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Dr. David Vaniman

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Senior Scientist

Currently resides in CA
dvaniman [at]
Areas of Expertise
Targets: Earth, Mars, Moon
Disciplines/Techniques: Petrology, Volcanism, Geology, Ground-based observing, Mineralogy, Mapping
Missions: MSL

Research Interests

Dr. Dave Vaniman is a petrologits/geochemist who studies geologic histories on both Earth and Mars. His current research interests include the study of mineral chemistry as a guide to water-rock interactions encompassing past studies of alteration-mineral assemblages, including the near-surface hydrous mineralogy of Mars. Terrestrial focus for this interest has included the chemistry of zeolites and clay minerals with their record of groundwater interaction, interactions of minerals with actinide elements in groundwater, and the mineralogy and petrology of soils and springs. His current research addresses hydrous minerals in space environments, including brine-smectite reactions relevant to Mars. Past studies leading up to these projects include planetary regolith formation, petrology of lunar mare and highland basalts, studies of manned missions and planetary resources, and development of instrumentation for planetary mineralogy and geochemistry. Terrestrial research projects have included the late Precambrian (‘Pan-African’) terrain of Northern Nigeria, emplacement histories of granitic plutons, Precambrian metamorphosed iron formations in Minnesota and Montana, granite - carbonate interactions in Western Utah, basaltic volcanism of the southeastern Colorado Plateau, and basaltic volcanism of central and southern Nevada. Most recently the emphasis has been on Cenozoic basin-filling sedimentation and volcanism of north-central New Mexico and mineral chemistry of the Jurassic Todilto Formation.

Professional History

Dr. Vaniman received his PhD in Earth Sciences in 1976 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Prior to graduate school, he had experience teaching high school in Nigeria and was a member of the Geological Survey of Nigeria. After working as a post-doctoral research associate at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, he was employed in 1979 as a Staff Member in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory. He joined the permanent science staff of PSI in 2011. One of his projects at LANL was to lead the mineralogy-petrology research group for the Yucca Mountain Project (investigation of a potential high-level nuclear waste repository in Nevada), 1981-1988. He is participating on two instrument teams for Mars Science Laboratory, which landed on Mars in August 2012. He is Deputy PI for the CheMin combined X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument and Co-I on the ChemCam laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy and imaging instrument.

Honors and Awards

1989, Fellow, Geological Society of America

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