Dr. Jennifer Gifford

Areas of Expertise

Tectonics, Geochemistry, Geochronology, Thermochronology, Petrology, Structural Geology, Geologic Mapping

Recent Projects


Quantifying the Birth of the Mississippi River: Evidence from the Cretaceous McNairy Sand

This project will answer a major question related to the ancient Mississippi River through the use of the Maastrichtian (~70 million years ago (Ma)) McNairy Formation of northern Mississippi (MS) and southern Tennessee (TN): What is the nature of deposition of the ancient Mississippi river in terms of age and tectonic environment of origin (Mississippi Embayment). Blum and Pecha (2014) observed a major change in the dominant drainage trajectory of the ancient Mississippi River in the late Cretaceous (between ~100 – 60 Ma), from west-flowing across the continent to south-flowing to the Mississippi Embayment. This successfully narrowed down the time-span of the formation of the Mississippi river to ~40 Ma. Zircon from samples spreading the geographic extent of the eastern Mississippi Embayment will be analyzed for U-Pb radiometric detrital age spectrum that will reveal the nature of the depositional systems along the southern margin of Appalachia during latest Cretaceous time following the recession of the Western Interior Seaway. These data will be compared to data from the Illinois (IL) Basin deposits of the McNairy Fm. to test the model of Blum and Pecha (2014), and to further narrow down the birthdate of the Mississippi river. Figure modified from Blakey, 2017.





An Investigation into the Geochemical Character of the Medicine Hat Block

The Medicine Hat Block (MHB) of southern Alberta and northern Montana is a largely concealed province of Archean and Paleoproterozoic rock buried by younger supracrustal successions. The MHB was involved in a complex collision between the Archean Hearne and Wyoming provinces during the formation of the Great Falls Tectonic Zone (GFTZ), Trans Hudson Orogen (THO) and Vulcan Zone during the amalgamation of Laurentia. However, its role in this collision is poorly defined by limited high precision geochronolgy and geochemisty. Xenoliths recovered by the Geological Survey of Canada from Eocene minette dikes and boreholes in the MHB north of the Wyoming craton include a population of gneisses, granulites, monozites, tonalities, amphibolites, and diorites sampling the otherwise concealed MHB crust. New whole-rock geochemistry data including major-elements, trace-elements, Nd-isotopes, and Pb-isotopes from these samples will improve understanding of the age and origins of the MHB crust.



Geochronological study of the Whalen Group, Hartville Uplift southeast margin of Wyoming craton

The Hartville Uplift, southeast margin of the Archean Wyoming craton, has not been studied in depth. There are a few hypotheses explaining the formation and tectonics behind the Hartville Uplift. The lead hypothesis was published by Sims et al. (1996) suggesting that the uplift was a result of 4 episodes of deformation starting with Whalen group deposition followed by fold nappe, which possibly resulted from an early phase of the 2nd deformation. The 2nd deformation event was folding on east-trending axes followed by a folding on northeast trending axes and ending with a “scattered small recumbent folds in the southernmost part of uplift” (Sims et al., 1996). Although this hypothesis is the most common, it is not yet fully supported and requires additional data. A missing piece is the metasupracrustal rocks which were assigned to the Whalen Group by Smith (1903). This project will be focusing on geochronological dating and geochemical study of the Whalen Group.


Timing of Late Cretaceous Gulf Coast Volcanism

The Upper Cretaceous Ripley Formation in the Mississippi Embayment consists of ~240 feet (73 m) of fossiliferous clay, sand, and calcareous sand beds. Lateral facies variations have complicated historical stratigraphic correlations between locations, but recent stratigraphic revisions in Mississippi recognize a lower transitional clay facies, a limestone, marl, and calcareous sand facies informally named the Troy beds, a sandy upper Ripley facies, and the formally named Chiwapa Sandstone Member. Ammonite biostratigraphy places the contact between the Chiwapa and the overlying Owl Creek/Prairie Bluff at ~68.5 Ma. The upper Ripley facies contains the Pontotoc Bentonite, which was identified north of the town of Pontotoc, Mississippi, in 1943. No radiometric dates have been obtained from this bentonite, but litho- and biostratigraphy indicate that the bentonite is younger than known volcanism from the Jackson Dome and related structures. Recent investigations resulted in the discovery of a previously unknown bentonite bed south of the town of Pontotoc. The purposes of the present investigation are 1) to test whether the new bentonite bed is correlative to the Pontotoc Bentonite and 2) to recover volcanogenic zircons for U-Pb and Hf dating to better constrain timing of volcanism and chronostratigraphy of the Ripley Formation.



