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Kristina Butler

Kristina Butler

Assistant Professor

I am a sedimentary geologist working on critical minerals, the tectonic evolution of mountains and sedimentary basins, and terrestrial climate proxy records.


Professional Preparation

NSF EAR Postdoctoral Researcher - Geosciences
Brown University - 2023
PhD - Geosciences
The University of Texas at Austin - 2022
BS - Geosciences
The University of Alaska Anchorage - 2017

Research Areas

Critical Mineral Resources
I study brine- and sediment-hosted critical mineral resources in sedimentary basins around the world. Currently I am working on lithium brine systems in the Salar de Atacama, Chile and Clayton Valley, Nevada as well as several new projects in oil field lithium-rich brines and lithium rich clays around North and South America.
Tectonic Evolution of Sedimentary Basins
I use the sedimentary record to understand how mountains and their basins formed through time. Currently I am working on the surface elevation history and uplift mechanisms of the Central Andes (Atacama Desert) and the earliest phase of Cretaceous Andean mountain building in Patagonia.
Hydroclimate Records from Terrestrial Proxies.
I use sedimentary materials to reconstruct past surface environment conditions such a temperature, water chemistry, depositional systems, and elevation. Currently I am working on Miocene-recent sediments in the Central Andes and in the southwestern US.


Lithium Storage and Release From Lacustrine Sediments: Implications for Lithium Enrichment and Sustainability in Continental Brines. 2021 - Journal Article
Lithium storage and release from lacustrine sediments: Implications for lithium enrichment and sustainability in continental brines. Coffey, D.M., Munk, L.A., Ibarra, D.E., Butler, K.L., Boutt, D.F. and Jenckes, J. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 22(12), p.e2021GC009916. 2021 - Journal Article
Cretaceous-Cenozoic growth of the Patagonian broken foreland basin, Argentina: Chronostratigraphic framework and provenance variations during transitions in Andean subduction dynamics. Butler, K.L., Horton, B.K., Echaurren, A., Folguera, A. and Fuentes, F. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 97, p.102242. 2020 - Journal Article


Paleoelevation reconstruction in hyper-arid settings: integrating triple oxygen and clumped isotope techniques in the Salar de Atacama Basin, Chile (22-25S)
Lithium-rich oil field brines of the Devonian Leduc Formation, Alberta Basin, Canada
Holocene hydroclimate record from high-elevation lagoon sediments in Atacama Desert
Jurassic-Cretaceous tectonic evolution of the North Patagonian Broken Foreland Basin


Paleoelevation reconstruction in hyper-arid settings: integrating triple oxygen and clumped isotope techniques in the Salar de Atacama Basin, Chile (22-25S)
174,000.00 - NSF EAR Postdoctoral Fellowship [2022/12–2023/11]
The construction of high elevations through mountain building dramatically influences global and local climate, regional river and groundwater systems, and species diversification. Documenting the timing and rate at which regions of high elevation were built is key to connecting important Earth system processes to one another. However, regions of high elevation also tend to be some of the driest localities on Earth, which creates challenges in reconstructing the history of surface uplift. Traditional methods, used easily in temperate and tropical climates, can be less effective in dry, desert-like regions due the effect of evaporation. This project uses recently developed techniques to reconstruct surface elevation development from lacustrine carbonates, which record the history of mountain building in the Central Andes, South America. Focusing on one of the driest regions on Earth, the Salar de Atacama Desert, this study has the potential to demonstrate how new, emerging techniques can be applied to longstanding questions in Earth Science. The project will support field- and laboratory-based training and research opportunities for geoscience undergraduate students from traditionally underserved communities in both the United States and South America.