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Dorothy Vesper

Professor of Geology

Categorized As

Role: Faculty,
Focus or Research Area: Geology,

Karst, Mine Drainage, Springs, Geochemistry, Hydrogeology — Dorothy is a low-temperature geochemist with a focus on karst hydrogeology, temporal changes in water quality (diel and storm), high-CO2 waters, metal geochemistry, thermal-mineral springs, coal-mine drainage, and how contaminants move in karst aquifers. Much of her recent research considers the relationship between inorganic carbon and sulfur in natural waters.


Environmental Geochemistry Lab  - PI: Dorothy Vesper, Professor of Geology


  • BS Juniata College, 1986
  • MS Penn State University, 1998
  • PhD, Penn State University, 2002


Basically  I'm interested in water - especially water that has flowed through big holes underground.  Those holes can be natural karst settings or coal mines. I'm particularly interested in the water chemistry as it flows from the subsurface to the surface at springs and from mine portals. My research is interdisciplinary and spans from very small to very large scales. On the "small" side, I look at metal speciation and water-rock interactions. On the "large" side I look at how structure and stratigraphy control water chemistry in watersheds of the Appalachian Valley and Ridge Province.


  • Aqueous Geochemistry (GEOL 588)
  • Intro to Earth’s Geochemistry (GEOL 388)
  • Contaminant Transport (GEOL 580)
  • Karst Geology (GEOL 466/666)
  • Environmental Geology (GEOL 365)

Current and ongoing research projects

  • Contaminant fate and transport in the karst aquifer of Puerto Rico. This is part of a large multidisciplinary project (PROTECT).
  • The release of CO2 from coal mines. We are currently looking at the variability of time, with seasons, and on a regional scale.
  • West Virginia karst. We are currently mapping the sinkholes in WV (with Dr. Aaron Maxwell).

Representative papers

  1. Downey AR, Riddell JL, Padilla I, Vesper DJ (2023) Storage and distribution of organic carbon in cave sediments: examples from two caves in the northern karst region of Puerto Rico. Environ Earth Sci 82:36.
  2. Riddell JL, Vesper DJ, Mcdonald LM (2023) Adherence of Polystyrene Microspheres on Cave Sediment: Implications for Organic Contaminants and Microplastics in Karst Systems. Environmental & Engineering Geoscience 10.1111/eeg-d-22-00090
  3. Vesper DJ, Bausher E, Downey A (2022) Comparison of microbial indicators and seasonal temperatures as means for evaluating the vulnerability of water resources from karst and siliciclastic springs. Hydrogeol J 30(4):1219-1232. 10.1007/s10040-022-02496-3
  4. Vesper DJ, Herman EK (2020) Common Spring Types in the Valley and Ridge Province: There Is More than Karst. Env Eng Geosc 26(3):345-358. 10.2113/EEG-2321
  5. Vesper DJ, Moore JE, Adams JP (2016) Inorganic carbon dynamics and CO2 flux associated with coal-mine drainage sites in Blythedale PA and Lambert WV, USA. Environ Earth Sci 75(4):340.

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