I study geologic deposits associated with desert wetlands, pluvial lakes, and anything else I can get my hands on to query the paleoclimate record of the American Southwest. I was trained as a geologist and paleontologist, with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Geological Sciences from the University of California, Riverside, and spent the first part of my career at the San Bernardino County Museum where I was the Senior Curator of Geological Sciences. Now with the USGS, my research focuses on deciphering paleo-depositional environments of Quaternary localities (paleowetlands and pluvial lakes) throughout the Mojave Desert and southern Great Basin, stressing the application of detailed stratigraphic and chronologic controls. I also use detailed geologic mapping to understand how hydrologic systems in the desert responded to past episodes of climate change and tectonic activity. In addition, I am a lifelong geoscience educator and communicator, specializing in earthquake science messaging by raising awareness of earthquake hazards and risk and promoting natural disaster preparedness.
Science and Products
Springs and wetlands are among the most highly threatened ecosystems on Earth. Although geographically limited, they support more than 20% of all the threatened and endangered species in the United States. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey are examining the rock record to determine how springs and wetlands responded to abrupt climate change during prehistoric times and the recent...
The Las Vegas Formation
The Las Vegas Formation was established in 1965 to designate the distinctive light-colored, fine-grained, fossil-bearing sedimentary deposits exposed in and around the Las Vegas Valley, Nevada. In a coeval designation, the sediments were subdivided into informal units with stratigraphic and chronologic frameworks that have persisted in the...Springer, Kathleen B.; Pigati, Jeffrey S.; Manker, Craig R.; Mahan, Shannon A.
The geology and paleontology of Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Nevada
On December 19, 2014, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, located in the Las Vegas Valley of southern Nevada, was established by Congress as the 405th unit of the National Park Service to “conserve, protect, interpret, and enhance for the benefit of present and future generations the unique and nationally important paleontological,...Springer, Kathleen B.; Pigati, Jeffrey S.; Scott, Eric
Examining the relationship between portable luminescence reader measurements and depositional ages of paleowetland sediments, Las Vegas Valley, Nevada
Portable luminescence readers are exciting new tools that have the potential to rapidly determine the age structure of late Quaternary stratigraphic columns. This is important because high-resolution age profiling can reveal details about the temporal dynamics of climate cause and ecosystem effect, often while...Gray, Harrison J.; Mahan, Shannon A.; Springer, Kathleen B.; Pigati, Jeffrey S.
Desert wetlands record hydrologic variability within the Younger Dryas chronozone, Mojave Desert, USA
One of the enduring questions in the field of paleohydrology is how quickly desert wetland ecosystems responded to past episodes of abrupt climate change. Recent investigations in the Las Vegas Valley of southern Nevada have revealed that wetlands expanded and contracted on millennial and sub-millennial timescales in response to changes in climate...Pigati, Jeffrey S.; Springer, Kathleen B.; Honke, Jeffrey S.
The Great Acceleration and the disappearing surficial geologic record
The surficial geologic record is the relatively thin veneer of young (<~1 Ma) and mostly unconsolidated sediments that cover portions of Earth’s terrestrial surface (Fig. 1). Once largely ignored as “overburden” by geologists, surficial deposits are now studied to address a wide range of issues related to the sustainability of human societies....Rech, Jason A.; Springer, Kathleen B.; Pigati, Jeffrey S.
The Tule Springs local fauna: Rancholabrean vertebrates from the Las Vegas Formation, Nevada
A middle to late Pleistocene sedimentary sequence in the upper Las Vegas Wash, north of Las Vegas, Nevada, has yielded the largest open-site Rancholabrean vertebrate fossil assemblage in the southern Great Basin and Mojave Deserts. Recent paleontologic field studies have led to the discovery of hundreds of fossil localities and specimens, greatly...Scott, Eric; Springer, Kathleen B.; Sagebiel, James C.
Vertebrate paleontology, stratigraphy, and paleohydrology of Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Nevada (USA)
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument (TUSK) preserves 22,650 acres of the upper Las Vegas Wash in the northern Las Vegas Valley (Nevada, USA). TUSK is home to extensive and stratigraphically complex groundwater discharge (GWD) deposits, called the Las Vegas Formation, which represent springs and desert wetlands that covered much of the...Springer, Kathleen B.; Pigati, Jeffery S.; Scott, Eric
Geology and vertebrate paleontology of Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Nevada, USA
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument (TUSK) preserves 22,650 acres of the upper Las Vegas Wash in the northern Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, USA. TUSK is home to extensive and stratigraphically complex groundwater discharge (GWD) deposits, called the Las Vegas Formation, which represent springs and desert wetlands that covered much of the valley...Springer, Kathleen B.; Pigati, Jeffrey S.; Eric Scott
First records of Canis dirus and Smilodon fatalis from the late Pleistocene Tule Springs local fauna, upper Las Vegas Wash, Nevada
Late Pleistocene groundwater discharge deposits (paleowetlands) in the upper Las Vegas Wash north of Las Vegas, Nevada, have yielded an abundant and diverse vertebrate fossil assemblage, the Tule Springs local fauna (TSLF). The TSLF is the largest open-site vertebrate fossil assemblage dating to the Rancholabrean North American Land Mammal Age in...Scott, Eric; Springer, Kathleen B.
Desert wetlands—Archives of a wetter past
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are finding evidence of a much wetter past in the deserts of the American Southwest using a most unlikely source—wetlands. Wetlands form in arid environments where water tables approach or breach the ground surface. Often thought of as stagnant and unchanging, new evidence suggests that...Pigati, Jeffery S.; Springer, Kathleen B.; Manker, Craig R.
Dynamic response of desert wetlands to abrupt climate change
Desert wetlands are keystone ecosystems in arid environments and are preserved in the geologic record as groundwater discharge (GWD) deposits. GWD deposits are inherently discontinuous and stratigraphically complex, which has limited our understanding of how desert wetlands responded to past episodes of rapid climate change. Previous studies have...Springer, Kathleen B.; Manker, Craig R.; Pigati, Jeffrey S.