Britta Jensen, PhD

Associate Professor, Faculty of Science - Earth & Atmospheric Sciences Admin


Associate Professor, Faculty of Science - Earth & Atmospheric Sciences Admin
(780) 492-3430
3-02 Earth Sciences Building
11223 Saskatchewan Drive NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2E3


Area of Study / Keywords

Quaternary geology paleoenvironments volcanology tephrochronology


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 regularly teach EAS 100/201 in the Fall Semester and EAS 110 (Field School) and EAS 457 in the Winter.


Research opportunity on ice cores in the Canadian north

What is the project?

We are looking for a PhD (although would consider a post-doctoral researcher or MSc) for a project focused on the record of volcanism in northern Canadian ice cores. The successful applicant will be part of the team analysing the new Mount Logan ice core drilled in the summer 2022. A major part of this project will be targeted sampling for cryptotephra to help develop the age model for the new core and link its environmental record to others in the region. The exact scope of the research will depend on the level the candidate is recruited at. Ideally, a PhD would also expand this work to archived ice cores in the Canadian Ice Core Laboratory (CICL). These High Arctic ice cores (from, for example, Penny, Prince of Wales and Devon ice caps) contain a large dataset of legacy palaeoenvironmental data that lack a strong chronological framework. Within this basic research context, the candidate will also have opportunities to develop this project in directions that follow their personal research interests.

The ideal candidate will have:

  • Experience working with volcanic ash, preferably cryptotephra.
  • Experience with ice core and/or lake sediment records.
  • May consider candidates that do not have experience working with tephra if they have experience with other proxies on equivalent deposits where some skills may be transferable.
  • Preference will be given to those with a strong background in geochemistry and stratigraphy.

We will not generally consider PhD candidates that have not previously completed a MSc or, at minimum, a BSc honours thesis. The start date for the project is somewhat flexible, no earlier than January 2023, but no later than September 2023.

Who are we and where will you be?

You will be based in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) at the University of Alberta working with Drs. Britta Jensen and Alison Criscitiello, PIs of the Volcanic Ash Research Group (website forthcoming) and Canadian Ice Core Laboratory, respectively. The University of Alberta is a top tier research institute, and EAS is regularly ranked one of the top Geology departments in the world. EAS is an exceptionally well-equipped department, with most, if not all, analytical equipment you may require at your fingertips. You will live in Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta. We are a northern city sitting on the banks of the mighty North Saskatchewan River, with long summer days and long winter nights, a great arts scene (largest Fringe Festival after Edinburgh), and many opportunities for outdoor activities.

How to apply:

Please send your CV and a single page cover letter specifically explaining why you are interested in this project and your experience to Britta Jensen ( Any applicants are encouraged to include their own personal interests and ideas that complement the research project’s central theme. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out.


EAS 110 - Earth Science Field School

This excursion through the mountains and prairies of Alberta introduces students to the diverse geology and geomorphology of the region. The structure of rocks will be observed, fossils identified, and glacial deposits studied, in order to understand the geological processes that have occurred here over geologic time. Requires payment of additional student instructional support fees. Refer to the Tuition and Fees page in the University Regulations section of the Calendar. Intended for students in their first or second year. Not available to students with previous credit in an EAS field school (EAS 234, 354, or 333). Prerequisite: One of EAS 100, 101, 201, 210 or SCI 100. [Faculty of Science]

EAS 205 - Violent Earth: The Geology of Catastrophic Events

Processes and geological evidence of natural catastrophes, such as volcanoes, earthquakes, slope failures, tsunamis, floods, extraterrestrial impacts, and other rapid environmental changes. Natural hazard risk in the context of geological time. Prerequisite: Any 100-level Science course. [Faculty of Science]

EAS 457 - Global Change

Major processes of change in the contemporary environment, their history and their interrelationships (climate and sea level change, changes in atmospheric composition, deforestation, desertification, water resource depletion, soil erosion, atmospheric and aquatic pollution); global biogeochemical cycles and their role in environmental change. Prerequisite: One of EAS 208, 225 or 250. [Faculty of Science]

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