Brenda B. Bowen

Associate Professor, Geology & Geophysics
Director, Global Change & Sustainability Center

 Dr. Brenda Bowen is an interdisciplinary geoscientist whose work focuses on how changing environmental conditions Brenda Boweninfluence the composition of sediments, authigenic minerals, and fluids in both modern dynamic systems and ancient lithified strata. Current projects are focused on anthropological impacts on modern surface and hydrological processes, sedimentology and geobiology in extreme environments, geologic CO2 sequestration, and structural diagenesis and fluid flow. In addition to her geologic research and teaching, Dr. Bowen works to facilitate interdisciplinary environmental research and education that address critical issues related to understanding global change and creating sustainable solutions.

2005 Ph.D., Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah
2000 M.S., Earth Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz
1998 B.S., Earth Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz
Office: 251 FASB
Phone: (801) 585-5326


Research Statement:

My research contributes towards understanding physical and chemical processes in sedimentary systems. I am interested in the processes that create and modify ancient environmental records and provide signatures of changing conditions over time. Changing environmental conditions influence the composition of sediments, authigenic minerals, and fluids in both modern dynamic surface systems and ancient lithified strata. Sediments and the fluids that they come into contact with, provide geologic records that are influenced by the lithosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. My work explores these records and the relationships between environmental conditions, changes in surface and subsurface fluid chemistry (e.g., brines, groundwater, hydrocarbons, gasses), and sedimentary mineralogy and geochemistry. I seek to understand controls on fluid-sediment interactions on microscopic to regional scales, and to identify the affects of large-scale parameters such as depositional environment, climate, geochemical conditions, weathering, biological influences, tectonic evolution, burial history, and human-induced changes. These parameters impact the types of materials that compose detrital sediments, the mineralogy of authigenic minerals that form in-situ, and the geochemistry of pore and surface fluids. My research utilizes a wide range of field-based, computational, and lab based tools including imaging spectroscopy, fluid and sedimentary geochemistry, and petrography. My work is also very interdisciplinary, relying on collaborations with engineers, microbiologists, social scientists, planners, artists, and more.

My research is focused in the following areas:

  • Surface processes in modern extreme environments
    • Evolution of acid and saline systems
    • Interplay between biologic and geologic processes in extreme environments
  • Fluids and basin evolution
    • Provenance of detrital and authigenic sedimentary minerals
    • Structural diagenesis
  • Sustainable energy systems
    • Geologic CO2 sequestration
    • Energy and the environment
  • Anthropogenic impacts on the natural environment
    • Sustainability and stewardship of urban creeks
    • Community impacts on air quality

University of Utah news: “Meet Brenda Bowen

RadioWest: “The Shrinking Salt Flats


BLM video: “Research and Racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats

National Geographic: “Drivers Worry the End of Utah Salt Flat Racing is Near

Salt Lake Tribune: “Trib Talk: Bonneville Salt Flats minus salt?”

GCSC: “Red Butte Creek: a living laboratory at the University of Utah” Red Butte Creek”

Sustainability, Net Impact Utah 2014: “Brenda Bowen – Net Impact Utah Business Sustainability Conference Panelist”

Brenda Bowen on Bonneville Salt FlatsBrenda B. Bowen
Associate Professor, Geology & Geophysics, University of Utah
Director, Global Change and Sustainability Center

Research: Fluid-sediment interactions, surface processes, diagenesis, fluid flow, basin evolution, structural diagenesis, remote sensing, environmental change, sustainability


Current graduate students

Jeremiah BernauJeremiah Bernau
University of Utah, Geology & Geophysics PhD student
Research: Deposition, diagenesis, and surface dynamics at the Bonneville Salt Flats.



Evan Kipnis on the Bonneville Salt FlatsEvan Kipnis
University of Utah, Geology & Geophysics PhD student
Research: Hydrology, geochemistry, surface processes, and drivers of change at the Bonneville Salt Flats



Jory LerbackJory Lerback
University of Utah, Geology & Geophysics MS student
Research: Constraining the role and effects of structurally-driven fluid flow in groundwater and spring systems in the Basin and Range.



