Dr. Kierran Maher

Kierran Maher, PhD

Assistant Professor

Earth & Environmental Science


Greetings.  I work in mineral deposit geology (aka, economic geology) and my principal goal is to prepare students to fill roles in the minerals industry. This includes both teaching and research.

Mineral deposit geology utilizes most aspects of the other sub-disciplines of geology in an effort to explore for and extract economic concentrations of mineral resources. Society’s demand for natural resources was an important impetus for the founding of the New Mexico School of Mines, now known as the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Economic geology and resource extraction are as important today as they were in 1889. Many things have changed both in academia and in society relative to resource extraction since the establishment of the School of Mines. Even though our understanding of geoscience has also evolved, some things remain the same, such as the need to make detailed and thoughtful geologic observations as part of our work. I emphasize basic geoscience skills in my classes, such as hands on field and petrographic work. These form the foundation for proper interpretation of all other analytical techniques.

New Mexico Tech is a great place to study geology due to our location in beautiful New Mexico, a place with diverse, interesting and well-exposed geology, including a significant range of mineral deposit types in the area. The university is well-equipped to support geoscience education and research with a geoscience faculty having diverse yet cross-disciplinary research and teaching interests, as well as a well-equipped research infrastructure. You can get a great undergraduate or graduate geoscience education at New Mexico Tech.

Research Areas

My broad research interests seek to develop a better understanding of geochemical and mineralogical vectors to mineralized systems. Much of this comes from my experience working in the exploration industry where I saw the need to develop more efficient and predictive methods for exploring for ore deposits. Exploration costs are rising and many new discoveries of ore systems will be of hydrothermal systems that are poorly expressed or even unexposed at the earth’s surface. I use a number of techniques in this quest including field mapping, core logging, alteration mineralogy, trace element and stable isotope geochemistry.

I am also interested in developing ways companies can better use the vast amount of geochemical data that is routinely gathered during exploration, but mostly underutilized. The goal is to develop tools that help exploration become more efficient. I am also interested in understanding how isotopic systems help us to understand mineralization mechanisms, particularly in the hypogene environment. This includes research into the behavior and fractionation mechanisms of copper isotopes. My research interests are of a necessity based upon a sound understanding of the local geologic system.