Publications

PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS (Undergradaute Researcher, Graduate Researcher)

Gifford, J.N., Platt, B.F., Yarbrough, L., O’Reilly, A., Al Harthy, M.H.M., Integrating petrography, x-ray fluorescence, and U-Pb detrital zircon geochronology to interpret provenance of the Mississippian Hartselle Sandstone, U.S.A. Journal of Geology, CONDITIONALLY ACCEPTED WITH REVISION.

Malone, J., Malone, D.H., Gifford, J.N., Craddock, J., Arkle, J., and Wolf, M., 2019. Geochronology of the Southern Margin of the Bighorn Batholith, Wyoming. Mountain Geologist, v. 56, n. 3, p. 267-294. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31582/rmag.mg.56.3.267

Craddock, J.P., Malone, D.H., Gifford, J.N., Schmitz, M.D., Strain variations across the Proterozoic Penokean Orogen, USA and Canada, Precambrian Research, v. 318, p. 25-69. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.precamres.2018.09.004

Gifford, J.N., Mueller, P.A., Foster, D.A., Mogk, D.W., 2018. Extending the realm of Archean crust in the Great Falls tectonic zone: Evidence from the Little Rocky Mountains, Montana. Precambrian Research, v. 315, p. 264-281. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.precamres.2018.07.021

Gifford, J.N., Mueller, P.A., Foster, D.A., Mogk, D.W., 2014. Precambrian Crustal Evolution in the Great Falls tectonic zone: Insights from Xenoliths from the Montana Alkali Province. Journal of Geology, v. 122, n. 5, p. 531-548. DOI: https://doi-org.umiss.idm.oclc.org/10.1086/677262

Foster, D.A., Mueller, P.A., Heatherington, A., Gifford, J.N., Kalakay, T.J., 2012. Lu-Hf systematics of magmatic zircons reveal a Proterozoic crustal boundary under the Cretaceous Pioneer batholith, Montana. Lithos, v. 142-143, p. 216-225. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lithos.2012.03.005

Meert, J.G., Pandit, M.K., Pradhan, V.R., Banks, J., Sirianni, R., Stroud, M., Newstead, B., Gifford, J.N., 2010. Precambrian crustal evolution of Peninsular India: A 3.0 billion year odyssey. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, v. 39, p. 483-515. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jseaes.2010.04.026

Mueller, Paul A., Foster, David A., Gifford, J.N., Wooden, Joseph, Mogk, David W., 2008. Tectonic and stratigraphic implications of detrital zircon suites in Cambrian and Precambrian sandstones from the eastern margin of the belt basin. Northwest Geology, v. 37, p. 61-68.

Gifford, J.N., Mueller, P.A., Foster, D.A., Mogk, D.W., 2014. Precambrian Crustal Evolution in the Great Falls tectonic zone: Insights from Xenoliths from the Montana Alkali Province. Journal of Geology, v. 122, n. 5, p. 531-548.

Foster, D.A., Mueller, P.A., Heatherington, A., Gifford, J.N., Kalakay, T.J., 2012. Lu-Hf systematics of magmatic zircons reveal a Proterozoic crustal boundary under the Cretaceous Pioneer batholith, Montana. Lithos, v. 142-143, p. 216-225.

Mueller, Paul A., Foster, David A., Gifford, J.N., Wooden, Joseph, Mogk, David W., 2008. Tectonic and stratigraphic implications of detrital zircon suites in Cambrian and Precambrian sandstones from the eastern margin of the belt basin. Northwest Geology, v. 37, p. 61-68.

Meert, J.G., Pandit, M.K., Pradhan, V.R., Banks, J., Sirianni, R., Stroud, M., Newstead, B., Gifford, J.N., 2010. Precambrian crustal evolution of Peninsular India: A 3.0 billion year odyssey. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, v. 39, p. 483-515


ABSTRACTS (Undergradaute Researcher, Graduate Researcher)

Gifford, J.N., Vitale, E.J., Platt, B.F., and Widanagamage, I., 2019. Detrital zircon provenance and correlation of two Ripley Formation (Upper Cretaceous) bentonites, Pontotoc County, Mississippi, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 103-7 (Phoenix, AZ).

