring high-resolution age control, such as the age calibration of biotic turnover, climate signals recorded in sediments, as well as tectonic, petrologic and volcanic problems. Roland closely collaborates with BGC postdocs and students from UC Berkeley as well as visiting students.
Primary Areas of Research Interest
Improving accuracy in U-Pb zircon geochronology
Roland and his co-workers helped establish the application to individual zircon crystals of the chemical abrasion technique (pioneered by Jim Mattinson) which is now universally applied, allowing vastly improved age accuracy in U-Pb zircon geochronology. Current research concentrates on establishing a chronostratigraphic framework for the Late Paleozoic Ice Age (collaborating with Neil Griffis, BGC/UC Davis, Isabel Montañez, UC Davis, Qing-zhu Yin, UC Davis, John Isbell, UWM) in order to understand its timing and driving mechanisms. In conjunction with the research in near and far field glaciogenic sediments in Southern Gondwana, voluminous contemporaneous volcanic deposits are being studied to test potential teleconnections between volcanism and its potential impact on climate change.
Climate signals in sediments
Roland is also involved in ongoing efforts in calibrating early Mesozoic depositional sequences to study the evolution of early dinosaurs as well as understand mechanisms that lead to orbitally tuned cyclic sedimentation (CPCP-Colorado Plateau Coring Project, collaborating with a team lead by PI Paul Olsen, Columbia University). In addition to the North American sequences, contemporaneous rock strata in South America and Europe are also being studied.
Mesozoic & Cenozoic magmatic processes
In addition, a suite of projects focusses on the understanding of magmatic processes of mostly Mesozoic and Cenozoic age, as well as on technical aspects of U-Pb geochronology.
Griffis, N.P., Montañez, I.P., Mundil, R., Richey, J., Isbell, J., Fedorchuk, N., Linol, B., Iannuzzi, R., Vesely, F., Mottin, T., da Rosa, E., Keller, B., Yin, Q.-Z., 2019. Coupled stratigraphic and U-Pb zircon age constraints on the late Paleozoic icehouse-to-greenhouse turnover in south-central Gondwana. Geology 47, 1146-1150.
Kent, D.V., Olsen, P.E., Rasmussen, C., Lepre, C., Mundil, R., Irmis, R.B., Gehrels, G.E., Giesler, D., Geissman, J.W., Parker, W.G., 2018. Empirical evidence for stability of the 405-kiloyear Jupiter–Venus eccentricity cycle over hundreds of millions of years. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Marsicano, C.A., Irmis, R.B., Mancuso, A.C., Mundil, R., Chemale, F., 2016. The precise temporal calibration of dinosaur origins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, 509-513.
Ickert, R.B., Mundil, R., Magee Jr, C.W., Mulcahy, S.R., 2015. The U–Th–Pb systematics of zircon from the Bishop Tuff: A case study in challenges to high-precision Pb/U geochronology at the millennial scale. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 168, 88-110.
McDowell, S., Miller, C., Mundil, R., Ferguson, C., Wooden, J., 2014. Zircon evidence for a ~200 k.y. supereruption-related thermal flare-up in the Miocene southern Black Mountains, western Arizona, USA. Contrib Mineral Petrol 168, 1-21.