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Dept. of Geology & Geophysics
University of Hawaii
2525 Correa Rd.
Honolulu, HI 96822
phone: 808-956-6641
fax: 956-2538



Garcia Aloha lei map.JPG


Biographical Sketch

Current Position: Professor of Geology (since 1988)

Field Camp in Colorado, University of Kansas, 1970
B.A., Geology, California State University at Humboldt, 1971
Ph.D., Geology, UCLA, 1976

Dissertation: Criteria for Recognition of Ancient Island Arcs in the Rock Record: Rogue River Complex, Oregon”


Professional Experience
Assistant Professor, Geology and Geophysics Dept., Univ. of Hawaii, 1976-83

Visiting Associate Professor, Univ. of Calif. at Santa Barbara, 1982-83

Head, Volcanology-Petrology-Geochemistry Division of Hawaii Institute of Geophysics, 1983-85, 2000-02
Associate Professor, Geology and Geophysics Dept., Univ. of Hawaii, 1983-88
Visiting Professor, M.I.T., 1989

Department Chair, 1988-89
Visiting Scholar, Macquarie University, Australia, 1996, 2008

Visiting Scholar, Australian National University, Australia, 2002, 2004, 2006

Visiting Professor, University of the Philippines, 2006, 2009

Technical Judge, US Nuclear Regulatory Comission, 2007-present



Mike was born and raised in coastal southern California where he developed a love for working outside and near the ocean. He attended Humboldt State University in Northern California to specialize in coastal processes but switched to metamorphic petrology during his senior year. During graduate studies at UCLA he ultrametamorphosed to an igneous petrologist because of the excitement related to plate tectonic igneous processes. The study of volcanic rocks was an important piece of the puzzle that helped demonstrate the universal application of this paradigm to understanding the Earth. His Ph.D. dissertation focused on establishing criteria for the recognition of ancient island arcs in the rock record. Since joining the University of Hawaii, Mike has concentrated on hotspot volcanism, especially on the active Hawaiian volcanoes, Kīlauea, Mauna Loa and Lo`ihi.


Mike’s current research is focused on understanding how volcanoes work. Specifically, he is using the mineralogy and geochemistry of lavas to delineate the magmatic plumbing systems of volcanoes. Basaltic lavas provide essential clues into their subterranean history and are one of our best "windows" into the mantle.

Active volcanoes are a particularly important site for study because we can combine many different types of research (e.g., petrology, deformation, earthquakes, gas chemistry, field observations) to better understand how these volcanoes work. This type of cooperative study is essential if we are to be able to predict volcanic eruptions. It also of use to those finding ore deposits associated with volcanoes (e.g., gold). This research is part of a timeseries experiment to better understand mantle melting processes, source heterogeneity and crustal processes. It respresents the most intensive study of any active volcano and is in cooperation with student Jared Marske and colleagues Aaron Pietruszka (Calif. State Univ. at San Diego), Mike Rhodes (University of Massachusetts), Marc Norman (Australian National University), and John Eiler (Caltech). Garcia’s research involves field work on the active volcanoes Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, submersible dives to examine the submarine flanks of these volcanoes and their young submarine sister, Lo`ihi. Rejuvenated or secondary volcanism is another area of current research is the that occurs in Hawaii and other oceanic islands. The Honolulu Volcanics are a prime example. This volcanism occurs after a gap in volcanism of about 1 million years and is well downstream from the uprising mantle plume. The cause of the volcanism is hotly debated. Mike is investigating with current and former students Chris Gandy, Lisa Swinnard and Ashton Flinders and colleagues Garrett Ito and Brian Taylor, the what, where and when of rejuvenated volcanism in order to better explain why it is occurring.

Dry Valleys of Antarctica is a new area of research for Garcia after attending a field workshop looking at Jurassic sill complexes in 2005. With colleagues at Univ. of Idaho and Colgate University, he developed a follow up project to work on the Ordovician Vanda Dike Swarm, which is spectacularly exposed in the Dry Valleys. A University of Hawai`i undergraduate, Carolyn Parchetta, joined him in the field work and is working on the structural interpretation of the dikes.

Current Research Projects

Students (both undergraduates and graduates) play an active and critical role in these research activities. They are involved in field work (both on land and at sea) and laboratory analyses using a wide variety of analytical tools that are available at the University of Hawaii (Electron Microprobe, TIMS, ICP-MS, and XRF).

Past Research Projects

A listing of Garcia’s publications is available on line.


Garcia teaches at all levels within the university; from undergraduate, nonmajor introductory labs (GG101L) and junior-level igneous petrology (GG302-rocks) to graduate level courses in igneous petrology (GG603) and seminars in special topics (e.g., GG733- Cenozoic evolution of California with field trip, GG711- Scientific paper writing). He taught the undergraduate field geology course for 10 years. Teaching is what makes working at a university fun and exciting for him.


Professional Service

Community Service

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Page last modified on: 16 Jun 2009