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Kyle House

  • PhD
  • Research Geologist
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • 5PublicationsNumber of items in Kyle's My Publications folder on Mendeley.
  • 11Followers

Research interests

Fluvial geomorphology 'Extrafluvial' geomorphology Landscape evolution GIS and Geologic mapping

About

I have been a geologist specializing in fluvial geomorphology, paleohydrology, and Quaternary stratigraphy for about the last 20 years. I earned two undergraduate degrees from Western Washington University in 1989: BA in Geography (minor in cartography) and BSc in Geology; and two graduate degrees from the University of Arizona: MS in Geosciences (1991); and PhD in Geosciences (1996); both with major emphasis in geomorphology and minor in tectonics. I performed my graduate studies at the University of Arizona under the principal supervision of Dr. Victor R. Baker with guidance also from Drs. William B. Bull and Katherine K. Hirschboeck. While in graduate school, I focused on unraveling the late Holocene paleoflood stratigraphy of rivers and ephemeral drainages in central and western Arizona; understanding the flood hydroclimatology of Arizona; and documenting prehistorical and historical channel changes on major rivers in Arizona. While in graduate school, I also worked at the Arizona Geological Survey under the supervision of Dr. Philip A. Pearthree. My work at AZGS was dominated by surficial geologic mapping projects in southern, central, and western Arizona. I carried out post-doctoral studies at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, NV under the direction of Dr. Stephen G. Wells. During this time my research focused on the stratigraphic record of late Holocene and historical flooding on rivers in arid and semi arid parts of Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon. I was hired as research geologist / associate professor at the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG) in 1998. NBMG is part of the University of Nevada, Reno, and I was granted tenure and promoted to assistant professor at UNR in 2002. During my professional career at NBMG, I have authored or co-authored more than 20 geologic maps of parts of Nevada and immediately surrounding states; edited a book on Paleoflood Hydrology; authored or co-authored 20 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters; authored or co-authored more than 40 professional talks. I also actively engage UNR students from the geography and geology departments through collaboration and instruction in geomorphology, surficial geologic mapping, and GIS. Over the last 12 years, I have taught a 7-10 day session on surficial geology and geomorphology for the UNR summer geology field camp on 9 separate occasions. Research Interests I have a strong professional and personal interest in the late Cenozoic history of earth surface processes and landscape evolution in the western North America...mainly in the desert regions. Because I use geologic mapping as a principal means for summarizing my observations and interpretations, I am often forced to consider surficial geologic processes over a broad range of spatial and temporal scales. After having made many mistakes, I found that actively collaborating with geologists with expertise in similar or (better) other geologic topics greatly enhances my understanding of field relations and process histories. In fact, many of my true epiphanic moments in the field have been instigated by questions from, or observations by, other geologists. Going it alone is rarely as intellectually satisfying as collaboration. I have garnered extensive field experience in diverse geologic settings in Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and California through my many geologic mapping projects. Most of these projects have tended to emphasize the stratigraphic and geomorphologic records of landscape evolution driven by combinations of climate change, tectonics, mass movements, and volcanism. My research on these topics has spanned parts of the Humboldt, Truckee, Carson, and Walker rivers, Nevada; the Verde and Bill Williams rivers, Arizona; Walker and Pyramid lakes, Nevada; the middle Owyhee River, Oregon; and the lower Colorado River in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Some episodes of my career have focused strongly on the application of geologic information and reasoning to help improve understanding flood hazards in diverse fluvial settings. I have carried out research on the paleoflood stratigraphy in the canyons and floodplains of large rivers and streams with a goal toward improving understanding of variations in flood magnitude and frequency over millennial time frames. My research on the relation between the surficial geology of desert piedmonts and the distribution and severity of alluvial fan flood hazards has been an important contribution to floodplain management concerns. I wrote a paper on alluvial fan flood hazards in the Laughlin, Nevada area that indicated just how problematic and erroneous regulatory methods for flood hazard assessments on fans can be. This paper was recognized by the American Water Resources Association as the outstanding paper of the year for 2005, which was a pleasant surprise to say the least. Recent, Key Research Efforts I have been working on unraveling the history of the lower Colorado River for nearly 10 years now. By far the most significant outcome of these efforts has been the discovery of key stratigraphic units and relationships that support the hypothesis that the evolution of much (all?) of the river's course below the Grand Canyon was formed by downstream-directed processes including the filling and spilling of freshwater lakes around 5.5 Million years ago. There is an intriguing