Kirsten Nicolaysen

Associate Professor of Geology, Department Chair

Hall of Science, Rm. 108
(509) 527-4934


A Wyoming native who feels most at home in the sage-brushed sandhills of the Powder River Basin, Kirsten Nicolaysen's professional training includes roaming volcanoes from the sub-Arctic to the sub-Antarctic. As an undergraduate at Colorado College, Nicolaysen participated in a KECK consortium geology project to investigate Mt. McLoughlin, one of the southern Cascades volcanoes. Thoroughly enspelled by igneous geochemistry and active volcanoes, she pursued research in the Aleutian Islands for a master's degree at University of Wyoming.

During her doctoral work, Nicolaysen participated in two research cruises: the first to investigate the Southeast Indian Ridge near the islands of Amsterdam and St. Paul and the second to drill into the Kerguelen Plateau, the second largest igneous province on Earth. Nicolaysen has taught at Lawrence University and then for four years at Kansas State University. Between these teaching positions, she was a visiting research professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (U.L.B.) in Belgium. Currently her NSF-funded research focuses on the record of volcanic activity in the Aleutian arc and, in collaboration with archeology colleagues, explores how these volcanoes provided resources and challenges for the Unangax people during prehistory.

Yearly, Nicolaysen designs and mentors student-centered research projects and some of these are in support of Whitman College's affiliation with the Keck Geology Consortium ( ). Students pursue field and lab-based experiences to develop their senior thesis and present their work at the Whitman Undergraduate Conference in April every year and sometimes at regional and national geoscience meetings. Many of these students have chosen to attend graduate school in the geosciences or obtain a professional degree in a health-related field or architecture.

Nicolaysen's teaching preparation has ranged from attending intensive workshops sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers to reading pedagogical literature. Her approach to teaching is to engage and direct students through the learning experience using hands-on experiments, semester research projects and discussion of case studies. In 2011 she helped organize the Cutting Edge Workshop on Teaching Mineralogy, Petrology, and Geochemistry and served as an associate editor to review related online teaching resources.

GEOL 158/358 - Regional Geology (Newberry Caldera, Mt. St. Helens, Costa Rica)
GEOL 210 - Environmental Geology
GEOL 340 - Volcanoes
GEOL 343 - Minerals and the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
GEOL 346 - Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
GEOL 460 - Geochemistry
GEOL 490/498 - Senior research

* - Indicates an undergraduate student co-author

Hatfield, V., Bruner, K., West, D., Savinetky, A., Krylovich, O., Khasanov, B., Vasyukov, D., Okuno, M., Crockford, S., Nicolaysen, K., MacInnes, B., Persico, L., Izbekov, P., Neal, C., Bartlett III*, T., Loopesko*, L., Fulton*, A., Sheffer*, H.B., Deacon*, E., and Lanman*, H., At the Foot of the Smoking Mountain: The 2014 Archaeological Investigations in the Islands of Four Mountains, Arctic Anthropologist, accepted, in revision.

Bader, N.E., Nicolaysen, K.P., Lopez-Maldonado, R., Murray, K.E., Mudd, A.C., 2015. Extensive middle Miocene weathering interpreted from a well-preserved paleosol, Cricket Flat, Oregon, USA: Geoderma. v. 239-240, p. 195-205, doi: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2014.10.007.

Lerner*, A.H., Crowley, P.D., Hazlett, R.W., and Nicolaysen, K., in revision. Evidence for a mafic recharge trigger for the eruption of the 7.7 ka Driftwood Pumice, Makushin Volcano, AK: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, in revision.

Nicolaysen, K., Johnson*, T., Wilmerding, El., Hatfield, V., West, D., McGimsey, G., 2012. Provenance of obsidian fragments recovered from Adak Island, central Aleutian Islands: Evidence for long-distance transport of lithic material, in West, D., Hatfield, V., Wilmerding, E., Gualtieri, L., and Lefevre, C., eds.,  The People Before: The Geology, Paleoecology and Archaeology of Adak Island, Alaska. Oxford, British Archaeological Reports International Series 2322, p. 195-210.

Jeannotte, R., Nicolaysen, K., Johnson*, T., West, D., 2012. Griddlestones from Adak Island, Alaska: Their provenance and associated organic molecules as an indication of past diet, in West, D., Hatfield, V., Wilmerding, E., Gualtieri, L., and Lefevre, C., eds.,  The People Before: The Geology, Paleoecology and Archaeology of Adak Island, Alaska. Oxford, British Archaeological Reports International Series 2322, p. 269-288.

Chatterjee, N., and Nicolaysen, K., 2011. An intercontinental correlation of the mid-Neoproterozoic Eastern Indian Tectonic Zone: evidence from the gneissic clasts in Elan Bank conglomerate, Kerguelen Plateau: Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, doi: 10.1007/s00410-011-0699-z.

Estes*, M.B., Ritterbush, L.W., Nicolaysen, K., 2010. Clinker, pumice, scoria or paralava? Vesicular artifacts of the lower Missouri Basin: Plains Anthropologist, v. 55, n. 213, p. 67-82.

Nicolaysen, K., Rim of Fire, in Wilson, K., The Aleutian Islands: Living on the Edge, University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, 300 pp., 2009.

