Russell O. Colson
 Professor of Geology
Department of Anthropology and Earth Science
 Minnesota State University Moorhead

Research Interests
    Research is important at MSUM both because it provides opportunities for students to be engaged in doing science and because it maintains my own vitality in my discipline.

 I am an experimental petrologist, meaning that I do experiments with earth materials in an effort to understand how rocks form and what they tell us about the past.  I am also a planetary scientist, meaning that much of my experimental work has involved solving questions about planets other than Earth.

    Research I have done includes studies of

the behavior of molten rock under low oxygen conditions such as on the Moon or Earth's early mantle
the physical chemistry of molten rock materials,
the distribution of elements between different phases of natural materials,
natural resources on other planets, particularly our Moon,
the petrology of alkalic magmas,
the chemical stratigraphy of the sediments deposited by former Lake Agassiz, and

a variety of archaeology-related projects.

Currently, I am studying how the composition of silicate melt influences the chemical behavior of Nickel, Cobalt and other elements in the melt, and how the composition of melt influences how different elements partition into solid and liquid phases in a magma.   

In the past, I have also study the physical chemistry of molten rock material using electrochemistry.  MSUM has one of only a handful of labs worldwide that uses electrochemical methods to study molten rock material.  Our results are important not only in understanding natural processes on the Earth and other planets, but are important contributions to glass and ceramic industries.

I am open to assisting students with archaeology-related projects with which the electron microprobe can be used.  I have been involved with projects examining the character of ceramic fragments, metal fragments, and small fused beads that form in heated soil.


In the past, I participated in a study of the environment in which the Edmontosaurus of South Dakota lived as the age of the dinosaurs drew to a close.  This study involved field work at a bone bed in South Dakota that was being excavated by Ron Nellermoe at Concordia College.  I looked at the stratigraphy, sedimentology, and paleontology of the rocks above and below the bone bed in an effort to constrain where these great creatures lived and died.  Was it near a dune field at the edge of a continental sea?  Was it in a swamp, or a bend in the river?

Research interests and puzzles for elementary students

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last update:  10/23/17