Dr. Richard M. Palin

Assistant Professor of Metamorphic Geology

Department of Geology and Geological Engineering,
Colorado School of Mines,
Golden, 80401 Colorado, USA
Telephone: +1 (303) 273-3819

Rocks are records of events that took place at the time they formed. They are books. They have a different vocabulary, a different alphabet, but you learn how to read them.” – John McPhee



Grad students



Short biography

I completed my DPhil (PhD) at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, UK, in 2013, where I studied the thermal and structural evolution of parts of the Himalayan Range and Tibetan Plateau. Please see my Research and Publications sections for further information. I then worked as a lecturer and postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Geosciences, JGU Mainz, and am now an Assistant Professor of Metamorphic Geology at the Colorado School of Mines, USA. Please see my Teaching section for more information and my Links for additional material of interest.

I have been an invited reviewer for scientific articles submitted to the journals Nature Geoscience, Geology, Journal of Metamorphic Geology, Journal of Petrology, Lithos, Precambrian Research, Geological Journal, Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, Tectonics, Tectonophysics, Geoscience Frontiers, and GSA Bulletin.

I am a current member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, a member of the Metamorphic Studies Group of the Geological Society of London, and a member of the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain.

I have on-going collaborations with many researchers worldwide, including those at the University of Oxford, UK; the University of Cambridge, UK; St Andrews, UK; the Geological Survey of Canada, Canada; the Johannes-Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany; the University of Cape Town, South Africa; ETHZ, Switzerland; and the University of Melbourne, Australia (among others).

Research interests

I am principally a metamorphic petrologist, but frequently integrate geochemistry, isotope geochronology, and structural geology into my work. My major research interests include (but are not limited to):

Process- or technique-oriented studies:
  • The mechanisms and physico-chemical effects of fluid–rock and melt–rock interactions in different metamorphic environments and geodynamic settings (cf. Palin et al., 2014b; Palin et al., 2016b; Palin et al., 2017; Wade et al., 2017 – Nature).
  • Developing and testing new activity–composition (a–x) relations and computational techniques for use in petrological phase equilibrium modeling (cf. Green et al., 2016; Palin et al., 2016a)
  • Early-Earth evolution, and secular changes in metamorphism and tectonic styles since the Archean (cf. Palin & White, 2016 – Nature Geoscience; Palin et al., 2016c; White et al., 2017; Wade et al., 2017 – Nature).
Studies of regional interest:

I have performed a number of field- and laboratory-based investigations on rocks from the Himalayan–Karakoram–Tibetan orogen that have produced quantitative models that have constrained the timing and nature of growth and deformation of parts of the Indian and Asian tectonic plates. These have included:
  • Karakoram Metamorphic Complex, north Pakistan – Barrovian-type metasediments (cf. Palin et al., 2012)
  • Tso Morari Massif, northwest India – UHP mafic eclogites (cf. St-Onge et al., 2013; Palin et al., 2014b; Palin et al., 2017)
  • Red River Shear Zone/Day Nui Con Voi metamorphic core complex, Vietnam – weakly sheared migmatitic paragneisses and granitic dykes (cf. Palin et al., 2013a)
  • Mae Ping Shear Zone, Thailand – mylonitized orthogneisses and granitic dykes (cf. Palin et al., 2013b)
  • Eastern Himalayan syntaxis (Namche Barwa), southeast Tibet – mylonites and mid/deep-crustal migmatites (cf. Palin et al., 2014a, 2015)
  • Lhasa terrane, Central Tibet – migmatites and subduction-related lithologies (cf. Weller et al., 2015, 2016)
I have an active interest in the geology of the United Kingdom, and have performed fieldwork investigating deep-crustal granulites from Glen Muick (northeast Scotland) and Assynt (northwest Scotland), and ophiolites and their associated metamorphic sole from the Lizard Complex, Cornwall, southwest England.

Since moving to Colorado, I have taken a new interest in the geology in and around the Rocky Mountains/Front Range. I have a few student-led projects in the region, which are detailed below.


I have published several peer-reviewed scientific articles in ISI-indexed journals, which have been cited approximately 350 times. My h-index is 12. For full and up-to-date citation data, please refer to my Google Scholar profile. PDFs of my first-author 'Author Accepted Manuscripts' are available for download on my ResearchGate profile page, all of which comply with publisher sharing policies. Articles marked with a star (*) have been cited 10 times or more. IF = impact factor at time of publication.


[18] Wade, J., Dyck, B.,
Palin, R.M., Moore, J.D.P., Smye, A.J., 2017. The divergent fates of primitive hydrospheric water on Earth and Mars. Nature, v. 552, p. 391–394, doi: 10.1038/nature25031, IF = 40.317.

[17] Palin, R.M., Reuber, G.S., White, R.W., Kaus, B.J.P., Weller, O.M., 2017. Subduction metamorphism in the Himalayan ultrahigh-pressure Tso Morari massif: an integrated geodynamic and petrological modelling approach. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 467, p. 108–119, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2017.03.029, IF =  4.326.