Research group alumni

Hannah Stinson
University of Utah Geology & Geophysics + Environmental & Sustainability Studies undergraduate
Eolian deposition on the Bonneville Salt Flats

Logan “Wren” Raming
University of Utah, Geology & Geophysics undergraduate
Research: Spatiotemporal remote sensing analysis of environmental conditions and surface processes at the Bonneville Salt Flats

Thomas Lovell
Purdue University PhD student
Research: Intercratonic records of North American sediment dispersal and burial history

Alexander Gonzalez
University of Utah MS student, 2013
Research: Geochemical and mineralogical evaluation of CO2-brine-rock experiments: Characterizing porosity and permeability variations in the Cambrian Mount Simon Sandstone

Stacy Story
Purdue University PhD student, 2012
Research: Mineralogy of acid saline lake systems in southern Western Australia

Julianne Bell
Purdue University PhD student, 2011
Research: Spectroscopy, mineralogy, and morphology of a jarosite-bearing landmark butte within the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone

Ryan Neufelder
Purdue University MS student, 2011
Research: Petrographic, mineralogical, and geochemical evidence of diagenesis in the Eau Claire Formation, Illinois Basin: Implications for sealing capability in a CO2 sequestration system

Nathan Wilkens
Purdue University Postdoctoral Researcher, 2010-2011
Research: Environmental preservation in the Cambrian Mount Simon Sandstone

Raul Ochoa
Purdue University MS student, 2010
Research: Porosity characterization and diagenetic facies analysis of the Cambrian Mount Simon Sandstone: Implications for a regional CO2 sequestration reservoir

Nicholas Fischietto
Purdue University MS student, 2009
Research: Lithofacies and depositional environments of the Cambrian Mount Simon Sandstone in the northern Illinois Basin: Implications for CO2 sequestration

Adaptation, Mitigation, and Biophysical Feedbacks in the Changing Bonneville Salt Flats: NSF Coupled Natural Human Systems, 2016-2020

Salt Crust Thickness Study of the Bonneville Salt Flats (PI: Bowen), 2015-2018

Geomicrobiology of the Bonneville Salt Flats: NASA EPSCoR (Co-PI: Bowen), 2014-2015

Friends of Red Butte Creek: Research, Outreach, and Education Grants: Salt Lake County Watershed Planning and Restoration Program (PI: Bowen), 2013-2015

U-S2TEM Scholars- Undergraduate Sustainability Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Scholars: National Science Foundation (Co-PI: Bowen), 2013-2018

Training Students to Analyze Spatial and Temporal Heterogeneities in Reservoir and Seal Petrology, Mineralogy, and Geochemistry: Implications for CO2 Sequestration Prediction, Simulation, and Monitoring: U.S. Department of Energy (PI: Bowen), 2010-2013

Analytical-Numerical Sharp-Interface Model of CO2 Sequestration and Application to Illinois Basin: U.S. Department of Energy (Co-PI: Bowen), 2009-2012

Petrological and Petrophysical Characterization of the Mount Simon Sandstone and Eau Claire Formation in Support of Phase III Sequestration Evaluation: Indiana Geological Survey / U.S. Department of Energy (Co-PI: Bowen), 2008-2014

Depositional and Diagenetic Heterogeneities of the Mt. Simon Sandstone and Eau Claire Formation: Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership / U.S. Department of Energy (Co-PI: Bowen), 2008-2011

The evolution of extremely acid lakes and groundwaters in Western Australia: National Science Foundation (Co-PI: Bowen), 2008 – 2012

Evaluating the History of Eolian and Interdune Fluid-Sediment Interactions and Mass Transfer in an Acid and Redox Influenced Diagenetic System: Mollies Nipple, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: American Chemical Society- Petroleum Research Fund (PI: Bowen), 2007-2010

Bowen research team on Bonneville Salt Flats

Bowen research team on Bonneville Salt Flats, Fall 2016

U-S2TEM class 2016

U-S2TEM scholars, Fall 2016










oceans class 2015

“Oceans” class exploring the Great Salt Lake as an ocean analog, Fall 2015

Aerial view Bowen research team on Bonneville Salt Flats

UAV photo of Bowen research team on Bonneville Salt Flats










Find latest publications on Dr. Bowen’s faculty page.

