Dr. Sara Gran Mitchell

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Washington


Environmental Geology -- course description -- class syllabus
Introduction to Geology -- course description -- class syllabus
Geomorphology -- course description -- class syllabus

Recent Publications
Examples of student research projects

Contact Information

Office: Swords 234
Lab: Swords 211
Phone: (508)793-3420 (Office and Labs)
(508)793-2656 (Department)
Fax: (508) 793-2696
Office Hours: Spring 2010: M 2-4, W 10-12


I am a geologist who specializes in the long- and short-term evolution of landscapes. My current research focuses on the relationships between climate, tectonics, and erosion in the topographic development of mountain ranges. In particular, I am interested in the effects of glacial erosion on the height and morphology of young mountain ranges. The techniques and methods I use include field observations, geographic information system (GIS) analysis of digital topography, and isotopic and geochemical measurements. These techniques allow me to investigate rates of surface processes, landform ages, and erosion patterns in mountainous regions. I am also interested in the effects of human settlement on landform evolution, the effects of development on surface and subsurface hydrology, and the linkages between geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology, particularly in river environments.

Examples of Student Research Projects

Students with an interest in geology who would like to consider pursuing a research project in my laboratory are encouraged to contact me at their earliest convenience

  • Renee Harkins, Fall 2009 and Spring 2010, Paired watershed investigation of suspended sediment in urban and rural streams
  • Renee Harkins, Summer 2009, Fate and transport of road traction sand in Worcester streams. Renee presented her results at the 2009 national Geological Society of America conference in Portland, Oregon.
  • Neil Shea, Summer 2008, GIS analysis of the “glacial buzzsaw” in Glacier National Park. Neil presented his results at the 2009 Northeastern Geological Society of America conference in Portland, Maine.
  • Neil Shea, Spring 2008, Sediment mobilization in Beaver Brook, Worcester.
  • Vanessa Dagley, fall 2007, Channel grain size distributions in Beaver Brook, Worcester.


Selected Publications

Anders, A.M., Mitchell, S.G., and Tomkin, J.H. 2010. Cirques, peaks, and precipitation patterns in the Swiss Alps: Connections between climate, glacial erosion, and topography. Geology, v. 38, n. 3, p. 239-242. doi: 10.1130/G30691.1. {Get PDF}

Mitchell, S.G., Montgomery, D.R., and Greenberg, H.M., 2009. Erosional unloading, hillslope geometry, and the height of the Cascade Range, Washington USA. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, v. 34, p. 1108-1120. DOI: 10.1002/esp.1801. {Get PDF}

Mitchell, S. G., and Montgomery, D. R., 2006. Polygenetic topography of the Cascade Range, Washington State, USA. American Journal of Science, v. 306, p. 736-768. (Get PDF)

Mitchell, S.G., Montgomery, D.R., 2006. Influence of a glacial buzzsaw on the height and morphology of the Washington Cascade Range, Washington State, USA. Quaternary Research, v. 65, no. 1, p. 96-107. {Get PDF}

Mitchell, S.G. and Reiners, P.W., 2003. Influence of wildfires on apatite and zircon (U-Th)/He ages, Geology, vol. 31, no. 12, p. 1025-1028. {Get PDF}

Reiners, P.W., T.A. Ehlers, S.G. Mitchell, D.R. Montgomery, 2003. Coupled spatial variations in precipitation and long-term erosion rates across the Washington Cascades, Nature, v. 426, p. 645-647 {Get PDF}.

Reiners, P.W., T.A. Ehlers, J.I. Garver, S.G. Mitchell, D.R. Montgomery, J.A. Vance, and S. Nicolescu, 2002. Late Miocene exhumation and uplift of the Washington Cascade Range. Geology, v. 30, no. 9, p. 767-770. {Get PDF}

Mitchell, S.G., A. Matmon, P. R. Bierman, Y. Enzel, and M. Caffee, D. Rizzo, 2001. Displacement history of the Nahef East fault, northern Israel, using cosmogenic 36Cl, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 106, no. B3, pp.4247-4264. (Get PDF}

Gran, S.E., K. K. Nichols and P. R. Bierman, 1999. Teaching winter geohydrology in Vermont using frozen lakes and snowy mountains. Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 47, no. 5, pp. 420-437.

Patterson, Carrie J., A. R. Knable, S.E. Gran and S. J. Phippen, 1999. Surficial Geology, in Patterson, C. J. project manager, Regional Hydrogeologic Assessment, Upper Minnesota River Basin: Minnesota Geological Survey RHA-4, Part A, scale 1:200,000.