Richard Wanty


Research chemist with USGS since 1981. Research interests center around environmental geochemistry, and coupling of geologic, hydrologic, and geochemical processes. Current research topics include: landscape geochemistry and the relation between soil and ground-water geochemistry; geochemistry of mined or unmined mineral deposits and natural background geochemistry; geochemistry of non-traditional stable isotopes, especially those of iron, copper, and zinc. Past projects have examined the usefulness of data mined from large online databases to evaluating regional geochemical baselines; brines produced with hydrocarbon resources; geochemistry of natural radionuclides in ground-water supplies; ground-water geochemistry in agricultural areas; and geochemistry of sandstone-hosted vanadium-uranium deposits.


Ph.D., Geochemistry, 1986, Colorado School of Mines.  Thesis topic:  Field, experimental, and numerical modeling studies of the genesis of vanadium-uranium deposits in Utah, USA.
M.S., Geochemistry, 1981, Colorado School of Mines.  Thesis topic:  Trace- and radioelement geochemistry in sandstone aquifers hosting uranium deposits.
B.A., Geochemistry, 1979, State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton.  Degree awarded with Distinguished Independent Work in the Geological Sciences.

Professional Experience:

1981 to present    Research Chemist, U.S. Geological Survey
I have performed research focused on mineral and energy resources, trace-element geochemistry, drinking-water quality, radionuclide geochemistry, and various other topics.  My approach spans basic to applied research, and I have simultaneously maintained a strong component of outreach.  I have regular contact with Academia, other US Federal government agencies, and industry.  I have supervised graduate students at the M.S. and Ph.D. levels.  In all of my research projects, I combine geochemical, hydrologic, and geologic techniques, and numerical and experimental modeling as appropriate.  I was the project chief or principal investigator on the following studies, in addition to participating in numerous other projects:

  • Landscape Geochemistry (2001 to 2013).  I compiled large environmental datasets, primarily for ground water and surface-water chemistry, either by collecting new samples or by compiling existing data, and interpreting these data in the context of bedrock and surface geology, geologic structure, hydrologic landscapes, and local and regional climate effects.  We also correlated our data to soil development and soil chemistry.  On a regional scale (10’s to 100’s of kilometers) there are systematic variations in water chemistry that are a direct result of water-rock interactions in the critical zone (the upper few meters to 10’s of meters of the crust), and we investigated the role of spatial density of sampling in developing detailed interpretations.  These studies were conducted in the USA, in California, Alaska, and Colorado.
  • Development of Geoenvironmental Models of Mineral Deposits (1998 to 2003).  The goal of this research effort was to develop systemic models of the weathering of mineral deposits, whether mined or not.  From a scientific perspective, the approach involved weaving aspects of geology, geochemistry, hydrology, and biology into a fully coupled description of the behavior of mineral deposits in the weathering environment.  We studied local and regional-scale effects around known deposits, to develop a perspective of the relative importance of various natural processes in various geologic, climatic, and hydrologic settings.  From a societal perspective, we developed a reliable predictive capability for the weathering behavior of as-yet undiscovered deposits, so that we may anticipate the possible environmental impacts of developing such deposits.  In support of this project, we have conducted field studies in the western US, Alaska, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain, and Romania.
  • Fate and transport of agricultural chemicals, especially nitrogen species, in watersheds (1990-1996).  The goal of this project was to assess various mechanisms that retard or enhance nitrate mobility, or transform nitrate, in an ecosystem in central Minnesota.  A broad range of geochemical and isotopic techniques were combined in this project, along with novel ground-water dating techniques, to evaluate migration pathways for N in the environment.  We performed in situ experiments of denitrification in a wetland and detailed sampling of shallow ground water along a flow line approaching the wetland.  Our results provided a geochemical basis for understanding wetland hydrology and the capacity of wetlands for mitigating the effects of overfertilization.
  • Natural occurrence of radon-222 and its parent radionuclides in ground and surface water (1986-1994).  This was a joint project with the USGS and the Colorado School of Mines.  Our team expertise comprised geochemistry, geology, and hydrogeology to evaluate the natural occurrence of radon and other radionuclides in water supplies, and possible human exposure to natural radionuclides because of domestic water use.  Spin-offs of this project included:  a study of sources of high concentrations of fluoride in water supplies drawn from the Pikes Peak Granite in Colorado; geochemistry of radioactive waste repositories; and fundamentals of fracture hydrology.
  • Regional trends in ground-water chemistry and diagenetic mineralogy in the Uinta Basin, Utah (1986-1990).  I studied the postdepositional modification of porosity by water-rock chemical reactions, and the effects of those reactions on the quality of petroleum reservoirs.  Later interest in this project focused on the quality of the waters that are produced with hydrocarbons.  Detailed petrographic and ground-water chemical analyses were interpreted in the context of hydrogeologic models for the basin, to determine processes affecting the chemistry of subsurface fluids.
  • Vanadium geochemistry in vanadium-uranium deposits of the Colorado Plateau (1981-1986).  In this study, I devised a new analytical method to determine that vanadium in the ore is present as VIII, the chemically reduced but immobile form, and demonstrated experimentally that V(III) could be produced by reduction of V(IV) by bacteriogenic hydrogen sulfide.  I conducted a critical review of vanadium thermochemistry to facilitate modeling of vanadium mineral-solution equilibria.  These results were extended to constrain models of global vanadium accumulation in marine and lacustrine sediments.