Platt, B.F. and Gifford, J.N., 2019. Analysis of cinder size distribution and properties to interpret eruptive history and erosion of the “split cinder cone” (cinder hill) in Death Valley, California, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 273-5 (Phoenix, AZ).

O'Reilly, A.M. and Gifford, J.N., 2019. Transport and fate of cyanobacterial toxins in soil and groundwater: aquifer recharge and human health implications, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 19-11 (Phoenix, AZ).

LaDouceur, B.O., Gifford, J.N., Davis, W.J., and Malone, S.J., 2019 The Medicine Hat Block and the assembly of Laurentia: New interpretations from single-grain zircon analyses, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 61-10 (Phoenix, AZ).

Zubi, H., Platt, B.F., and Gifford, J.N., 2019. Textural and petrographic analyses of sand and sandstone samples from the Meridian Sand, Grenada County, Mississippi: Implications for interpreting depositional environment and diagenetic history, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 281-22 (Phoenix, AZ).

Platt, B.F., Gifford, J.N., Yarbrough, L.D., O’Reilly, A.M., and Al Harthy, M., 2019. Integrating Petrography, U-Pb Detrital Zircon Geochronology, and X-Ray Fluorescence Geochemistry to Interpret Provenance of the Mississippian Hartselle Sandstone, GCAGS Annual Convention, (Houston, TX).

Gifford, J.N., Kolb, D.A., Platt, B.F., 2018, Re-evaluating the tectonic model for the Arbuckle Mountains, Oklahoma by spatial and geometric analysis of stratigraphic and structural trends, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 322194 (Indianapolis, IN).

Varner, T. and Gifford, J.N., 2018, Quantifying the birth of the Mississippi River: Evidence from the Cretaceous McNairy Sand, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 321223 (Indianapolis, IN).

Al Harthy, M., Gifford, J.N., Platt, B.F., Yarbrough, L., O’Reilly, A., 2018, Detrital zircon provenance of the Hartselle Sandstone, Southeastern USA: Insights into sediment source, paleogeography and depositional setting, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 322780 (Indianapolis, IN).

Vitale, E.J., Gifford, J.N., Platt, B.F., 2018, Deciphering Late Cretaceous volcanism within Ripley Formation bentonites using U-Pb detrital zircon geochronology, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 323183 (Indianapolis, IN).

LaDouceur, B.O., Gifford, J.N., Malone, S.J., Davis, B., 2018, Utilizing single-grain zircon isotope data to investigate the significance of the Medicine Hat Block (southern Alberta, northern Montana) in the assembly of Laurentia, GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 324239 (Indianapolis, IN).

Gifford, J.N., Al Harthy, M., Platt, B.F., 2018, Detrital zircon provenance of the Hartselle Sandstone, Southeastern USA: Insights into sediment source and paleogeography, Goldschmidt Meeting, Abstract ID: 03l-097 (Boston, MA).

Vitale, E.J., Gifford, J.N., Platt, B.F., 2018, Timing of Late Cretaceous volcanism and chronostratigraphy of the Ripley Formation using U-Pb dating of detrital zircons, Goldschmidt Meeting, Abstract ID: 03l-087 (Boston, MA).

LaDouceur, B.O., Gifford, J.N., Malone, S.J., Davis, B., 2018, The significance of the Medicine Hat Block (southern Alberta, northern Montana) in the assembly of Laurentia: New interpretations from single grain zircon U-Pb and Lu-Hf data, Goldschmidt Meeting, Abstract ID: 09a-278 (Boston, MA).

Gifford, J.N., Woolsey, A.I., Yarbrough, L.D., Platt, B.F., Widanagamage, I.H., Easson, G.L., 2017, A Weighty Subject: Exploration for Heavy Minerals Across the State of Mississippi, AGU Fall Meeting, Abstract ID: EP43E-1914 (New Orleans, LA).