Scoates, J.S., Weis, D., Franssens, M., Mattielli, N., Annell, H., Frey, F.A., Nicolaysen, K. and Giret, A., 2008. The Val Gabbro Plutonic Suite, Kerguelen Archipelago: age, evolution, and significance of a volcanic feeder system in an oceanic island: Journal of Petrology, v. 49, p. 79-105.

Nicolaysen, K.P., F.A. Frey, J.J. Mahoney, K.T.M. Johnson, D.W. Graham, 2007, Influence of the Amsterdam/St. Paul hotspot along the Southeast Indian Ridge between 77˚ and 88˚E: Correlations of Sr, Nd, Pb and He isotopic variations with ridge segmentation. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, (G-Cubed), 8, Q09007, doi:10.1029/2006GC001540.

Camps, P., Henry, B., Nicolaysen, K., Plenier, G., 2007, Statistical properties of paleomagnetic directions in Kerguelen lava flows: implications for the Late Oligocene paleomagnetic field. Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 112, B06102 (doi: 10.1029/2006JB004648).

Nicolaysen, K., and Ritterbush, L., 2005, A project to develop critical thinking skills in geology and archaeology: interpreting scanning electron images of a lithic tool: Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 53, p. 166-172.

Doucet, S., Weis, D., Scoates, J., Nicolaysen, K., Frey, F.A., Giret, A., 2002, The depleted mantle component in Kerguelen Archipelago basalts: Petrogenesis of tholeiitic-transitional basalts from the Loranchet Peninsula: Journal of Petrology, v. 43, p. 1341-1366.

Frey, F.A., Nicolaysen, K., Kubit, B., Weis, D., Giret, A., 2002, Flood basalt from Mont Tourmente in the Central Kerguelen Archipelago: The change from transitional to alkalic basalt at ~25 Ma, Journal of Petrology, v. 43, p. 1367-1388.

Plenier, G., Camps, P., Henry, B., Nicolaysen, K., 2002, Palaeomagnetic study of Oligocene (24-30 Ma) lava flows from the Kerguelen Archipelago (southern Indian Ocean): directional analysis and magnetostratigraphy: Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, v. 133, pp. 127-146.

Wise, S.W., H.K. Coxall, V. Waehnert, M.J. Antretter, H. Inokuchi, M.F. Coffin, F.A. Frey, P.J. Wallace, J.M. McArthur, D. Weis, X. Zhao, D.A.H. Teagle, P.J. Saccocia, D.N. Reusch, M.S. Pringle, K.E. Nicolaysen, C.R. Neal, R.D. Müeller, C.L. Moore, J.J Mahoney, L. Keszthelyi, R.A. Duncan, H. Delius, J.E. Damuth, D. Damasceno, M.K. Boore, F. Boehm, J. Barling, N.T. Arndt, 2002, The Kerguelen Plateau: new paleontologic and paleomagnetic age constraints on growth history from ODP Leg 183 Drilling: Bulletin – Royal Society of New Zealand, v. 35, p. 239-247.

Nicolaysen, K., Bowring, S., Frey, F.A., Weis, D., Ingle, S., Pringle, M.S., Coffin, M.F., and the Leg 183 Shipboard Scientific Party, 2001, Provenance of Proterozoic garnet-biotite gneiss recovered from Elan Bank, Kerguelen Plateau, southern Indian Ocean: Geology, v. 29, p. 235-238.

Weis, D., Ingle, S., Damasceno, D., Frey, F., Nicolaysen, K., Barling, J., and Leg 183 Shipboard Party, 2001, Origin of continental components in Indian Ocean basalts: Evidence from Elan Bank (Kerguelen Plateau – ODP Leg 183, Site 1137): Geology, v. 29, p. 147-150.

Coffin, M.F., Frey, F.A., Wallace, P.J., et al., (including Nicolaysen, K.,), 2000, Proceedings of ODP, Initial Reports, 183 [CD-ROM], Ocean Drilling Program, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77845-9547.

Frey, F.A., +28 co-authors including Nicolaysen, K.,, 2000, Origin and evolution of a submarine large igneous province: the Kerguelen Plateau and Broken Ridge, southern Indian Ocean: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 176, pp. 73-89.

Frey, F.A., Weis, D., Yang, H.-J., Nicolaysen, K., Leyrit, H., Giret, A., 2000, Temporal geochemical trends in Kerguelen Archipelago basalts: evidence for decreasing magma supply from the Kerguelen Plume: Chemical Geology, v. 164, p. 61-80.

Johnson, K.T.M., Graham, D.W., Rubin, K.H., Nicolaysen, K., Scheirer, D.S., Forsyth, D.W., Baker, E.T., Douglas-Priebe, L. M., 2000, Boomerang Seamount: the active expression of the Amsterdam-St. Paul Hotspot, Southeast Indian Ridge: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 183, pp. 245-259.

Nicolaysen, K., Frey, F.A., Hodges, K.V., Weis, D., Giret, A., 2000, 40Ar/39Ar Geochronology of flood basalts, from the Kerguelen Archipelago, southern Indian Ocean: Implications for Cenozoic eruption rates of the Kerguelen Plume: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 174, p. 313-328.