6/80 to 10/81  Assistant Geochemist, Gulf Research and Development Company.
I developed, wrote, and adapted various geochemical modeling programs for use on a variety of environmental problems including in situ coal gasification and uranium mining and milling.

6/79 to 6/81    Research Assistant, Colorado School of Mines (Master’s Thesis Research)
I studied processes affecting ground-water concentrations of the redox-sensitive trace elements arsenic, moybdenum, and selenium associated with sandstone-hosted uranium deposits.  These elements proved to be useful geochemical exploration tools.

6/77 to 6/79    Laboratory Assistant, SUNY at Binghamton
I participated in projects studying the environmental impact of sanitary-landfills, bacterial coal desulfurization to improve coal fuel quality, and diagenetic conversion of smectite to illite.


Professional Affiliations:

International Association of Geochemistry - Member and Associate Editor of Applied Geochemistry

  • Vice President 2010-2012
  • President 2012-2014
  • Past-President 2014-2016
  • Council Member 2016-2019

The Geochemical Society - Lifetime member

Editorial Board of Chemical Geology - 2014-present

Academic Activities:

I have supervised numerous graduate students from the Colorado School of Mines, at both the M.S. and Ph.D. levels, from the Departments of Geology and Chemistry.  I have supervised several post-doctoral studies in geological and chemical projects.  I also have hosted students in my laboratory from Italy (University of Cagliari), and Spain (University of Huelva) and served on their thesis committees.

Scientific Lectures:

I have delivered more than 200 lectures to scientific and professional societies, universities, and civic groups, on topics related to my research activities, in the USA and in numerous other countries.

Conference Papers

Wanty, R.B., Verplanck, P.L., Fey, D.L., Church, S.E., San Juan, C.A., and Swigert, V.A., 2007.  Geochemistry of surface water in alpine catchments in central Colorado, USA: An example of sampling scale versus detail.  In, Bullen, T.D., and Wang, Y. (eds.), Proceedings of the 12th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction, Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 453-456.

Wang, B., Gough, L., Wanty, R.B., Crock, J., Day, W., and Vohden, J., 2007.  Landscape geochemistry near mineralized areas of eastern Alaska with a focus on As and Sb. In, Bullen, T.D., and Wang, Y. (eds.), Proceedings of the 12th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction, Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 1513-1516.

Wanty, R.B., Verplanck, P.L., Kimball, B.A., Tuttle, M.L., Runkel, R.L., and Berger, B.R., 2004, Resolving natural and anthropogenic sources of solutes to a watershed from historic mining, in, Wanty, R.B., and Seal, R.R. II, eds., Proceedings of the 11th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction: Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 1659-1663.

