Victor J. Polyak

Senior Research Scientist, Ph.D. Texas Tech University, 1998. Office: Northrop Hall Rm. 312-C; polyak@unm.edu

Research and Academic Interests:

Speleology - the study of caves.  (1) Currently, my interests are focused primarily around paleoclimatology of the southwestern United States through the study of stalagmites and other speleothems.  Caves of the Guadalupe Mountains, such as Carlsbad Cavern, contain abundant carbonate deposits, including some of the largest, morphologically unique, and mineralogically interesting speleothems to be found anywhere.  Annual banding, subfossils, mineralogy, and isotope geochemistry preserved in these speleothems are allowing us to construct the Holocene and Late Pleistocene climate for the southwestern United States.  (2) Another area of my studies involves the timing of speleothem growth in the Grand Canyon caves, which will yield useful and new information related to the rate of canyon incision by the Colorado River. (3) In addition to the above, I have a great interest in sulfur-related speleogenesis, cave minerals and speleothems, and lava tube cave features.


Listing of Recent Publications:

  • "Late Holocene climate and cultural changes in the southwestern United States," Science, v.294, p.148-151.
  • "Wetter and cooler late Holocene climate in the southwestern United States from mites preserved in stalagmites," Geology, v.29, p.643-646, 2001 (V.J. Polyak, Cokendolpher, J.C., Norton, R.A., and Asmerom, Y.)
  • "Iron oxide-rich filaments: Possible fossil bacteria in Lechuguilla cave, New Mexico," Geomicrobiology Journal, v.18, p.297-309, 2001 (P.P. Provencio and V.J. Polyak)
  • "Clays in Caves of the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico," Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v.62, p.23-32, 2000, (V.J. Polyak, and N. Güven).
  • "Authigenesis of trioctahedral smectite in magnesium-rich carbonate speleothems in Carlsbad Cavern and other caves of the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico," Clays and Clay Minerals, v.48, p.217-321, 2000, (V.J. Polyak, and N. Güven).
  • "Age and Origin of Carlsbad Caverns and related caves from 40 Ar/ 39 Ar of alunite," Science, v.279, p.1919-1922, 1998, (V.J. Polyak, W.C. McIntosh, P. Provencio, and N. Güven).
  • "Aluminite and hydrobasaluminite in caves of the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico," Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v.60, p.51-57. 1998, (V.J. Polyak, and P.P. Provencio).

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