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Britta Jensen

Assistant Professor


Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

About Me

Welcome to my website.

I am a geologist who works mostly on Quaternary time-scales. I specialize in tephrochronology, which is the study of volcanic ash deposits (tephra) and how they can be used to date and correlated stratigraphic sequences. I also am interested in the extensive aeolian deposits in the interior of Alaska and the Yukon.

A bit of background. I completed my BSc in Geology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby British Columbia and my MSc and PhD here at the University of Alberta. I completed an NSERC post-doctoral fellowship at Queen's University Belfast in the UK and went on to the Royal Alberta Museum to work in the Quaternary Environments group. As of July 1 2017 I rejoined the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences as an Assistant Professor.


Research interests in volcanic ash:

Volcanic ash deposits found in different environments (e.g. marine, lake, terrestrial, ice) can provide insights into the paleoenvironmental records preserved in those environments and often offer important chronological control.

Distal (>10 km or so from their source) ash deposits can also tell us an important story about volcanic activity from a specific centre or region, supplementing proximal deposits that can often be removed by glaciation or subsequent eruptions.

Understanding eruption histories of volcanoes is important from several different perspectives. We are interested in changes in eruption frequency through time to help us understand the external controls (tectonic, glacial) that might help control the rate of eruptions. There are also potential impacts on climate related to increases in activity. Developing eruptions histories are also integral to understanding the hazard a particular volcano or region may pose to people.

Documenting distal deposits such as their distribution, grain size, and morphology also provides important field data for the ongoing efforts in building models that aim to accurately model ash fall.

Research interests in stratigraphy:

My research has largely been based in eastern Beringia, the unglaciated regions of Yukon and Alaska, which contain extensive deposits of aeolian deposited silts, known as loess.

Loess deposits are fascinating because of they are often linked to glacial cycles and are excellent paleoenvironmental archives. In Alaska these deposits can be as old at ~ 3 million years, providing one of the few records of terrestrial sedimentation for the entire Quaternary.

I am interested in the paleomagnetic characteristics, geochemistry, stratigraphy and sedimentology of these loess deposits and the insights into the Quaternary paleoenvironmental record of the north they provide.


I will be teaching EAS 458: Cold Regions Geoscience (high latitude and elevation environments) in the winter 2018 semester.