array of geologic deposits from the Colorado River in the general area of Laughlin, Nevada and Bullhead City, Arizona that had never been observed or described in any detail until I worked with a group that was tasked with mapping the area at 1:24,000. The day I finally found/understood the flood deposit that 'clinched' the deal was one of the best field moments I have ever had (so far). I continue to work along the river and am comparably enamored with its Pleistocene history, but am always looking for more clues about the day the river made its first appearance. I also spend a lot of time mapping along the rivers and lakes of Nevada...the modern ones and their ancient forebears. In these efforts, I am perpetually in awe of how rapidly dramatic environmental changes can occur and how rapidly fluvial, aeolian, and lacustrine systems respond to those changes. No matter how many times I see, describe, and map the evidence, I am always amazed by what has transpired...sometimes those changes have occurred over a millennial time frame, other times over a decadal time frame. I am essentially obsessed with finding and attempting to understand the stratigraphic and geomorphic evidence that attests to these changes, their magnitudes, and their rates. That is part of the occasional bouts of sheer joy that field work can bring. Seriously, what beats walking up to a boulder nearly the size of your home that blasted out of a canyon only 500 years ago? My recent work on the Owyhee River in southeast Oregon has added an entirely new dimension to my understanding of the way rivers work. In this case, it involves grappling with a river that is periodically involved with voluminous influxes of basalt lava that fill the canyon with 10s of meters of solid rock in just a few years (decades?) and construct immense dams spanning kilometers along the river that last for 10,000s of years. This circumstance is quite an affront to a river, and the mappable geologic consequences are nothing short of amazing. When the Owyhee isn't being repaved with solid rock, it is being pummeled with huge landslides. Landslides are ubiquitous along the Owyhee, and they have a very strong linkage to the lava flows. The landslide events have less of a lasting impact on the channel, but they do constitute a notable, local sediment pulse as well as a temporary damming mechanism that is prone to catastrophic failure. Oh, and did I mention that the Owyhee has also conveyed huge flood(s) from pluvial lake overflow? Things are rarely boring there. In fact, lately, part of my research group has been developing a strong interest in determining just how long this battle of river and lava and lake and lava has been going on and how it ties into the integration of the Owyhee with the Snake River (and the integration of the Snake and the Columbia River). The evidence for lava-water interaction in the region spans more than 5 my, and we are developing an eye for the resulting large-scale geomorphic and stratigraphic evidence. Other Professional Interests and Skills I am self-sufficient and self-taught in using GIS for generating geological maps and am always interested in improving my skills in this arena. I have always been fascinated by maps and have managed to make a career out of making them in the field and in the office. I often instruct colleagues and students in using GIS for geologic mapping. Recently, I have become moderately proficient in manipulating LiDAR data for optimal value in geologic mapping and research. Over the last several years, I have become extremely interested in the use of new digital devices and methods for improving workflow in the field and the office. I also have been pursuing 'web 2.0' and social media applications as platforms for disseminating information about these methods and devices to my colleagues and students...however, this doesn't work when most of your colleagues ignore these types of things. I actively maintain and contribute to five blogs that are geologically themed and I am a tireless advocate of adopting new technology and have given numerous invited and volunteered presentations to this effect over the last two years. In 2009, I organized and led a Keynote Session at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America that was devoted entirely to this topic...the first such session to be hosted by GSA. What else? Well, currently I am vice chair of the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of the Geological Society of America; serve on the steering committee for the Geoscience Information Network; do too many administrative / service tasks to enumerate here; manage to raise a couple of kids with my wife; squeeze out a few 10s of miles per week on one of my bikes; and actually get some sleep between bouts of insomnia when I worry about finishing all of my projects.

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Recent publications

  • Chapter 15: “Stratigraphic evidence for the role of lake spillover in the inception of the lower Colorado River in southern Nevada and western Arizona” (House et al.),

    • House, P. Kyle, Pearthree, P.A., Merkins M
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  • An integrated approach to flood hazard assessment on alluvial fans using numerical modeling, eld mapping, and remote sensing

    • Pelletier J
    • Pearthree P
    • Demsey K
    • et al.
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Professional experience

Research Geologist

U.S. Geological Survey

September 2010 - Present

Education

PhD

University of Arizona

August 1991 - December 1996(5 years)

MS

University of Arizona

August 1989 - May 1991(2 years)

BA

Western Washington University

August 1983 - June 1989(6 years)

BS

Western Washington University

August 1983 - June 1989(6 years)