We investigate small things to tell the big stories of Earth’s environments across geologic time, from the modern to the early Earth.

Get involved in research

The Earth Materials and Earth History Lab group in the Sciences and Mathematics Division at UW Tacoma explores the geological history of the deep and surface Earth using mineral structure and physical properties, magnetism, and other geophysical techniques. The focus of much of our work is on understanding transport processes in sedimentary and magmatic systems. Our research projects, described below, have criscrossed the geologic time scale, from investigating magnetic materials in recent (human-made) smelter dust to analyzing magnetic records of crystallization in a 2.7 billion-year-old magma chamber. We have active research projects in the areas listed here. Schedule a meeting to discuss options.

Bengal Fan Turbidites

How does material from Earth’s largest mountain chain build Earth’s largest undersea mudpile? And what does that tell us about erosion, climate, and tectonics? Read more

Windblown Dust & Soils

The materials in windblown dust and soils – both natural and manmade – are sensitive tracers of environmental processes. We are currently looking at the mineralogy and magnetic properties of dust in the Palouse of southeastern Washington.

Columbia Plateau Basalts

We are developing a portable, low-cost magnetometer to investigate the eruption history of lava flows on the Columbia Plateau. Read more


We have several projects starting that use digital methods to investigate geological problems, including 3D modeling of crystal shapes for education, simulating magnetic materials, and tracking Earth’s magnetic field through geological time.

Take a class

Earth History – Online Summer B 2020

Develop a deep time perspective on Earth’s environment by examining highlights of Earth’s 4.6-billion-year history, as well as the process of scientific discovery that leads us to understand it. Read more

Applied Environmental Physics Autumn 2020

We’re excited to offer a new course in environmental physics in Autumn quarter of 2020. Learn how Earth processes work and investigate analogue and computer models! Read more

Research Experience Autumn 2020

Investigate the geological and environmental history of a Tacoma site. Satisfies capstone requirements for Environmental Science. Read more

Meet people in the lab

Peter Selkin

Associate Professor / Principal Investigator

I am a geoscientist who uses magnets to look at Earth’s history. Read more

Lab Alumni

Former studentswhere are they now?

Read more

My latest blog posts.

UV-Vis Soil Analysis

https://youtu.be/Z7bsA6hWvZE In this video is a brief overview of the process and procedures I have been using to analyze soil samples from two community gardens and student collected samples from the MSL program. The process of slide creation and usage of a UV-vis analyzer are both shown. The data from this will be compared to…

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Remote Teaching Roundup: This Week’s Reading (May 25, 2020)

In the spirit of the weblogs of old, I’m going to start posting a few useful things I’ve read. No theme, no big insights – just a log of what I’ve read. Helicopter Research I teach our introduction to research course in Environmental Science (a.k.a. “Environmental Research Seminar” or “Junior Seminar”), and usually incorporate a…

Continue Reading Remote Teaching Roundup: This Week’s Reading (May 25, 2020)