Britta Jensen, PhD

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


Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science - Earth & Atmospheric Sciences Admin
(780) 492-3430
3-02 Earth Sciences Building
11223 Saskatchewan Drive NW
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.


I am currently looking for students to work on a variety of projects, generally related to reconstructing volcanic histories, combining classical proximal physical volcanology and tephrostratigraphy, and correlating paleoenvironmental records.

While there are a number of defined projects available I am also completely open to students coming to me with their own ideas. Please contact me if you are interested.


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]

Winter Term 2023

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]

Fall Term 2022

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]

Winter Term 2023

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