Conveyor Belt: New Sedimentary Geologist Focuses on Sand to Rock Cycle

When we caught up with Matthew Malkowski this summer—a month before moving to Austin to join the faculty in the Department of Geosciences—he was just back from collecting data on the sustainability of sand mining around the San Francisco Bay Area. This was a local, resource-based project unlike some of the research he has undertaken over the last decade.

Malkowski In Argentine Patagonia Scaled 840x600 Acf Cropped
Malkowski in Argentine Patagonia

Malkowski is a sedimentary geologist and geochemist who considers himself a generalist. He has taken dozens of field excursions to Tibet, Patagonia, Namibia, and Alaska, and his perfect research memory is from the vast emptiness of Southern Chile where, while walking along ancient sea deposits, he has come upon gauchos who share their freshly prepared lamb.

“I am interested in working with many sub-disciplines and using any tool we can get our hands on to interrogate the sedimentary record, especially the marine record,” he said. “If you think of an ocean basin as the final destination of all sediment, it is here where the major changes in the Earth system will be recorded.”

A first-generation college graduate from northern Michigan, Malkowski credits Bill Nye’s enthusiastic distillation of scientific knowledge with sparking his own early interest in science. For him, geology was discovered later, at West Shore Community College in Scottville, MI. After working full-time as a bank teller while pursuing his A.S., he transferred to Michigan State where he worked towards both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. His doctorate on the Evolution of the Patagonian Andes and Foreland Basin System was completed in 2016 at Stanford University.

“I got hooked,” he explained. “Geology is beautiful: look at the National Parks around the world. Geological processes are also a humbling force in that humans can do all we can but the earth has the strongest voice.”

Since January 2018, Malkowski has been an acting assistant professor at Stanford and the associate director of the Stanford Project on Deep-water Depositional Systems. His previous postdoctoral experience was as a Mendenhall Research Fellow with the U. S. Geological Survey working in the Bering Sea. Because economic borders in the ocean are based on geologic interpretation of the extended continental shelf, this research will provide background for treaties among different countries.

“We are excited to have Matt join the faculty,” said Danny Stockli, professor and chair of the department. “Matt is an innovative scientist who will bridge the gap between siliciclastic sedimentology and bio/geochemistry. He is using a holistic approach to source-to-sink basin studies by combing solid and solute sedimentary records. He also brings significant experience teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.”

Written by Kristin Phillips, Department of Geological Sciences