Geological    Engineering
Geological Engineering
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Larry   N.   Smith,   Ph.D

Larry Smith

Associate Professor
Mining Geology (MG) 213F
(406) 496-4859

E-mail Larry Smith »

Research Interests

Most of my work centers on stratigraphy, sedimentology, Quaternary geology, subsurface and surface geologic mapping, and petroleum geology.

Current projects include:

The depositional history of Glacial Lake Missoula and features formed during multiple drainage events of the lake. Glacial Lake Missoula has been of great interest in western Montana for 100 years, but correlation of lake-stands and drainage events to the Channeled Scablands of Washington has been based mostly on inference, not on detailed ages. I have ongoing interest in working with students on geological mapping, sedimentology, and stratigraphy of glacial deposits in the Clark Fork River drainage basin to improve understanding and correlation of these deposits. I have a growing interest in optical dating (optically stimulated luminescence dating) of quartz and feldspar in Quaternary sediments. I have been working with scientists at the Denmark Technical University's Risø Lab and others at Utah State University and University of Fraser Valley.

I am looking for Master's students interested in Quaternary, surficial, or glacial geologic problems in Montana.

Stratigraphy, sedimentology, and petroleum geology of Cretaceous strata in north-central Montana. Cretaceous strata along the inland seaway are mostly clastic deposits of marine, marginal marine, and fluvio-deltaic systems. The various units are known from surface and subsurface datasets. I am working currently with one graduate student in improving surface-to-subsurface correlation of Lower Cretaceous cyclic deposits in north-central Montana.


Ph.D., Geology, University of New Mexico, 1988
M.S., Geology, University of New Mexico, 1983
B.S., Earth Science, Geology, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1977

Non-Research Academic Interets

I enjoy teaching introductory and field-based geology classes. I find air-photo interpretation, photogrammetry, and all aspects of map-making interesting and important. My graduate students need to learn GIS in order to produce maps for their projects and theses.

Selected Honors & Awards

  • Montana Tech Merit Award, 2014
  • Montana Tech Rose and Anna Busch Teaching Award, 2011, 2014
  • Montana Tech Distinguished Researcher, 2007

Career in Brief

  • Fall 2016-present: Department Head, Montana Tech Geological Engineering
  • Spring 2016: Guest Researcher, Denmark Technical University, Risø Campus
  • 2012-present: Associate Professor, Montana Tech Geological Engineering
  • 2009-2012: Assistant Professor, Montana Tech Geological Engineering
  • 2008-2009: Research Geologist, Professor, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology
  • 1999-2007: Associate Research Professor, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology
  • 1993-1999: Assistant Research Professor, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology
  • 1988-1993: Shell Western Exploration and Production, Inc., Houston, TX (Exploration Geologist)
  • Spring 1988: Post Doctorial Researcher, University of New Mexico
  • Fall 1987-1988: Lecturer, University of New Mexico, Department of Geology
  • 1981-1983: Lecturer, University of Houston (Summer Field Camp)
  • 1978-1979: Geologic Field Assistant, U.S. Geological Survey

Current Teaching

  • GEO101 – Physical Geology (as needed)
  • GEO209 – Introduction to Field Geology (fall)
  • GEO257 – Sedimentology and Petroleum Geology (fall)
  • GEO259 – Sedimentology-Stratigraphy Lab (fall)
  • GEOE406 – Geomorphology-Photogeology (spring)
  • GEOE409 – Field Geology (summer field camp)
  • GEOE491 – Special Topics – Geology of the western U.S. (on demand)
  • GEOE490 – Undergraduate Research independent study
  • GEOE590 – Graduate Research independent study
  • GEOE585 – GIS Applications in Natural Resources (spring)

Selected Publications 

Smith, L.N., 2017, Repeated sedimentation and exposure of glacial Lake Missoula sediments: A lake-level history at Garden Gulch, Montana, USA: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 155, p. 114–126.

Smith, L.N., and Croft, T.O.*, 2015, Sequence stratigraphy, subsurface mapping, and correlation of the Lower Cretaceous Bow Island Formation, north-central Montana, in, Bingle-Davis, M., ed., Cretaceous Conference: Evolution and Revolution: Wyoming Geological Association 68th Annual Field Conference Guidebook, p. 7-21.

Smith, L.N., and McDonald, K., 2015, Road Log: Regional geology and glacial geology of the Helmville to Lincoln area, Powell and Lewis and Clark counties, Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 44, p. 233–238.

Vineyard, M.*, Sherimkulova, A.*, Welk, E.*, Eastman, K.*, Hagan, T.*, Thomson, C.*, Smith, L.N., Chambers, M.*, Machinal, M.*, Mack, A.*, and Hofland, N.*, 2015, Glacial geology and geomorphological features of the Lincoln area, Lewis and Clark and Powell counties, Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 44, p. 47–54.

Madison, J.P., LaFave, J.I., Patton, T.W., Smith, L.N., and Olson, J.N., 2014, Groundwater resources of the Middle Yellowstone River area: Treasure and Yellowstone counties, Montana Part A*—Descriptive Overview and Water-Quality Data: Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Montana Ground-water Assessment Atlas 3, 82 p.

Smith, L.N., and Hanson, M.A., 2014, Sedimentary record of Glacial Lake Missoula along the Clark Fork River from deep to shallow positions in the former lakes: St. Regis to near Drummond, Montana, in Shaw, C.A., and Tikoff, B., eds., Exploring the Northern Rocky Mountains: Geological Society of America Field Guide 37, p. 51-63.

Smith, L.N., LaFave, J.I., and Patton, T.W., 2013, Groundwater Resources of the Lolo-Bitterroot Area: Mineral, Missoula, and Ravalli Counties, Montana, Part A: Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Ground‑Water Assessment Atlas No. 4, 88 p.

Alho, P., Baker, V., and Smith, L.N., 2010, Paleohydraulic reconstruction of the largest Glacial Lake Missoula draining(s): Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 29, p. 3067–3078.

Smith, L.N., Smith, M.G.A.*, Croft, T.O.*, Dutton, A.D.*, Sunwall, D.A.*, Gordon, L.M.*, Wright, J.R.*, and Dresser, H.W., 2010, Quaternary mapping and glaciation of the northern Anaconda Range and the southern Flint Creek Range, Deer Lodge, Granite, and Powell Counties, Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 39, p. 1–14.

*- Student co-author

Personal Interests

Most of my interests are in outdoors activity - hiking, cross country and telemark skiing, cycling, in the great outdoors of the Northern Rocky Mountains. In the winters I enjoy playing and refereeing ice hockey, and working in my woodshop when I get a chance.

Another passion is historic preservation in our area, and of my own 1890 house in particular. I teach historic brick preservation classes each summer and serve on the board of Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization.