Frank Spear

Frank Spear

Department Head and Professor

My research group is focused in two major directions in metamorphic geochemistry.

Studies of crustal evolution:A major focus of my research group over the past three decades has been on the development of new techniques for the interpretation of metamorphic petrogenesis. These studies involve modeling mineral reactions, textures, and chemical zonation in both major and accessory phases. The goal of this work is to construct pressure-temperature-deformation-time histories that can be used to interpret the tectonic evolution of a terrane. We have applied these techniques to areas in the Alps, New England, southern Chile, the Mojave desert, British Columbia, the Adirondacks of New York, and the Cyclades Blueschist Belt of Greece. Current field projects are underway in Central New England The Ruby-Humboldt range of eastern Nevada Adirondack Mountains of New York Cyclades Blueschist Belt, Greece 

MetPetDB: A database for metamorphic geochemistry. The field of metamorphic petrology involves the collection of large amounts of data including sample characterization, field and thin section descriptions, photomicrographs of phase assemblages and reaction textures, SEM (backscatter secondary electron images of thin sections, X-ray maps depicting the distribution and zoning of elements in phases, cathodoluminescence images of phases such as zircon or quartz to reveal trace element zoning, as well as analyses of whole-rock and mineral chemistry and isotope abundances. Managing such large quantities of data is a large effort and preserving these data for the future is not yet routine except for the small amounts that see their way into publication. MetPetDB (Metamorphic Petrology Database) is an NSF-funded project involving collaboration between metamorphic petrologists and computer scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with an international working group. The goal is the development of an informatics system that will prove to be a valuable resource for both the preservation of valuable data as well as serving as a platform for new, innovative research directions. The database can be accessed here: and a summary of published articles currently uploaded into the database may be examined here:

  • Ph.D., 1976 University of California, Los Angeles B.A., 1971 Amherst College, Amherst MA.

  • Spear, F.S. (1993) Metamorphic Phase Equilibria and Pressure-Temperature-Time Paths, 799 p. Mineralogical Society of America, Washington, D. C.
  • Spear, F. S., 2014, The duration of near-peak metamorphism from diffusion modelling of garnet zoning: Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 32, no. 8, p. 903-914.
  • Spear, F. S., Thomas, J. B., and Hallett, B. W., 2014, Overstepping the garnet isograd: a comparison of QuiG barometry and thermodynamic modeling: Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, v. 168, no. 3, p. 1-15.
  • Spear, F. S., Ashley, K. T., Webb, L. E., and Thomas, J. B., 2012, Ti diffusion in quartz inclusions: Implications for metamorphic time scales: Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, v. 164, p. 977-986.
  • Spear, F. S., 2010, Monazite-allanite phase relations in metapelites: Chemical Geology, v. 279, p. 55-62.
  • Spear, F. S., and Pyle, J. M., 2010, Theoretical modeling of monazite growth in a low-Ca metapelite: Chemical Geology, v. 273, no. 1-2, p. 111-119.
  • For a complete list of publications, see