I’m an Associate Dean in the College of Arts & Science and a Senior Lecturer in Earth and Environmental Sciences. As an associate dean, I have oversight of the College Scholars Program, Honors Scholarships, Departmental Honors programs, counsel undergraduate students, and serve as the Arts and Science liaison with Undergraduate Admissions. In Earth and Environmental Sciences, I teach introductory geology classes, Structural Geology, and seminars on Antarctica and glacial geology.

My research is primarily in glacial geology, and I focus on the glacial history of Antarctica. Additionally, I am a faculty VUceptor for first-year students and the faculty advisor for the Geology Club, which includes leading them to the annual “Geoconclave” competition between Tennessee undergraduate geology programs. My wife Torrey also works at Vanderbilt, and we have two children.

Originally from Portland, OR, I earned a B.A. from Pomona College in Claremont, CA where I double-majored in Geology and Mathematics. After skiing for a year in Steamboat Springs, CO, I went to the University of Washington, Seattle to earn a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences. My research is in the fields of geomorphology and geochronology, and I specialize in utilizing exposure dating techniques such as cosmogenic nuclides and lichenometry to determine the age of landforms and how quickly they change through time.

As a geomorphologist, I seek to understand how landscapes change through time and how environmental changes are reflected across a landscape. To address these questions, I utilize a variety of geochronologic techniques, including exposure dating with cosmogenic nuclides (such as 10Be, 26Al, and 21Ne) and lichenometry, which allow me to study questions about landscape evolution, the timing of geologic events, and the rates at which geomorphic processes occur. Most of my field areas are glacial terrains, and many of my projects look at determining the timing of glacial events and how quickly glacial deposits have changed since they were deposited. My work involves a balance of field-based studies in alpine areas and Antarctica, laboratory analysis, and numerical modeling. Increasingly, I am using additional geochemical techniques such as Chemical Index of Alteration (CIA) and U-Pb ages of detrital zircons in glacial tills to look at the provenance of tills and the flow patterns glaciers through time.

Additionally, I have broad interests in environmental management and the role of science in decision making. I study the sustainable use of natural resources, quantifying environmental impacts using life cycle assessments, and the role of science in environmental decision making.



Putkonen, J., D. Morgan, and G. Balco (2014). Boulder weathering in McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Geomorphology, Volume 219: 192-199, ISSN 0169-555X, doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2014.05.012.

O’Neal, M. A., N. Legg, B. Hanson, D. J. Morgan, and A. Rothgeb* (2013). Lichenometric dating of rock surfaces in the northern Cascade Range, USA. Geografiska Annaler, Volume 95, Issue 3, pages 241-248, September 2013, DOI: 10.1111/geoa.12012.

Putkonen, J., D. J. Morgan, and G. Balco (2012). Regolith transport quantified by braking block, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Geomorphology, 155–156: 80–87, ISSN 0169-555X, doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2011.12.010.