Verplanck, P.L., Wanty, R.B., Berger, B.R., Tuttle, M.L., Kimball, B.A., and Farmer, G.L., 2004, Hydrogeochemistry of an acidic, alpine watershed, Redwell basin, Colorado, in, Wanty, R.B., and Seal, R.R. II, eds., Proceedings of the 11th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction: Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 1649-1653.

Lorrai, M., Fanfani, L., Lattanzi, P., and Wanty, R.B., 2004, Processes controlling groundwater chemistry of a coastal area in SE Sardinia (Italy), in, Wanty, R.B., and Seal, R.R. II, eds., Proceedings of the 11th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction: Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 439-442.

Chapin, T., and Wanty, R.B., 2004, Diel cycling of Zn, Mn, and Cu in a stream impacted by acid rock drainage, in, Wanty, R.B., and Seal, R.R. II, eds., Proceedings of the 11th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction: Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 1463-1467.

Wanty, R.B., Berger, B.R., Kimball, B.A., Verplanck, P.L., and Tuttle, M.L., 2003, Delineation of environmental tracts in mineralized areas using geologic criteria:  Proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Regional Geoscientific Cartography, Bologna, Italy.

Wanty, R.B., Tuttle, M.L., Berger, B.R., Bove, D., and Eppinger, R.G., 2003, Environmental behavior of several porphyry molybdenum and copper deposits in the western US:  Proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Regional Geoscientific Cartography.

Chapin, T., Wanty, R.B., 2003, Development of a real-time in situ zinc analyzer and water sampler — Results from high resolution monitoring of a stream impacted by acid rock drainage. Sixth International Conference on Acid Rock Drainage, July 2003, Cairns, Australia, conference proceedings, pp 987-999.

Limpitlaw, D., and Wanty, R.B., 2002, Report of the working group on geoenvironmental models, in Fabbri, A., Gaal, G., and McCammon, R., eds., Proceedings of a NATO Workshop on Resource Exploitation and Environmental Security:  Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands.

Wanty, R.B., Berger, B.R., Plumlee, G.S., King, T.V.V., 2002, Geoenvironmental models:  An Introduction, in Fabbri, A., Gaal, G., and McCammon, R., eds., Proceedings of a NATO Workshop on Resource Exploitation and Environmental Security:  Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands.  pp. 3-42.

Wanty, R.B., Berger, B.R., and Tuttle M.L., 2001, Scale versus detail in water-rock investigations 1: A process-oriented framework for studies of natural systems, in Cidu, R., ed., Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction, Swets and Zeitlinger (Balkema), Lisse, pp. 221-224.

Berger, B.R., Wanty, R.B., and Tuttle M.L., 2001, Scale versus detail in water-rock investigations 2: Field-scale models of fracture networks in mineral deposits, in Cidu, R., ed., Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction, Swets and Zeitlinger (Balkema), Lisse, pp. 137-140.

Witte, K., Ridley, W.I., Wanty, R.B., and Harrison, W.R., 2000, Preliminary assessment of the use of Engelman Spruce (Picea Engelmanii) to monitor historical trends in trace metal movement in a mining-impacted alpine wetland, Waldorf, CO:  Proceedings of the 22nd Annual National Association of Abandoned Mine Lands programs Conference, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, September, 2000, 9 pp.

Malem, F., Wanty, R.B., Viellenave, J.H., and Fontana, J.V., 2000, Probe sampling and geophysics applied to ground water evaluation of mine dumps:  Tailings and Mine Waste ’00, Balkema, Rotterdam, pp. 223-230.

Wanty, R.B., Miller, W.R., Zielinski, R.A., Plumlee, G.S., Bove, D.J., Lichte, F.E., Meier, A.L., Smith, K.S., 1998, Uranium mobility in surface waters draining mineralized areas in the western US, in Arehart, G.B. and Hulston, J.R., eds., Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction:  Rotterdam, A.A. Balkema, pp. 1013-1016.