Student authors underlined

Bowen, B.B. (2018). The Making of a Perfect Racetrack at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The Sedimentary Record. Published, 06/01/2018.

Wang, F. & Bowen, B.B., Seo, JH, Michalski, G. (2017). Laboratory and field characterization of visible to near infrared spectral reflectance of nitrate minerals from the Atacama Desert, Chile and implications for Mars. American Mineralogist. Published, 12/01/2017.

Bowen, B.B. & Kipnis, E.L., Raming L.W. (2017). Temporal dynamics of flooding, evaporation, and desiccation cycles and observations of salt crust area change at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Geomorphology. Vol. 299, 1-11. Published, 10/02/2017.

Ehleringer, J. & Daniel, S., Torti, S., Bowen, B.B., Parks, T. (2017). Embedded in Nature: The University of Utah Field Stations. Global Change and Sustainability Center. Published, 01/02/2017.

Jewell, P.W., Nelson, D.T., Bowen, B.B., and L.W. Raming, 2016, Insights into Lake Bonneville Using Remote Sensing and Digital Terrain Tools, in Lake Bonneville: A Scientific Update, edited by C.G. Oviatt and J.R. Shroder Jr., Development in Earth Surface Processes, v. 20, p. 598-614.

Ward, M., Bowen, B., Burian, S., Cachelin, A., and McCool, D., 2015, Institutionalizing interdisciplinary sustainability curriculum at a large, research-intensive university: Challenges and opportunities Environmental Studies and Sciences: Environmental Studies and Science special issue on Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Leadership, 1-7.

Benison, K.C. and Bowen, B.B., 2015, The evolution of end-member continental waters: the origin of acidity in Southern Western Australia, GSA Today.

Walsh, T.C., Miller, O.L., Bowen, B.B., Levine, Z.A., and Ehleringer, J.E., in press, The sphere of sustainability: Lessons from the University of Utah’s Global Change and Society course: Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management.

Nielson, G.B., Chan, M.A., and Bowen, B., 2014, Iron-rich horizons in the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone, southwestern Utah progressive cementation and permeability inversion, in MacLean, J.S., Biek, R.F., and Huntoon, J.E., editors, Geology of Utah’s Far South: Utah Geological Association Publication 43.

Bell, J. and Bowen, B.B., 2014, Fault-focused fluid flow in an acid and redox influenced system: Diageneitc controls on cement mineralogy and geomorphology in the Navajo Sandstone: Geofluids, v. 14, p. 251-265.

Bowen, B.B., Story, S., Oboh-Ikuenobe, F., Benison, K.C., 2013, Differences in regolith weathering history at an acid and neutral saline lake on the Archean Yilgarn Craton and implications for acid brine evolution: Chemical Geology, v. 356, p. 126-167.

Zhang, Y., Person, M., Rupp, J., Ellett, K., Celia, M., Gable, C.W., Bowen, B.B., Evans, J., Bandilla, K., Mozley, P., Dewers, T., and Elliot, T., 2013, Hydrogeologic controls on induced seismicity in crystalline basement rocks due to fluid injection into basal reservoirs: Groundwater, doi: 10.1111/gwat.12071

Benison, K.C. and Bowen, B.B., 2013, Extreme sulfur-cycling in acid brine lake environments of Western Australia: Chemical Geology, v. 351, p. 154-167.

VanDeVelde, J.H., Bowen, G.J., Passey, B.H., and Bowen, B.B., 2013, Climatic and diagenetic signals in the stable isotope geochemistry of dolomitic paleosols spanning the Paleocene-Eocene boundary: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 109, p. 254-267.

