Faces: Tiffany Rivera
Sequencing Earth’s History
Volcanoes, Especially 100-Million-Year-Old Ones, Help Volcanologist and Geochemist Tiffany Rivera, PhD.
by Robin Boon
Remember the spunky little girl in daycare who always had rocks in her little pockets and ended up covered in mud at the end of the day? Tiffany Rivera is the grown-up version of that little girl, with multiple degrees in the field of geology, culminating in a geochemistry PhD. She is a volcanologist with a specialty in super volcanoes—the kind that will have a global impact, kill billions, and lead to a new ice age. As you can tell, Tiffany is no shrinking violet, nor was she shortchanged in the adventure department. After getting her master’s degree at Boise State University, where she studied relatively recent volcanic activity (a million years old—think Woolly mammoths), she headed to Roskilde University in Denmark. There she worked on a multinational research project called GTSnext (Geologic Time Scale), to sequence the last 100 million years of earth’s history.
The project studied boundaries such as, “When did the dinosaurs go extinct?” using (largely) volcanic deposits to date the experiments. Tiffany explains that sequencing earth’s history gives us insight into critical issues like climate change, catastrophic impacts, and volcanic hazards. Once we know what really happened during the last 100 million years, we can better understand how we impact it.
Tiffany’s earlier career plans (architecture) were waylaid by a geology field trip. The sharp contrast between studying outdoors versus building models indoors was a game changer. She became a geology major, and along the way to getting a terminal degree, she served as a park ranger, at Zion National Park (ask her about her first day), as well as at Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument.
For Tiffany, living here is a huge benefit that none of us would have ever considered: the proximity to a super-volcano-in-waiting: Yellowstone.
Least likely to: Skydive or BASE jump.
Guilty pleasure: (Eventually) a red topless Jeep Wrangler.
Secret desire: To be an EMT (she’s already wilderness certified.)
Favorite artist: Vincent van Gogh, of course.
Wish I had taken: Spanish or American Sign Language.
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