Frishman, D., Day, W.C., Folger, P.F., Wanty, R.B., Briggs, P.H., and Poeter, E., 1993, Bedrock geologic controls on radon abundance in domestic well water, Conifer, Colorado, in The 1993 International Radon Conference, Denver, Colorado, Proceedings:  Denver, Colo., 1993, The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, pp. IV20-IV30.

Wanty, R.B., Folger, P.F., Frishman, D., Briggs, P.H., Day, W.C., and Poeter, E., 1992, Weathering of Pikes Peak Granite:  Field, experimental, and modeling observations, in Kharaka, Y.K., and Maest, A.S., Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction:  A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp. 599-602.

Wanty, R.B., Folger, P.F., and Briggs, P.H., 1992, Ground-Water Chemistry of the Coal-Bearing Upper Cretaceous Mesaverde Formation, Wind River Reservation, Wyoming, in Keefer, W.R., Metzger, W.J., and Godwin, L.H., eds., Wyoming Geological Association Special Symposium on Oil and Gas Resources of the Wind River Basin, Wyoming:  Casper, Wyoming, pp. 271-279.

Wanty, R.B., Rice, C.A., Langmuir, D., Briggs, P.H., and Lawrence, E.P., 1991, Prediction of uranium adsorption by crystalline rocks:  the key role of reactive surface area:  Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings Series, v. 212, pp. 695-702.

Wanty, R.B., and Gundersen, L.C.S., 1988, Ground water geochemistry and radon 222 distribution in two sites on the Reading Prong, Eastern Pennsylvania, in Marikos, M.A., and Hansman, R.H., eds., Geological Causes of Natural Radionuclide Anomalies:  Missouri Department of Natural Resources Special Publication No. 4, pp. 147-156.

Wanty, R.B., and Gundersen, L.C.S., 1987, Radionuclide concentrations in ground water from two areas in the Reading Prong, Eastern Pennsylvania, in GEORAD Conference on Geological Causes of Radionuclide Anomalies:  Missouri Department of Natural Resources.  St. Louis, MO, April, 1987.

Other Publications

Wanty, R.B., and Szabo, Z., 1991, Ground water, an important but neglected contributor to indoor radon and other radionuclide problems:  GSA Today, Geological Society of America, November, 1991.

Goldhaber, M.B., Wanty, R.B., Landis, G.P., Reynolds, R.L., Grauch, R.I., Whitney, C.G., and Rye, R.O., 1991, Genesis of the tabular-type vanadium-uranium deposits of the Henry basin, Utah- A reply:  Economic Geology v. 86, pp. 1353-1355.

Wanty, R.B., Lawrence, E.P., and Gundersen, L.C.S., 1992, A theoretical model for the flux of radon-222 from rock to ground water, in Gates, A., and Gundersen, L.C.S., eds., Geologic Controls on Radon:  Geological Society of America Special Paper 271. pp. 73-78.

Folger, P.F., Poeter, E., Wanty, R.B., Frishman, D., and Day, W.C., 1996, Controls on 222Rn variations in a fractured crystalline rock aquifer evaluated using aquifer tests and geophysical logging:  Ground Water, v. 34, no. 2, pp. 250-261.

Wanty, R.B., 1999, Eh-pH relations, in Marshall, C. P. and Fairbridge, R.W., eds., Encyclopedia of Geochemistry:  Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands, pp. 183-186. 

Wanty, R.B., Berger, B.R., Plumlee, G.S., 1999, Environmental models of mineral deposits- A state of the art:  Geologica Hungarica, Series Geologica, Tomus 24, pp. 97-106.

Ódor, L., Wanty, R.B., Horváth, I., Fügedi, U., 1999, Environmental signatures of mineral deposits and areas of regional hydrothermal alteration in Northeastern Hungary: Geologica Hungarica, Series Geologica, Tomus 24, pp. 107-129.

Wanty, R.B., Miller, W.R., Briggs, P.H., and McHugh, J.B., 1999, Geochemical processes controlling uranium mobility in mine drainages, in Plumlee, G.S., and Logsdon, M.J., eds., The Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits:  Reviews in Economic Geology Volume 6A: Economic Geology Publishing Company, Littleton, Colorado, pp. 201-213.