[16] White, R.W., Palin, R.M., Green, E.C.R., 2017. High-grade metamorphism and partial melting in Archaean composite grey gneiss complexes. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 35, p. 181–195, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12227, IF = 3.673.


[15] Palin, R.M., White, R.W., Green, E.C.R., 2016c. Partial melting of metabasic rocks and the generation of tonalitic–trondhjemitic–granodioritic (TTG) crust in the Archaean: constraints from phase equilibrium modelling. Precambrian Research, v. 287, p. 73–90, doi: 10.1016/j.precamres.2016.11.001, IF = 4.037.

[14] Palin, R.M., White, R.W., Green, E.C.R., Diener, J.F.A., Powell, R., Holland, T.J.B., 2016b. High-grade metamorphism and partial melting of basic and intermediate rocks. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 34, p. 871–892, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12212, IF = 3.673.

*[13] Green, E.C.R., White, R.W., Diener, J.F.A., Powell, R., Holland, T.J.B., Palin, R.M., 2016. Activity–composition relations for the calculation of partial melting equilibria for metabasic rocks. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 34, p. 845–869, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12211, IF = 3.673.

[12] Weller, O.M., St-Onge, M.R., Rayner, N., Waters, D.J., Searle, M.P., Palin, R.M., 2016. U–Pb zircon geochronology and phase equilibria modelling of a mafic eclogite from the Sumdo complex of south-east Tibet: insights into prograde zircon growth and the assembly of the Tibetan plateau. Lithos, v. 262, p. 729–741, doi: 10.1016/j.lithos.2016.06.005, IF = 3.723.

*[11] Palin, R.M., Weller, O.M., Waters, D.J., Dyck, B., 2016a. Quantifying geological uncertainty in metamorphic phase equilibria modelling; a Monte Carlo assessment and implications for tectonic interpretations. Geoscience Frontiers, v. 7, p. 591–607, doi: 10.1016/j.gsf.2015.08.005, IF = 1.216 [OPEN ACCESS]

*[10] Palin, R.M., White, R.W., 2016. Emergence of blueschists on Earth linked to secular changes in oceanic crust composition. Nature Geoscience, v. 9, p. 60–64, doi: 10.1038/ngeo2605, IF = 11.740.


[9] Palin, R.M., Searle, M.P., St-Onge, M.R., Waters, D.J., Roberts, N.M.W., Horstwood, M.S.A., Parrish, R.R., Weller, O.M., 2015. Two-stage cooling and exhumation history of pelitic mylonite from the Dongjiu-Milin shear zone, northwest flank of the eastern Himalayan syntaxis. Gondwana Research, v. 28, p. 509–530, doi: 10.1016/j.gr.2014.07.009, IF = 8.122.

*[8] Weller, O.M., St-Onge, M.R., Searle, M.P., Waters, D.J., Rayner, N., Chung, S.L., Palin, R.M., Chen, S., 2015. Quantifying the P–T–t conditions of north-south Lhasa terrane accretion: new insight into the pre-Himalayan architecture of the Tibetan plateau. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 33, p. 91–113, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12112, IF = 3.4.


*[7] Palin, R.M., St-Onge, M.R., Waters, D.J., Searle, M.P., Dyck, B., 2014b. Phase equilibria modelling of retrograde amphibole and clinozoisite in mafic eclogite from the Tso Morari massif, northwest India: constraining the P–T–M(H2O) conditions of exhumation. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 32, p. 675–693, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12085, IF = 3.4.

*[6] Palin, R.M., Searle, M.P., St-Onge, M.R., Waters, D.J., Roberts, N.M.W., Horstwood, M.S.A., Parrish, R.R., Weller, O.M., Chen, S., Yang, J., 2014a. Monazite geochronology and petrology of kyanite- and sillimanite-grade migmatites from the northwestern flank of the eastern Himalayan syntaxis. Gondwana Research, v. 26, p. 323–347, doi: 10.1016/j.gr.2013.06.022, IF = 7.396.


*[5] Weller, O.M., St-Onge, M.R., Searle, M.P., Rayner, N., Waters, D.J., Chung, S.L., Palin, R.M., Lee, Y.H., Xu, X.W., 2013. Quantifying Barrovian metamorphism in the Danba Structural Culmination of eastern Tibet. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 31, p. 909–935, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12050, IF = 3.4.

*[4] Palin, R.M., Searle, M.P., Morley, C.K., Charusiri, P., Horstwood, M.S.A., Roberts, N.M.W., 2013b. Timing of metamorphism of the Lansang gneiss and implications for motion along the Mae Ping (Wang Chao) strike-slip fault, Thailand. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, Charles Hutchison Memorial Volume, v. 76, p. 120–136, doi: 10.1016/j.jseaes.2013.01.021, IF = 2.379.