Lovell, T.R., and Bowen, B.B., 2013, Fluctuations in sedimentary provenance of the Upper Cambrian Mount Simon Sandstone, Illinois Basin, United States: Journal of Geology, v. 121, p. 129-154.

Neufelder, R.J., Bowen, B.B., Lahann, R.W., and Rupp, J.A., 2012, Lithologic, mineralogical, and petrophysical characteristics of the Eau Claire Formation: Complexities of a carbon storage system seal: Environmental Geosciences, v. 19, p. 81-104.

Bowen, B.B., Bell, J., and Story, S., 2012, Remote and field-based imaging spectroscopy for the diagenetic mineralogy of sedimentary rocks. In Quantitative Mineralogy and Microanalysis of Sediments and Sedimentary Rocks (P. Sylvester, ed.). Mineralogical Association of Canada Short Course Series Volume 42, St. John’s NL, May 2012, p. 115-132.

Bowen, B.B., Benison, K.C., and Story S., 2012, Early diagenesis by modern acid brines in Western Australia and implications for the history of sedimentary modification on Mars: Society for Sedimentary Geology Special Publication, Mars Sedimentology, eds., Grotzinger, J. and Milliken R., SEPM Special Publication No. 102, p. 229-252.

Chan, M.A., Potter, S., Bowen, B.B., Parry, W.T. Barge, L., Seiler, W., Peterson, E., and Bowman, J., 2012, Characteristics of ferric oxide concretions on Earth and Mars: Society for Sedimentary Geology Special Publication, Mars Sedimentology, eds., Grotzinger, J. and Milliken, R, SEPM Special Publication No. 102, p. 253-270.

Bowen, B.B., Ochoa, R., Wilkens, N.D., Brophy, J., Lovell, T.R., Fischietto, N., Medina, C., and Rupp, J., 2011, Depositional and diagenetic variability within the Cambrian Mount Simon Sandstone: Implications for carbon dioxide sequestration: Environmental Geosciences, v.18, p. 69-89.

Story, S., Bowen, B.B., Bension, K.C., and Schulze, D., 2010, Authigenic phyllosilicates in modern acid saline lake sediments and implications for Mars: Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets, v. 115, E12012.

Bell, J.H., Bowen, B.B., and Martini, B., 2010, Imaging spectroscopy of jarosite cement in the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone: Remote Sensing of Environment, v. 114, p. 2259-2270.

Bell, J., Bowen, B.B., and Martini, B., 2010, Spectroscopy of sulfates, clays, and iron oxides in the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone: Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, July 25, 2010, p. 227-229.

Bowen, B.B. and Benison, K.C., 2009, Geochemical characteristics of naturally acid and alkaline saline lakes in southern Western Australia: Applied Geochemistry, v. 24, p. 268-284.

Schreiner, K.M., Filley, T.R., Blanchette, R.A., Bowen, B.B., Bolskar, R.D., Hockaday, W.C., Masiello, C.A., and Raebiger, J.W., 2009, White-rot basidiomycete-mediated decomposition of C60 fullerol: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 49, p. 3162-3168.

Ogg, J. and Bowen, B.B., 2009, The Oceans: EAS 104, Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, 164p.

Bowen, G.J. and Bowen, B.B., 2008, Mechanisms of PETM global change constrained by a new record from central Utah: Geology, v. 36, p. 379-382.

Bowen, B.B., Benison, K.C., Oboh-Ikuenobe, F., Story, S., and Mormile, M., 2008, Active hematite concretion formation in modern acid saline lake sediments, Lake Brown, Western Australia: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 268, p. 52-63.

Bowen, G.J., Andrews, D., and Bowen, B.B., 2008, Paleoenvironmental isotope geochemistry and paragenesis of lacustrine and palustrine carbonates, Flagstaff Formation, Central Utah, USA: Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 78, p. 162-174.

