Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Earth and Oceanographic Science

First Advisor

Jacky Baughman

Second Advisor

Michelle Fame


We present zircon and apatite (U-Th)/He (ZHe, closure temperature = 150-200ºC; AHe, closure temperature = 45-80ºC) results from two study regions in the Appalachians Mountains to investigate the timing, rates, and spatial trends of exhumation during Alleghanian orogenesis, Atlantic rifting, and post-rift passive margin conditions. Within West Virginia and Virginia, 10 ZHe dates along an across-orogen transect display an eastward younging trend, from ~425 million years (Ma) in the western Appalachian Plateau province, to ~250-300 Ma in the central Valley-Ridge fold-thrust belt, and 163 ± 29 Ma in the eastern Piedmont. Inverse thermal modeling of ZHe data using external geologic constraints indicates: (1) Pre-depositional cooling signatures within Pennsylvanian Appalachian Plateau rocks, suggesting provenance from recycled Taconic or Acadian basin strata, (2) Rapid Alleghanian (250-300 Ma) cooling in the Valley and Ridge province, indicating syn-orogenic uplift and exhumation, followed by a protracted period of stable syn-rift thermal conditions from ~250-150 Ma, and (3) Rapid rift-induced cooling in the Piedmont province, likely caused by rift-flank uplift and the post-rift lessening of the geothermal gradient. Within the Northern Appalachians of Vermont, four metamorphic samples yield averaged AHe dates of 100-120 Ma. Inverse thermal modeling indicates stable thermal conditions from 90 Ma to the present, limiting cooling driven by the recently recognized Northern Appalachian lithospheric thermal anomaly to < 20ºC. Modeling also indicates steady mid-Cretaceous (120-90 Ma) cooling (70 to 30ºC) coeval with passage over the Great Meteor Hotspot, although cooling rates are slower than would be expected during hotspot-induced thermal doming.