Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science - Geology



First Advisor

Dr. R. LaRell Nielson

Second Advisor

Dr. Kevin Stafford

Third Advisor

Dr. Timothy Walsh


The stratigraphy of the Pojoaque Member of the Tesuque Formation near Española, NM is not well understood. This region, during the Middle Miocene, represented a dynamic alluvial fan-fluvial-lacustrine environment within the Española Basin while the Rio Grande Rift was active. Cavazza (1986) identified two paleodrainage systems (lithosome A, basin-margin facies and B, basin-floor facies) by means of sandstone and conglomerate petrology, paleocurrent, and sedimentary facies analyses. After x-ray diffraction analyses of claystones within lithosome B, mordenite was discovered, which is a zeolite mineral commonly found within volcanic rocks. This is significant because the presence of mordenite confirms Cavazza’s (1986) conclusion that lithosome B was sourced by the Taos Plateau–Latir volcanic fields.

The objective of this study was to identify the stratigraphic position of vertebrate fauna of the Pojoaque Member of the Tesuque Formation using known fossil locality data, newly discovered fossil locality data, and measured sections of the Pojoaque Member. A faunal list was compiled that incorporates all vertebrates that have been taxonomically described from the Pojoaque Member, as well as first appearance datum. Two new vertebrate species were also described.

Fossils discovered within the Pojoaque Member are almost exclusively found within relatively thin (0.5–3 m) maroon-red and pale green claystone to fine-grained siltstone beds of lithosome B which were concluded to likely be small lacustrine deposits.

Unfortunately, it was not common practice for early paleontologists to record specific geographic locations of fossils. Therefore, this study was restricted to relatively recently published paleontological data, fossils discovered during this study, and coarse stratigraphic ranges of common fossil collecting localities to identify the stratigraphic positions of the fossil specimens. Many previous explorations recorded fossils singly from the Santa Cruz Red bed; in reality, there are multiple red horizons. Seven stratigraphic transects were measured across eight sections in the Española Basin. Examinations of the stratigraphic distribution of these fossiliferous beds have led to the conclusion that the Santa Cruz localities span the entire member. It was also concluded that making lithostratigraphic correlations within the Pojoaque Member across the Española Basin would be difficult, if not impossible, on account of the variability of the lithology.


I would first like to thank my thesis advisor Dr. LaRell Nielson of the Geology Department at Stephen F. Austin State University. He consistently allowed this thesis project to be my own work and allowed me to research any topics I so desired.

Besides my advisor, I would like to thank the rest of my thesis committee: Dr. Kevin Stafford, Dr. Timothy Walsh, and Dr. Stephen Mullin, for their insightful comments and encouragement. They always greeted any questions or problems that I had with my research.

I would also like to thank Phil Gensler from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for assisting me in acquiring a permit to collect vertebrate fossils on BLM lands. Phil introduced me to Gary Morgan (paleontologist: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science) who aided in fossil identifications. Both Phil and Gary showed me around the study area, recommended good spots to camp, and took me to their fossil collecting localities. Without their guidance and input, much more time would have had to be dedicated to finding a way onto the land, locating fossil bearing strata, and identifying fossils.

I thank my friends within the geology department for the simulating discussions, for their support and reassurances, and for all the fun we have had in the last two years.

Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Tim Walsh of the Geology Department at Wayland Baptist University. Along with volunteering to spend three weeks me in the field and providing outstanding feedback on my thesis edits, he agreed to serve as a committee member on my thesis. Without his constant guidance and passion, I would not be the geologist that I am today.

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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