Benison, K.C., Bowen, B.B., Oboh-Ikuenobe, F.E., LaClair, D.A., Jagniecki, E.A., Story, S.L., Mormile, M.R., and Hong, B.Y., 2007, Sedimentology of acid saline lakes in southern Western Australia: Newly described processes and products of an extreme environment: Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 77, p. 366-388.

Bowen, B.B., Martini, B.A., Chan, M.A., and Parry, W.T., 2007, Reflectance spectroscopic mapping of diagenetic heterogeneities and fluid flow pathways in the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, v. 91, p. 173-190.

Parry, W.T., Forster, C.B., Evans, J.P., Bowen, B.B., and Chan, M.A., 2007, Geochemistry of CO2 sequestration in the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone, Colorado Plateau, Utah: Environment Geosciences, v. 14, p. 91-109.

Benison, K.C. and Bowen, B.B., 2006, Acid saline lake systems give clues about past environments and the search for life on Mars: Icarus, v. 183, p. 225-229.

Chan, M.A., Parry, W.T., Bowen, B.B., 2006, Red Rock Sanstone Color and Concretions of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: Jurassic Navajo Sanstone Examples of Groundwater Flow, Science Resources, and Analogs to Mars. Proceedings of the Learning from the Land: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Science Symposium, September 12-14, 2006, Cedar City, Utah.

Souza-Egipsy, V., Ormö, J., Bowen, B.B., Chan, M.A. and Komatsu, G., 2006, Ultrastructural study of iron oxide precipitates: Implications for the search for biosignatures in the Meridiani hematite concretions, Mars: Astrobiology, v. 6, no. 4, p. 527-545.

Beitler, B., Parry, W.T., and Chan, M.A., 2005, Fingerprints of fluid flow: Chemical diagenetic history of the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone, southern Utah: Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 75, p. 545-559.

Chan, M.A., Bowen, B.B., Parry, W.T., Ormo, J. and Komatsu, G., 2005, Red Rock and Red Planet Diagenesis: Comparisons of Earth and Mars concretions: GSA Today, v. 15, p. 4-10.

Chan, M.A., Beitler, B., and Parry, W.T., 2005, The Navajo Sandstone color palette and marvelous marbles: Canyon Legacy, Moab Museum publication, v. 54, p. 13-16.

Coe, R.S., Stock, G.M., Lyons, J.J., Beitler, B., and Bowen, G.J., 2005, Yellowstone hotspot volcanism in California? A paleomagnetic test of the Lovejoy flood basalt hypothesis: Geology, v. 33, p. 697-700.

Beitler, B., Chan, M.A., Parry, W.T., Ormo, J. and Komatsu, G., 2004, Diagenetic analogs to hematite regions on Mars: examples from Jurassic sandstones of Southern Utah, USA: in Proceedings of SPIE Volume 5555, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology VIII, eds., Hoover, R.B., Levin, G.V., and Rozanov, A.Y., SPIE, Bellingham, WA, p. 162-169.

Chan, M.A., Beitler, B., Parry, W.T, Ormö, J. and Komatsu, G., 2004, A possible terrestrial analogue for hematite concretions on Mars: Nature, v. 429, p. 731-734.

Ormö, J., Komatsu, G., Chan, M.A., Beitler, B., and Parry, W.T., 2004, Geological features indicative of processes related to the hematite formation in Meridiani Planum and Aram Chaos, Mars: A comparison with diagenetic hematite deposits in southern Utah, USA: Icarus, v. 171, p. 295-316.

Parry, W.T., Chan M.A. and Beitler, B., 2004, Chemical Bleaching Indicates Episodes of Fluid Flow in Deformation Bands in Sandstone: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, v. 88, p. 175-191.

Beitler, B., Chan, M.A., and Parry, W.T., 2003, Bleaching of Jurassic Navajo Sandstone on Colorado Plateau Laramide Highs: Evidence of Exhumed Hydrocarbon Supergiants?: Geology, v. 31, p. 1041-1044.

Brenda Bowen’s University of Utah faculty page