Dr. Frederick W. Vollmer

Professor of Structural Geology
Chair of Geology Department
State University of New York at New Paltz
Sierra Nevada


I am a geologist, a scientist who studies our home planet, Earth. I am fascinated by the dynamic processes of mountain building, faulting, folding, and rock deformation, processes driven by plate tectonics and manifested by uplift, earthquakes and volcanism. Structural geology is the study of rock deformation, the dynamic processes, and the resulting geologic features. While especially critical for economic geology, it also strives to understand magnificant features of the earth, from microscopic crenulations to great rifts and mountain belts.

I have had many excellent teachers who conveyed their enthusiasm to me, and I try to pass that on to my own students. If you are willing to work hard, there are many opportunities in today's world for geoscientists, from environmental protection to petroleum exploration. Geology is a field-based science, and we work hard outdoors under adverse conditions. It is interdisiplinary, and requires math, physics and chemistry. If you have the drive, give it a try. It is the best science on Earth.


My class Structure and Tectonics focuses on rock mechanics, deformation, folds, faults, rock fabric, and the geometrical characteristics of deformed rock bodies, and gives an overview of the tectonic environments where they form. Students take this as a capstone senior course, integrating concepts from mineralogy, petrology, stratigraphy, and other courses. Integrated with this is a Field Geology course, which trains students in field observations, measurements, and analysis.

Petrology is the study of the origin and evolution of rocks, my course focuses primarily on igneous and metamorphic rocks. We discuss volcanism, the origin of the plutonic and metamorphic rocks, and the structure and composition of the earth's crust and mantle. Students each have the use of a research-grade petrographic microscope in the laboratories, and are given the opportunity to conduct their own research projects.

Geologic field excursions allow us to travel deep into time and space, to study times and places otherwise inaccessable to humans. It may be deep within the earth's interior, where intense heat and pressure cause rock to deform and flow, or melt into magmas driven towards the surface to form plutons and volcanoes. It may be to an ancient stream eroding yet more ancient mountains, or to the bottom of a long vanished ocean hundreds of millions of years in the past. It may be beneath kilometers of ice, where glaciers eroded and sculpted the earth's surface to form the landscape around us. There is always an adventure to be had.


My research focuses on the analysis of structural features such as folds, faults and rock fabric as an aid in interpreting the geometry and history of larger regions, and to understand the mechanics of rock deformation. I am interested in methods for the analysis of structural data including orientation data, fault data, and strain measurements. I have supervised students on diverse topics, including fault analysis, joint and fracture studies, melange fabrics, shear sense indicators, and other topics. A link to a brief curriculum vita and list of publications is given in the sidebar.

I am also a compulsive computer programmer, since before the founding of Apple or Microsoft, and currently maintain several programs for structural geology in my spare time. Links to programs for orientation data (Orient), strain analysis (EllipseFit), and time-series analysis (Antevs) programs are given in the sidebar.