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    Department of Geology and Geophysics



Full-time Faculty

Gary R. Byerly, Alumni Professor of Geology

Professor (LSU Alumni Professor) (Ph.D. Michigan State University, 1974)
Igneous Petrology, early Earth evolution, including magmatic, surficial, and biological systems.
Office: 354 Howe-Russell Building

Contact Information:

Office: 354 Howe-Russell
Telephone: (225) 578-5318
Fax: (225) 578-2302
Courses Taught
  • Geology 2082 - Petrography - Optical Mineralogy
  • Geology 7043 - Advanced Igneous Petrology
  • Geology 7900 - Microscopy and Microanalysis
  • Geology 7941 - Seminar in Planetary Geology
Current Research Interests

Evolution of the early Earth

My on-going research is primarily directed at early Earth evolution, including magmatic, surficial, and biological systems. This work, mostly in South Africa and Australia, has been supported much of the time by grants from NSF and NASA. NSF currently supports my work in the Archean of South Africa. Results include publication of a Geological Society of America Special Paper (1999, #329, 319 pages), and four papers in Science and Nature. Some of the most important aspects of this work include: 1) recognition of a much more complex, stratigraphically thick, and prolonged development of crust in the 3.6-3.2 billion-year-old Barberton greenstone belt; 2) discovery of extreme high-pressure fractionation in mantle-derived magmas; 3) discovery of stromatolites, early signs of life's emergence on Earth, in volcanic interbeds; 4) recognition of unusual surficial environments and conditions of alteration of exposed lavas; and, 5) discovery of four major meteorite impact beds (each comparable in size to the K-T boundary impact!). Analytical studies of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks from the early Earth include electron microprobe mineral chemistry, ICP and ICP-MS rock chemistry, and TIMS and SHRIMP geochronology. I have supervised the LSU Geology and Geophysics microanalytical laboratories for the past 10 years and have been the PI on three major equipment grants to the laboratory. I have taken three research sabbaticals while at LSU: 1984 at University of Cape Town, 1991 at MIT, and 1999 at Stanford. My work has been featured in segments on several BBC and Discovery broadcast videos, with another scheduled for this spring; on radio, including NPR and StarDate; in the popular press, such as the New York Times; in the popular science literature, such as Discover, Science News, and Scientific American; and several editorials in very prestigious sources such as The Advocate, Science, and Nature.

Future research is likely to be strongly influenced by collaborations with individuals at Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, and UCSD and a new thrust at understanding Earth's early meteor impact record, and how this history of large impacts likely has influenced the course of physical and biological evolution of Earth and other planets. I currently have five years support for field studies in South Africa and Australia. This work will continue my studies of Earth's earliest volcanic rocks, the komatiites, as well as our more general work on early Earth surface and biological systems.

  • Ph.D., 1974, Michigan State University
  • M.S., 1972, Michigan State University
  • B.S., 1970, Michigan State University
Selected Publications

Lowe, D.R. and Byerly, G.R., 2007. Geology of ironstone bodies in the Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa: Products of Quaternary iron-oxide-depositing springs, not Archean hydrothermal vents, Bulletin Geological Society of America 119:65-87.

Lowe, D.R. and Byerly, G.R., 2007. Geology of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa, in "Earth’s Oldest Rocks", ed. M. van Kranendonk, Elsevier, p.481-526.

Byerly, G.R., Lowe, D.R., and Walsh, M.M., 1986, Stromatolites from the 3,300 to 3,500 Myr Swaziland Supergroup, Nature, 319, 489-491.

Byerly, G.R., 1991, Nature of Igneous Activity, in Salvador, A., ed., The Gulf of Mexico Basin, Decade of North American Geology, Geological Society of America, pages 91-108.

Byerly, G.R., 1999, Komatiites of the Mendon Formation: Late-stage ultramafic volcanism in the Barberton Greenstone Belt, in Lowe, D.R., and Byerly, G.R., eds., Geological Evolution of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, Geological Society of America Special Paper 329, p.189-212.

Byerly, G.R., Lowe, D.R., Wooden, J., and Xie, X., 2002, An Archean Impact Layer from the Pilbara and Kaapvaal Cratons, Science 297:1325-1327.

Lowe, D.R and Byerly,G.R.,2004, Ironstone pods is the Archean Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa : The Earth's oldest sea-floor hydrothermal vents reinterpreted as Quaternary subaerial springs, Geology 31:909-912


Post Doctoral

Xiaogang Xie

Graduate Students

Marc Cooper

Judi Fridge

Keena Kareem