Richard L Reynolds


I investigate how climatic variability, weather, and land uses affect surfaces and ecosystems of deserts, with emphasis on sediment eroded, transported, and deposited by wind, mostly as atmospheric dust. My studies probe the geologic, biologic, and human controls on dust generation as well as the mineralogic and geochemical properties of dust that in turn affect climate, weather, ecosystem health, water resources (effects of dust on melting of snow and ice), ocean fertility, and the health of a large proportion of earth’s people. I have also conducted research on:

  • Hawaiian coral-reef health in settings of coastal erosion
  • Quaternary climate and responses of landscapes to climatic change and human activities
  • Iron-sulfur diagenesis and its effects on lake-sediment paleoenvironmental records
  • Magnetic and chemical records of airborne pollution and environmental change
  • Paleomagnetism of Tertiary and Quaternary sedimentary and igneous rocks
  • Sources of magnetic anomalies in the shallow crust
  • Field geology, Antarctica (1970-1971; 1978-1979)


  • A.B., Princeton University, 1968
  • M.S., Univ. of Colorado, 1970
  • Ph.D., Univ. of Colorado, 1975

Professional Experience and Affiliations

  • Research Geologist, USGS (periodic supervisory positions) 1975-2012
  • Acting Program Manager, Global Change Program USGS 2002 
  • Senior Scientist, USGS 2012-2013 Emeritus since 2013
  • Adjunct Research Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
  • Affiliate, Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research Univ. of Colorado

Professional societies

  • Geological Society of America; Fellow
  • American Geophysical Union. Assoc. Editor, Jour. Geophysical Res. 1992-1995
  • Yellowstone-Bighorn Research Assoc.
  • American Quaternary Assoc.
  • International Medical Geology Assoc.
  • International Society for Aeolian Research (guest editor, 2013-14; Board of Directors, 2014-2016)

Selected honors (since 1990)

  • 1992 Best Paper Award, Geophysics
  • 1993 Visiting Fellow, Institute for Rock Magnetism, Univ. Minnesota
  • 1994 Elected Fellow, Geological Society of America
  • 1995 Best Paper Award, Jour. Great Lakes Res.
  • Meritorious Service Award, Dept. of the Interior (1995)
  • 2007 Co-recipient, Kirk Bryan Award; best publication in Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology, Geological Society of America
  • 2011 Astor Visiting Lecturer for the Humanities, Univ. of Oxford
  • 2012-2014 Distinguished Visiting Scholar, School of Geography and the Environment, Univ. of Oxford
  • 2012 Elected Senior Scientist, USGS