Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science - Geology



First Advisor

Dr. Kevin Stafford

Second Advisor

Dr. Melinda Faulkner

Third Advisor

Dr. Liane Stevens

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Farrish


Permian evaporites of the Gypsum Plain region of the Delaware Basin host extensive karst phenomena, as well as unique diagenetic alterations of host strata. Because of the complex, poorly understood hydrogeologic system, little has been established concerning the relation and evolution of the overprinted, modern and ancient karst manifestations within the Gypsum Plain, as a whole. Through a combination of traditional field studies and the development of improved remote sensing methodologies, this study established the speleogenetic evolution of the Gypsum Plain in relation to the greater tectonic, stratigraphic, hydrogeologic and climatic history of the Delaware Basin. Emphasis was focused on a 100 km2 area of the Gypsum Plain in Eddy County, New Mexico, for the presence of all characteristic evaporite karst manifestations previously reported for the region, including epikarst, epigene caves, hypogene caves, intrastratal brecciation, calcitization and sulfur oxidation.

Late Miocene uplift and tilting of the Delaware Basin tectonic block initiated development of dissolution and collapse of Castile strata, inducing an early phase of hypogene karsting. Renewed uplift and tilting during the latest Miocene, combined with increasing regional geothermal gradients, enabled hydrocarbon maturation, evaporite calcitization and additional hypogene porosity development. Pleistocene climate fluctuations increased denudation and exposed Castile evaporites to epigene development, while migration of the Pecos River across the area during the late Eocene enhanced karst processes. Karsting slowed with the Holocene shift to the current warm, arid climate, but solutional processes remain active with the general eastward migration of the hydrogeologic system.

Traditional karst studies such as this are often costly and require months, if not years, of physical fieldwork. Preliminary identification of areas of interest through the careful evaluation of geologic maps offers a more efficient approach. However, published geologic maps of the Gypsum Plain feature little to no detail of lithologic variability, a vital attribute when dealing with phenomena dm2 to tens of m2 in area. Therefore,50 centimeter spatial resolution geologic maps were created through the classification of reflectance values of color infrared imagery of the study area in order to better constrain spatial variability in karst processes. Multispectral data was used for this purpose due to the high spatial resolution commercially/publicly available over that of hyperspectral sensor’s higher spectral resolutions and band combinations, deemed unnecessary because of the contrasting reflectance values of surface strata across the Gypsum Plain. Coupling of an improved speleogenetic evolution of the area with more accurate geologic mapping enables the development of better land management practices for karsted terrains such as the Gypsum Plain.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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