James D. Walker

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Geology
Union Pacific Resources Distinguished Professor
Primary office:
Nichols Hall
Room 354
University of Kansas
2335 Irving Hill Road
Lawrence, KS 66045-7612
Second office:
Lindley Hall
Room 120


Expertise and Current Research Activity

My research is currently focused on three main topics.

The first is understanding how to locate geothermal resources using novel and innovative exploration techniques. It is easy to find resources in areas that show geothermal manifestations like geysers or hot springs, but difficult if direct evidence is lacking. Because we know all the places that steam is coming out of the ground, finding hidden resources is critical to expanding use of geothermal energy. My research group has developed several accurate and cost effective ways of exploring for such geothermal prospects.

I also use the isotopes of strontium to explore past animal behavior. I work with several anthologists, for example, at looking at Bison and Mammoth migration patterns over the last 20,000 years. Surprisingly, we find that Bison do not migrate widely as is popularly thought.

Lastly, I work on databases and data reporting standards for geochemical and rock age information. This is a large and collaborative effort that is placing the reporting of information directly and seamlessly into the scientist’s workflow. This effort is bringing such information to the fingertips of scientists, students, and the general public.


Ph.D., Geology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

M.S., Geology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

B.S., Geology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Teaching Interests

  • Structural Geology
  • Field Geology
  • Error Analysis
  • Tectonics
  • Regional Geology


My research interests are in integration of Tectonics, Geochronology, and GIS to better understand the geologic development of contractile and extensional systems. The main problems I am pursuing are 1) The development of contractile belts in a backarc setting. This research focuses on the interaction of plutons with faulting along the backarc margin of arcs. 2) Response of the lithosphere to extensional deformation. This work is multifaceted in that it approaches lithospheric deformation from a field point of view as well as using isotope geochemistry to better understand the coupling of crustal deformation with responses of mantle melting in the subcrustal lithosphere and mantle. 3) GIS techniques in geology. My research in this area spans the gamut from developing software/hardware combinations for geologic mapping on laptops in the field to regional database development to solve tectonic problems.

Research Interests

  • Structural Geology
  • GIS
  • Geochronology
  • Isotope Geochemistry
  • Geoinformatics

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