Photo of Chris and research students Dr. Mattinson and research students

Dr. Chris Mattinson

Department of Geological Sciences, Central Washington University
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7418
Tel: 509.963.1628
fax: 509.963.2821


  • Geology 101: Physical Geology (Winter 2016)
  • Geology 107: Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Civilization (Winter 2010)
  • Geology 320: Rocks & Minerals (Fall 2022)
  • Geology 346: Mineralogy (Winter 2018)
  • Geology 475/575: Petrography and Petrogenesis (Fall 2022)
  • Geology 484/584: Geochronology (Fall 2019)
  • Geology 502: Regional Field Geology of the Pacific Northwest (Fall 2022)
  • Geology 503: Research Methods (Winter 2020)
  • Geology 504: Graduate Seminar Series (Winter 2019)


My research interests center on using the evidence recorded in metamorphic rocks to address regional tectonic questions and to examine the time-scales of orogenic processes at convergent margins. In particular, my work with ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) rocks examines the behavior of the lithosphere during subduction and continental collision using metamorphic petrology, geochronology, geochemistry, and thermodynamics/thermobarometry. My main laboratory techniques are mineral chemistry by electron microprobe, U/Pb geochronology and trace element analyses by ion microprobe (SHRIMP-RG) and laser ablation ICPMS, coupled with evaluation of the geological context of the samples analyzed through field geology. My current and recent research projects include:

Ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism and geochronology, western China: One of the outstanding questions of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism metamorphism is: How did these rocks return to the surface while preserving their high P/T mineral assemblages? Critical to addressing this question is a better understanding of exhumation rates from depths >80 km to the upper crust. These rates can be determined by combining geochronology and petrology, and therefore, I have focused on zircon U-Pb geochronology using the ion microprobe (SHRIMP-RG) linked to pressure, temperature, and mineral paragenesis by REE geochemistry, mineral inclusion analysis, and thermobarometry. Field work in the North Qaidam ultrahigh-pressure terrane in western China includes five field seasons in western China in 2001, 2002, 2008, and 2009. Graduate students: James Anderson, Wesley Weisberg, David Hernández Uribe, Jake Meyer, Brittany Fagin, Megan Regel, Ben Christensen; Undergraduate students: Madelaine Stearn, Katie Stubbs, Miranda Lehman, Vaughan Gilmore, Alex Sains, Jesse Walters, Kurtis Oduber, Nick Stodola, Levi Potter, Pablo García del Real.

Photos of 2008 China field work

Photos of 2009 China field work

Deep-crustal processes of continental growth, North Cascades, Washington: The Chelan Migmatite Complex records deep crustal magma mixing, fractionation, and assimilation of older arc rocks, providing an opportunity to directly study the record of crustal growth processes in a continental arc setting. We hypothesize that the Chelan Migmatite Complex represents a lower-crustal melt processing zone that contributed melt to the adjacent Okanogan Range batholith, so these two units together represent a crust-building system. Few exposures of the deep roots of arcs exist, and most existing studies have focused on oceanic rather than continental arcs. Our approach will enable us to document assimilation of relatively juvenile crust; this process is expected to be significant in long-lived continental magmatic arcs, but is difficult to detect by other methods. Our results will have implications for understanding how felsic melt is generated in the lower crust, how it migrates, and how plutons are connected to deep-crustal migmatites. Graduate student: Megan Kjelland; Undergraduate students: Samuel Eyassu, Colton Bell, Rebekah Krohn, Jared Van Laethem, Rylynn Carney, Tessa Guthrie, Kelley Wood.

Granulite facies metamorphism and geochronology, eastern Mojave, California: Granulites of the eastern Mojave record Early Proterozoic tectonism during the growth of the North American continent. This project uses field and petrographic investigation, combined with U/Pb geochronology of zircon and monazite, to address the timing of these events, and REE geochemistry, thin section and mineral inclusion relationships connect the U/Pb ages to metamorphic fabrics and mineral assemblages.

Fluid release in accretionary wedge metasediments, Olympic Peninsula, Washington: Field and petrographic investigation to constrain fluid volumes and fluid overpressure potentially related to seismicity. Graduate student: Holly Rotman.

Photos of 2008 and 2009 Olympic Peninsula field work

Mineral separation yield efficiency and method development: This project evaluates the time and yield efficiency of heavy mineral separation using a spiral panner. Method development with a test sample of Mt. Stuart batholith granodiorite has improved the yield efficiency, and demonstrated spiral panning to be an effective method for small- to moderate-sized samples with typical zircon concentrations. Undergraduate researchers: Lynn Bauer, Erliana Acob, Alexis Naranjo, Collin Marshall, Ashley Edwards, Brittany Fagin, Kaitlyn Harrison, Tiffany Everett.