Al Harthey, M., Gifford, J.N., 2017, Detrital zircon provenance of the Hartselle Sandstone Unit, Southeastern USA: Insights into sediment source, paleogeography and setting, AGU Fall Meeting, Abstract ID: EP53B-1707 (New Orleans, LA).

Vitale, E.J., Gifford, J.N., Platt, B.F., 2017, Timing of Late Cretaceous Gulf Coast volcanism and chronostratigraphic constraints on deposition of the Ripley Formation from a newly recognized bentonite bed, Pontotoc County, Mississippi, AGU Fall Meeting, Abstract ID: V13B-0386 (New Orleans, LA).

LaDouceur, B.O., Gifford, J.N., Malone, S.J., Davis, B., 2017, The significance of the Medicine Hat Block (southern Alberta, northern Montana) in the assembly of Laurentia: New interpretations from recent single grain zircon geochronological and geochemical data, AGU Fall Meeting, Abstract ID: T11C-0473 (New Orleans, LA).

Ricketts, T.E. and Gifford, J.N., 2017. Using photogrammetry and 3D modeling to replicate and enhance geoscience field experiences. GSA South-Central Meeting, Abstract ID: 8-47 (San Antonio, TX).

Gifford, J.N., Zachos, L.G., Holt, R.M., 2016. Integrating field camp with the Geological Engineering lecture curriculum. GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 66-16 (Denver, CO).

Zachos, L.G. and Gifford, J.N., 2016. Can a web-based classroom response system improve geology education? A case study. GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 155-12 (Denver, CO).

Mueller, P.A., Mogk, D.A., Foster, D.A., Gifford, J.N., 2016. Island in the stream: pre-Laurentian wandering of the Wyoming craton. GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 204-12 (Denver, CO)

Kolb, D.J. and Gifford, J.N., 2016. Development of comparative tectonics models using structural and petrographic applications to geologic mapping. GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 266-4 (Denver, CO)

Gifford, J.N., Platt, B.F., Swann, C.T., 2016. Timing of late Cretaceous Gulf Coast volcanism and chronostratigraphic constraints on deposition of the Ripley formation from a newly recognized bentonite bed, Pontotoc County, Mississippi. GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 344-19 (Denver, CO)

Smith, B., Gifford, J.N., Jamerson, T., Krishnamurthy, S., 2016. An experimental geophysical approach to optical mineralogy. GSA National Meeting, Abstract ID: 324-18 (meeting in Denver, Colorado)

Gifford, J.N., Mueller, P.A., Foster, D.A., 2015. Is the Williston Basin the site of a Proterozoic accretionary triple junction? AGU Joint Assembly, Abstract ID: 36604 (meeting in Montreal, Canada)

Matchinski, E.J., Gifford, J.N., Mueller, P.A., Foster, D.A., 2015. Reassessment of the intersection of the Great Falls Tectonic Zone and the Trans-Hudson Orogen through petrologic and geochronological analysis of Deep Test Well derived samples. AGU Joint Assembly, Abstract ID: 36788 (meeting in Montreal, Canada)

Gifford, J.N., Malone, S.J., Davis, W., 2015. New insights into the character of the Medicine Hat Block (southern Alberta, northern Montana) from whole rock geochemistry, zircon LA-ICPMS U/Pb and Hf isotopic analysis. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 47 (meeting in Baltimore, MD).

Gifford, J.N., Mueller, P.A., Foster, D.A., 2014. The cratonic crossroads: New U-Pb age control from the Williston Basin basement provides insight into the assembly of Laurentia. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 46 (meeting in Vancouver, CA).


PAST AND PRESENT STUDENTS

Mohammed Al Harthy, M.S. (current) Geochronological study of the Whalen Group, Hartville Uplift southeast margin of Wyoming craton.

Elizabeth Vitale, M.S. (2019) Deciphering Late Cretaceous volcanism within Ripley Formation bentonites using U-Pb detrital zircon geochronology.

Blake LaDouceur, M.S. (2019) Utilizing single-grain zircon isotope data to investigate the significance of the Medicine Hat Block (southern Alberta, northern Montana) in the assembly of Laurentia

Dakota Kolb, M.S. (2017) Re-Evaluating the tectonic model for the Arbuckle Mountains Oklahoma by spatial and geometric analysis of stratigraphic and structural trends.