Research Interests

My research interests are in planetary-scale geologic processes with the ultimate goal of understanding the external and internal workings of solid-surface planetary bodies. To that end, I perform regional-scale studies of planetary surfaces in order to understand the processes responsible for producing (i.e., volcanism), modifying, and sculpting (i.e., water-and ice-related processes) planetary crusts. Following this motivation, I perform studies on Venus, Mars, and Earth; the level of question that I address and the methodology I employ on each planet is dependent upon the type and resolution of datasets available. To illustrate, I outline some of my research on each planet below.

On Venus, my research addresses volcanic and tectonic processes in the lowland regions - regions of long wavelength (~1000 km) basins that occupy about 80% of the planet. Because the lowlands dominate much of the Venusian surface, constraining geologic processes in these regions are imperative for understanding the geologic evolution of Venus. However, the highest resolution datasets available for Venus include synthetic aperture radar imagery (~75 m/pixel) and altimetry data. Therefore, one significant way to address volcanic and tectonic processes on Venus is through the descriptive analysis of volcanic and tectonic landforms; such an analysis provides the framework for future work.

On Mars, the integration of visible imagery and topographic data with thermal emission data allow me to take my research in two directions. The first direction is constraining the composition and structure of the upper Martian crust - properties critical for determining crustal petrogenesis. This direction emphasizes Mars' volcanic provinces and bedrock exposures within impact basins. The second direction is unraveling the origin of specific landforms on the Martian surface. This second project is similar to my research on Venus, but the addition of thermal emission data adds a unique dimension. To elaborate, thermal emission data are a measure of the energy released by the Martian surface in the thermal infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. In turn, thermal emission data can be used to determine the physical properties of the surface including thermal inertia and surface temperatures - properties that add an extra constraint in deciphering landform origin.

My research on Earth is field-based and focuses on the architecture as well as the storage and eruptive processes at volcanic systems and includes petrologic, petrographic, and geochronologic techniques.

Despite the variation of datasets, the common theme within my research approach is geologic mapping, which provides a context for interpreting geologic histories. In turn, geologic histories provide critical relations from which to construct and test hypotheses regarding processes that contributed to the evolution of the planetary body. When involving students into my research, I envision them developing scientific questions addressable through geologic mapping using the datasets that are most appropriate to their question. An intriguing aspect of my work on other planets is the ease with which the datasets can be obtained online by anyone at no cost. Students can be integrated into the research process with relatively little effort. In addition, because we cannot 'put boots on the ground' on another planet, planetary geology requires the ability to tie one's specialties into a broader planetary context, to envision creative opportunities that integrate the specialties with other disciplines, and to work within a collaborative research team. Cultivating this approach within students is critical in helping them become broadly trained earth scientists and I believe is in line with a liberal arts education.

Current Projects

  • Most of my current research has addressed surficial processes on Mars. Specifically, this work has focused on mapping of volcanic deposits at Apollinaris Patera.

    Mapping Mars

Current Students

  • 2009-Present. Alex is double archaeology-geology major from Gettysburg, PA who is currently working on mapping eruptive deposits at the volcano Apollinaris Patera on Mars. Alex presented her initial results at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science meeting in Houston, TX in March 2010.

    Alex Farrell Alexandra Farrell
  • 2010-Present. Prabhat hails from Nepal and comes to us with a background in mathematics. He is working on crater counting at the Apollinaris Patera summit caldera in order to place ages on the materials represented there.

    Prabhat Kc Prabhat Kc
  • 2010-present. David is an archaeology major from Wisconsin who is working on unraveling some of the processes represented by the cryptic Medusa Fossae Formation near Apollinaris Patera, Mars.

    David Halle David Halle
  • 2009-Present. Adam is an Intelligence Studies major from Cleveland, OH who is mapping the caldera of the volcano Amphitrites Patera, Mars.

    Adam Grincius
  • 2009-Present. Kvitka is a forensics major from Buffalo, NY who is examining the morphology of impact craters on possible pyroclastic deposits.

    Kvitka Peczonczyk
  • 2010-Present. Erin is a geology major from Valencia, PA working on trying to unravel the origin of intermediate-sized volcanic constructs on Venus.

    Erin Beck

Former Students

  • 2009-2010. Carly is from New York and was an archaeology major and geology minor. She worked on elucidating the volcanic history of the caldera at Peneus Patera, Mars and presented her results at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science meeting in Houston, TX in March 2010.

    Carly Kneuer Carly Kneuer
  • 2009. Curtis was a double archaeology-geology major from upstate New York who mapped possible longitudinal dunes in the Hestia Rupes region on Venus. Curtis presented his work at the Geological Society of America meeting in Portland, OR in October 2009 and is now pursuing a graduate degree in geoarcheology at the University of Memphis.

    Curtis McCoy Curtis McCoy

Peer-Reviewed Publications (* Denotes Mercyhurst student author)

Representative abstracts of recent and ongoing work

* indicates Mercyhurst student author

    • *McCoy, C.A.
    • and Lang, N.P.

    Aeolian features in the Mead and Hestia Rupes regions of Venus: A comparison to terrestrial longitudinal dunes

    ― Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41, no. 7, p. 619.
    • *Martinez, N.D.
    • and Lang, N.P.

    Volcanogenic sedimentation in the Secret Pass Canyon Volcanic Center, northwestern Arizona

    ― Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41, no. 7, p. 644.
    • Lang, N.P.
    • and *A.K. Farrell

    Volcanic evolution of the Apollinaris Patera summit caldera, Mars

    ― Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41, no. 7, p. 709.
    • Lang, N.P.
    • and I. Lopez

    Volcanism at Aramaiti Corona, Venus

    ― American Geophysical Union.
    • Lang, N.P.

    THEMIS and TES characterization of Ladon basin, southwestern Margaritiffer Terra, Mars

    ― Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs.
    • Lang, N.P.
    • and Abdelsalam, M.G.

    Geologic mapping in arid regions with ASTER data: An example from NW Arizona

    ― Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 36th South-Central Section meeting.
    • Lang, N.P.,
    • Miller, C.F.,
    • Faulds, J.E.,
    • Heizler, M.T.,
    • and Cribb, W.

    Constraining the evolution of the Secret Pass Canyon Volcanic Center, Northern Colorado River Extensional Corridor, northwest Arizona: Implications for a source and possible relation to the Peach Springs Tuff

    ― Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 98th Cordilleran Section Meeting.
Fotla Corona - Venus

Fotla Corona — Venus

Apollinaris Patera

Apollinaris Patera — Mars

Research Image

Secret Pass Canyon Volcanic Center