Home page of Dr. Harmon D. Maher Jr.

Department of Geography and Geology, University of Nebraska at Omaha

key words/terms for this site: Svalbard (Spitsbergen) geology, Nebraska geology, structural geology, undergraduate research, Great Plains fractures


Water color by Anna-Turi Maher of fjord, glaciers and mountain ridges in northwest Svalbard (paint on wood).


Short bio: I have taught a variety of geology courses (see list below) to undergraduates at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for 28 years. My pedagogic foci are on undergraduate research, experential learning in the field, and earth system science. Current research interests are in structural geology and tectonics, focused on the area of Spitsbergen (Norway), and on the Tertiary Great Plains strain/stress history, with minor forays into the history and philosophy of geology. I have also spent time in administration as Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Creative Activity and as department chair. Complete vita.

Information on courses taught and undergraduate and other research projects can be found below.


Courses for Spring Semester 2014:

Pages for courses previously taught:


Great Plains Fracture Study

Image to upper right: Painting of composite chalcedony vein and clastic dike from the badlands of South Dakota. Note the distinctive vertical fluting on the vein/dike outer surface. Painting done by Anna-Turi Maher

Description: Even a cursory examination shows rocks of all types to be fractured, and these fractures to be quite diverse in patterns, orientations and types. Rocks of the Great Plains that lie in a midcontinent position, in the stable cratonic core, are no exception. Such fracture systems generate a host of interesting academic questions such as: what are the different patterns, why do the fracture types, patterns and orientations occur, what was the history of development, what forces (stresses) were involved in their development and how are these related to other phenomena? Even the relatively young (from a geologic perspective) Tertiary strata of the Great Plains display a diverse array of joints, veins, clastic dikes and faults that formed during a complex and polyphase history. Understanding them is challanging because fracture sets are polygenetic (we have identified ten different situations in which they form). The Great Plains Fracture Study is aimed at a comprehensive look at fracture systems in the Great Plains, their character and history of formation, and is being conducted by Dr. Robert Shuster, a whole host of undergraduate students at UNO, and myself. Special thanks to that host of students willing to engage in this undergraduate research - without them this would not be possible.

In addition to being of academic interest, knowledge of fracture systems in the Great Plains also has distinct practical utility They are crucial as fluid flow conduits in rock bodies. As one specific example, in western Nebraska, fractures in the Brule Formation create important, creating local aquifers in this water challenged area. Fractures play some role in local Uranium mineralization as evidence the Uranium mineralization found in clastic dikes in the Badlands National Park area. Mining of the uranium is by solution methods and local joint and fracture systems are therfore a consideration. The now famous Bakken Formation that has made North Dakota an oil boom state at present is the better known example of where fracture systems, natural and artificial, make all the difference, and fracture systems are a dominant factor in many new hydrocarbon exploration plays, including those in the Niobrara chalks. Understanding rock fracture systems is crucial to ongoing carbon sequestration projects where geologic reservoirs are used to store carbon dioxide to mitigate global warming. Fracture systems are also major determinants of slope stability and associated hazard risk, and of certain rock properties crucial to large scale engineering projects.

More information and related documents on the Great Plains Fracture Study can be found by following this link.

Red symbols show preferred strike orientation of fracture sets at study localities as of 2011, and include Late Cretaceous, Tertiary and Quaternary (loess) host rocks. Base map and geologic unit labels from Garrity and Soller (2005) with oT, mT, and nT roughly equivalent to the White River, Arikaree, and Ogallala Groups. 2uK includes the Niobrara chalks/shales and the Pierre shale. Multiple attributes are associated with each preferred orientation in the GIS database used to create this map. Sites along Missouri River in Nebraska are from loess units.


Svalbard related research documents:

Other documents:

Student research documents (links to documents created by students that I've worked with).


This site is very much under continual construction! Last update 1/5/13. Feedback welcome (harmon_maher@unomaha.edu)..

You are free to use material within for non-profit educational purposes, although appropriate credit should be given. Otherwise please contact me. Thank you.

If you have any questions about or feedback on these sites please contact Harmon D. Maher Jr., Department of Geography and Geology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE 68182-0199. email-> harmon_maher@mail.unomaha.edu.

View of Carboniferous strata in Billefjorden area, Spitsbergen, Norway.