*[3] St-Onge, M.R., Rayner, N., Palin, R.M., Searle, M.P., Waters, D.J., 2013. Integrated pressure–temperature–time constraints for the Tso Morari dome (NW India): Implications for the burial and exhumation path of UHP units in the western Himalaya. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 31, p. 469–504, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12030, IF = 2.99.

*[2] Palin, R.M., Searle, M.P., Waters, D.J., Parrish, R.R., Roberts, N.M.W., Horstwood, M.S.A., Yeh, M.W., Chung, S.L., Anh, T.T., 2013a. A geochronological and petrological study of anatectic paragneiss and associated granite dykes from the Day Nui Con Voi metamorphic core complex, North Vietnam; constraints upon the timing of metamorphism within the Red River shear zone. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 31, p. 359–387, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12025, IF = 2.99.


*[1] Palin, R.M., Searle, M.P., Waters, D.J., Horstwood, M.S.A., Parrish, R.R., 2012. Combined thermobarometry and geochronology of peraluminous metapelites from the Karakoram metamorphic complex, North Pakistan; New insight into the tectonothermal evolution of the Baltoro and Hunza regions. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 30, p. 793–820, doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1314.2012.00999.x, IF = 3.148.

Graduate students


David Hernandez Uribe, PhD candidate

David will perform multi-disciplinary investigation of crustal and mantle xenoliths exposed in the center of the Colorado Plateau. The results of this work will provide insight into the paleo-lithospheric structure of the plateau region, and potentially place new constraints on its uplift and deformation history.
Hannah Beauchesne, Masters student

Hannah will investigate topaz-bearing metamorphic rocks in the Colorado Front Range in order to elucidate the physico-chemical conditions and timing of their formation. These data will expand our understanding of fluid
rock interactions in the crustal environment, and pave the way for creating thermodynamic descriptions of F-bearing minerals that can be used for forward and inverse petrological modeling.

Trevor Copple, Masters student

Trevor's research will involve the characterization of metamorphosed volcanogenic massive sulfide ore deposits in the Paleoproterozoic Penokean volcanic belt. He will constrain the pressure and temperature conditions reached during metamorphism, and investigate the petrological changes that occured in order to produce predictive models for use in future exploration projects.
Zachary Palmer, Masters student

Zach will perform petrological investigation of upper amphibolite-facies/granulite-facies metasediments exposed in the Colorado Front Range. Multi-system geochronology will determine the age of metamorphism, and thermobarometry will be used to ascertain the tectonic environment in which they formed, which will provide new constraints on the geological history of the region.


Fall 2017

GEOL525A: Principles of Metamorphic Geology

Study of metamorphic processes and products that occur on Earth at the micro- to the macro-scale. Areas of focus include (a) the nature of metamorphism in subduction zones and continental interiors, (b) the mechanisms and physico-chemical effects of fluid–rock and melt–rock interactions, (c) links between metamorphism and ore-forming processes, and (d) combining metamorphism with geochemistry, isotope geochronology, and structural geology to quantify the tectonothermal evolution of the lithosphere throughout space and time. Laboratory exercises emphasize the examination, identification, and interpretation of metamorphic minerals and microstructures in hand sample and down the microscope, and the calculation and application of thermodynamically constrained phase equilibria to describe and predict the pressure–temperature evolution of rocks and terranes.

Spring 2018

GEOL498A: Introduction to Plate Tectonics

Introduction to the theory of plate tectonics as a first-order framework with which the evolution of the Earth’s lithosphere in space and time may be described and understood. Key topics include the mechanisms of mountain building, crustal growth and destruction, volcanism and seismicity in intraplate and plate-margin settings, and secular changes in plate tectonic processes and products over geological time. Laboratory exercises will involve qualitative and quantitative analysis of geophysical, geochemical, geochronological, and petrological datasets that constrain the large-scale dynamics of the Earth.

Fall 2018

GEOL410: Planetary Geology

Introduction to the geology of planets, moons, and other bodies within and beyond our solar system, focusing on topics such as (a) the origin and composition of our solar system and its constituent materials, (b) geologic processes occurring on planetary surfaces (e.g. cratering) and shallow and deep interiors (e.g. volcanism, mantle convection), (c) methods of solar system exploration, and potential for resource discovery and utilization on near-neighbors and asteroids, and (d) comparative planetology (thermal histories, evidence for plate tectonics, origin and retention of atmospheres, exobiology).


Here are some links to related websites:

The JGU Mainz Institute of Geosciences Metamorphic Geology homepage.
The homepage for the thermodynamic phase equilibrium modelling software THERMOCALC that is used by a large number of researchers worldwide (including very frequently in my work!). This site contains a wealth of information about phase petrology relevant to anyone working in the field, from 'beginner' to 'expert'.
The homepage for the University of Oxford, UK, "Hard Rock Group". This page showcases the excellent work being done at their Department and has lots of information for students and researchers alike.