Photos and description of initial spiral panning tests (PDF)

2013 GSA Cordilleran section poster documenting time and yield efficiency tests (PDF)

2014 GSA poster documenting grain size distributions and yield efficiency (PDF)

Graduate Students

  • Josh Stone (current student), Thesis: "Developing and optimizing improved methods for U/Pb dating via LA-ICP-MS"

  • Zack Stevens (current student), Thesis: "Constraining rock type controls on geophysical properties: Implications for earthquake hazards near Ellensburg, Washington"

  • Megan Kjelland (current student), Thesis: "Tracing assimilation in a continental arc using a detailed outcrop map, petrography, and zircon U-Pb dating and trace element analysis, Chelan Migmatite Complex, North Cascades, WA"

  • James Anderson (current student), Thesis: "Geochemistry and phase equilibria modeling of high-pressure granulites and their spatial association with ultra high-pressure terranes, Dulan area, North Qaidam terrane, Western China"

  • Wesley Weisberg (MS 2020), Thesis: "Constructing P-T-t paths using garnet geochemistry and zircon geochronology to constrain prograde to peak metamorphism of the Dulan high pressure – ultrahigh- pressure terrane: N. Qaidam, China"

  • David Hernández Uribe (MS 2017), Thesis: "Estimating the thickness of an ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) terrane: Insights from phase equilibria modeling and Zr-in-rutile thermometry, Dulan area, North Qaidam terrane, Northwest China"

  • Jake Meyer (MS 2016), Thesis: "Fluid release during eclogite formation, North Qaidam Terrane, Western China" Thesis proposal PDF

  • Brittany Fagin (MS 2015), Thesis: "Exhumation rates for ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks and tests of exhumation models, North Qaidam terrane, Western China" Thesis proposal PDF

  • Megan Regel (MS 2015), Thesis: "Thermobarometry and Geochronology in the Dulan region, North Qaidam Ultrahigh- Pressure metamorphic terrane: Resolving Spatial Variation of Ages, Temperatures and Pressures" Thesis proposal PDF

  • Benjamin Christensen (MS 2011), Thesis: "Geochemistry and geochronology of high pressure granulites from the Dulan area of western China" Thesis PDF

  • Holly Rotman (MS 2010), Thesis: "Fluid budget of metasedimentary rocks from a Tertiary accretionary prism and connections to seismicity, Olympic Peninsula, northwest Washington state" Thesis PDF


Photos of April 2011 landslide on Icicle Creek

Selected Publications

  • Page, F.Z., Cameron, E.M., Flood, C.M., Dobbins, J.W., Spicuzza, M.J., Kitajima, K., Strickland, A., Ushikubo, T., Mattinson, C.G., and Valley, J.W., 2019, Extreme oxygen isotope zoning in garnet and zircon from a metachert block in mélange reveals metasomatism at the peak of subduction metamorphism. Geology, v. 47, p. 655-658.

  • Hernández-Uribe, D., Gutiérrez-Aguilar, F., Mattinson, C.G., Palin, R.M., and Neill, O.K., 2019, A new record of deeper subduction during the Carboniferous in the Acatlán Complex, México: Evidence from phase equilibrium modelling and Zr-in-rutile thermometry of eclogite and blueschist: Lithos, v. 324-325, p. 551-568.

  • Zhang, J., Mattinson, C., Yu, S., Li, Y., Yu, X., Mao, X., Lu, Z., and Peng, Y., 2019, Two contrasting accretion versus collision orogenies: Insight from Early Paleozoic Polyphase metamorphism in the Altun–Qilian–North Qaidam orogenic system, NW China: Geological Society of London Special Publication v. 474, p. 153-181.

  • Wu, C., Wu, D., Mattinson, C., Lei, M., and Chen, H., 2019, Petrogenesis of granitoids in the Wulan area: magmatic activity and tectonic evolution in the North Qaidam, NW China: Gondwana Research, v. 67, p. 147-171.

  • Hernández-Uribe, D., Mattinson, C.G., and Zhang, J., 2018, Phase equilibria modelling and implications for P-T determinations of medium-temperature UHP eclogites, North Qaidam terrane, China: Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 36, p. 1237-1261.

  • Lu, Z., Zhang, J., and Mattinson, C., 2018, Tectonic erosion related to continental sub- duction: An example from the eastern North Qaidam Mountains, NW China: Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 36, p. 653-666.

  • Zhang, J., Yu, S., and Mattinson, C.G., 2017, Early Paleozoic polyphase metamorphism in northern Tibet, China. Gondwana Research, v. 41, p. 267-289.

