There are six broad areas of research emphasis for graduate students and faculty within the department: (1) sedimentology and paleoecology (2) structural geology and regional tectonics (3) geomorphology, (4) hydrogeology (5) petrology and geochemistry (6) geophysics and geodynamics. Summaries of these activities follow:

Research in sedimentology and paleoecology includes the sequence stratigraphy of Paleozoic mixed carbonate-siliciclastic systems, paleoecology of reef and bioherm communities through time, and and Proterozoic basin analysis, isotope geochemistry, and paleobiology.

Research in structural geology and regional tectonics has included the examination of the mechanical and chemical evolution of fault zones; the structural and tectonic development of extensional structures in the Great Basin; the development of fold-and-thrust structures in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah; and the characterization of fluid-flow properties in fractured crystalline and deformed sedimentary rocks.

Geomorphology research has included the study of climate, tectonic, and anthropogenic controls on landscape change, erosion, and sedimentation. This includes studies on hillslope processes, landscape evolution of the Colorado Plateau and Grand Canyon; the downstream effect of dams, and river restoration.

Research activity in hydrogeology has included wellhead protection in confined to semiconfined aquifers, the relationships between stream losses and water table depths, and the identification and geochemical characterization of groundwater recharge to surface streams.

Research in petrology and geochemistry focuses on the origin and evolution of magmatic systems, oceanic lithosphere, collisional orogens, and convergent margin systems. These efforts use field relations, phase chemistry, and whole rock geochemistry to decipher these systems, and their relationship to the tectonic and geochemical evolution of the Earth.

Research in geophysics/geodynamics includes GPS geodetic measurement and modeling of rifting, orogeny, slow fault slip events, earthquakes and postseismic deformation; geophysical inversion and imaging of subsurface properties using combinations of seismic, gravity, elevation and heat flow data; and regional- to continental-scale mapping of lithospheric strength and rheological properties.

Geology faculty members commonly interact with the faculty and staff of the Utah Water Research Laboratory, the Department of Watershed Sciences, the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.