Kathryn Watts


I am a Research Geologist with the Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics (GMEG) Science Center in Menlo Park, CA. I started at the USGS as a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 2012, following completion of my Ph.D. at the University of Oregon. My research is focused on various aspects of crustal magmatism, from processes the fuel volcanic eruptions to those that contribute to the formation of economically valuable mineral resources. My areas of expertise include: igneous petrology, geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, geochronology, volcanology, and economic geology.


"Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another."

–John Muir



Ph.D., Geological Sciences, University of Oregon, 2011

B.S., Geology, Louisiana State University, 2006



Watts, K.E., John, D.A., Colgan, J.P., Henry, C.D., Bindeman, I.N. and Valley, J.W. (2019) Oxygen isotopic investigation of silicic magmatism in the Stillwater caldera complex, Nevada: Generation of large-volume, low-δ18O rhyolitic tuffs and assessment of their regional context in the Great Basin of the western United States. Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 131, p. 1133-1156.

Colgan, J.P., John, D.A., Henry, C.D. and Watts, K.E. (2018) Insights into the emplacement of upper-crustal plutons and their relationship to large silicic calderas, from field relationships, geochronology, and zircon trace element geochemistry in the Stillwater-Clan Alpine caldera complex, western Nevada, USA. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 349, p. 163-176.

Watts, K.E., John, D.A., Colgan, J.P., Henry, C.D., Bindeman, I.N. and Schmitt, A.K. (2016) Probing the volcanic-plutonic connection and the genesis of crystal-rich rhyolite in a deeply dissected supervolcano in the Nevada Great Basin: Source of the late Eocene Caetano Tuff. Journal of Petrology, v. 57, p. 1599-1644.

Watts, K.E., Coble, M.A., Vazquez, J.A., Henry, C.D., Colgan, J.P. and John, D.A. (2016) Chemical abrasion-SIMS (CA-SIMS) U-Pb dating of zircon from the late Eocene Caetano caldera, Nevada. Chemical Geology, v. 439, p. 139-151.

Wotzlaw, J.F., Bindeman, I.N., Watts, K.E., Schmitt, A.K., Caricchi, L. and Schaltegger, U. (2014) Linking rapid magma reservoir assembly and eruption trigger mechanisms at evolved Yellowstone-type supervolcanoes. Geology, v. 42, p. 807-810.

Retallack, G.J., Marconato, A., Osterhout, J.T., Watts, K.E. and Bindeman, I.N. (2014) Revised Wonoka isotopic anomaly in South Australia and Late Ediacaran mass extinction. Journal of the Geological Society of London, v. 171, p. 709-722.

Drew, D.L., Bindeman, I.N., Watts, K.E., Schmitt, A.K., Fu, B. and McCurry, M. (2013) Crustal-scale recycling in caldera complexes and rift zones along the Yellowstone hotspot track: O and Hf isotopic evidence in diverse zircons from voluminous rhyolites of the Picabo volcanic field, Idaho. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 381, p. 63-77.

Watts, K.E., Bindeman, I.N. and Schmitt, A.K. (2012) Crystal-scale anatomy of a dying supervolcano: An isotope and geochronology study of individual phenocrysts from voluminous rhyolites of the Yellowstone caldera. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, v. 164, p. 45-67.

Watts, K.E., Bindeman, I.N. and Schmitt, A.K. (2011) Large-volume rhyolite genesis in caldera complexes of the Snake River Plain: Insights from the Kilgore Tuff of the Heise volcanic field, Idaho, with comparison to Yellowstone and Bruneau-Jarbidge rhyolites. Journal of Petrology, v. 52, p. 857-890.

Watts, K.E., Leeman, W.P., Bindeman, I.N. and Larson, P.B. (2010) Supereruptions of the Snake River Plain: Two-stage derivation of low-δ18O rhyolites from normal-δ18O crust as constrained by Archean xenoliths. Geology, v. 38, p. 503-506.

Bindeman, I.N., Leonov, V.L., Ponomareva, V.V., Watts, K.E., Shipley, N.K., Perepelov, A.B., Bazanova, L.I., Jicha, B.R., Singer, B.S., Schmitt, A.K., Portnyagin, M.V. and Chen, C.H. (2010) Large-volume silicic volcanism in Kamchatka: Ar-Ar and U-Pb ages, isotopic, and geochemical characteristics of major pre-Holocene caldera-forming eruptions. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 189, p. 57-80.

Bindeman, I.N, Watts, K.E., Schmitt, A.K., Morgan, L.A. and Shanks, P.W. (2007) Voluminous low δ18O magmas in the Late Miocene Heise volcanic field, Idaho: Implications for the fate of Yellowstone hotspot calderas. Geology, v. 35, p. 1019-1022.

Watts, K.E. (2007) Yellowstone and Heise: Supervolcanoes that lighten up. Geotimes (now Earth), v. 52, p. 24-29.