  • Vermeesch, P., Rittner, M., Petrou, E., Omma, J., Mattinson, C., and Garzanti, E., 2017, High throughput petrochronology and sedimentary provenance analysis by automated phase mapping and LAICPMS: Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, v. 18, p. 4096-4109.

  • Zhang, J. X., Mattinson, C. G., Yu, S. Y., and Li, Y. S., 2014, Early Paleozoic HP/UHT granulite in the south Altyn Tagh, north Tibet, China: new constraints from rutile-zircon thermometry and U-Pb geochronology: Lithos, v. 200-201, p. 241-257.

  • Kylander-Clark, A. R. C., Hacker, B. R., and Mattinson, C. G., 2012, Size and exhumation rate of ultrahigh-pressure terranes linked to orogenic stage: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 321-322, p. 115-120.

  • Martens, U. C., Brueckner, H. K., Mattinson, C. G., Liou, J. G., and Wooden, J. L., 2012, Timing of eclogite-facies metamorphism of the Chuacús Complex, Central Guatemala: record of Late Cretaceous continental subduction of North America's sialic basement: Lithos, v. 146-147, p. 1-10.

  • Zhang, J. X., Mattinson, C. G., Yu, S. Y., Li, J. P., and Meng, F. C., 2010, U-Pb zircon geochronology of coesite-bearing eclogites from the southern Dulan area of the North Qaidam UHP terrane, northwestern China: Spatially and temporally extensive UHP metamorphism during continental subduction: Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 28, no. 9, p. 955-978.

  • Mattinson, C. G., Wooden, J. L., Zhang, J. X. and Bird, D. K., 2009. Paragneiss zircon geochronology and trace element geochemistry, North Qaidam HP/UHP terrane, western China. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, v. 35, p. 298-309.

  • Zhang, J., Meng, F., Li, J. and Mattinson, C. G., 2009. Coesite in eclogite from the North Qaidam and its implications. Chinese Science Bulletin, v. 54, no. 6, p. 1105-1110.

  • Zhang, J., Mattinson, C. G., Meng, F., Wan, Y., and Tung, K., 2008, Polyphase tectonothermal history recorded in granulitized gneisses from the North Qaidam HP/UHP metamorphic terrane, Western China: evidence from zircon U-Pb geochronology: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 120, no. 5/6, p. 732-749.

  • Mattinson, C. G., Colgan, J. P., Metcalf, J. R., Miller, E. L., and Wooden, J. L., 2007, Late Cretaceous to Paleocene metamorphism and magmatism in the Funeral Mountains metamorphic core complex, Death Valley, California, in Cloos, M., Carlson, W. D., Gilbert, M. C., Liou, J. G., and Sorenson, S. S., eds., Convergent Margin Terranes and Associated Regions: A Tribute to W.G. Ernst, Geological Society of America Special Paper 419, p. 205-223, doi: 10.1130/2006.2419(11).

  • Mattinson, C. G., Menold, C. A., Zhang, J. X., and Bird, D. K., 2007, High- and Ultrahigh-Pressure Metamorphism in the North Qaidam and South Altyn Terranes, Western China: International Geology Review, v. 49, no. 11, p. 969-995.

  • Mattinson, C. G., Wooden, J. L., Liou, J. G., Bird, D. K., and Wu, C. L., 2006, Age and duration of eclogite-facies metamorphism, North Qaidam HP/UHP terrane, western China: American Journal of Science, v. 306, no. 9, p. 683-711.

  • Zhang, J. X., Mattinson, C. G., Meng, F. C., and Wan, Y. S., 2005, An Early Palaeozoic HP/HT granulite-garnet peridotite association in the south Altyn Tagh, NW China: P-T history and U-Pb geochronology: Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 23, no. 7, p. 491-510.

  • Zhang, J. X., Yang, J. S., Mattinson, C. G., Xu, Z. Q., Meng, F. C., and Shi, R. D., 2005, Two contrasting eclogite cooling histories, North Qaidam HP/UHP terrane, western China: Petrological and isotopic constraints: Lithos, v. 84, no. 1-2, p. 51-76.

  • Enami, M., Liou, J. G., and Mattinson, C. G., 2004, Epidote minerals in high P/T metamorphic terranes: Subduction zone and high- to ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism, in Liebscher, A., and Franz, G., eds., Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, Volume 56: Epidotes: Washington, D.C., The Mineralogical Society of America, p. 347-398.

  • Mattinson, C. G., Tsujimori, T., Zhang, R. Y., and Liou, J. G., 2004, Epidote-rich talc-kyanite-phengite eclogites, Sulu terrane, eastern China: P-T-fO2 estimates and the significance of the epidote-talc assemblage in eclogite: American Mineralogist, v. 89, no. 11-12, p. 1772-1783.