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Academics at Prescott College

Kurt Refsnider, Ph.D.


Kurt Refsnider, Ph.D.
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Office in Sinagua
Please email Kurt to schedule a meeting!
Prescott, AZ 86301

Kurt is a geologist with expertise in geomorphology (processes that shape the landscape), geochronology, and climate science. Drawn to these fields by a desire to understand the world that surrounds us and how it formed, Kurt is passionate about sharing his curiosity with others, helping students build the skillset necessary to make informed observations and interpretations, and increasing scientific literacy. Kurt is an accomplished field geologist, having conducted research in the Scandinavian and Canadian Arctic, throughout the Rocky Mountains, on glaciers, and in caves. His love of the outdoors and extensive field experience results in his classes spending a substantial portion of their time outside. Kurt is also the founding executive director of Bikepacking Roots, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on long-distance mountain bike route development and advocacy for backcountry trail access, public lands, and landscape conservation.

Kurt's final semester of teaching at Prescott College will be Spring, 2019, but he hopes to return to teach occasional field geology courses down the road.



Ph.D. (Geology), University of Colorado, Boulder, 2011
M.S. (Geology), University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2006
B.A. (Geology), University of Minnesota, Morris, 2004



Kurt's research revolves around the themes of landscape evolution, Quaternary climate change (the past ~2.7 million years), and cosmogenic radionuclide applications. Recent projects have ranged from documenting changes in alpine bedrock erosion rates in the Southern Rocky Mountains over the past 4 million years using cave sediments to investigating Laurentide Ice Sheet erosion over the past 2.5 million years in the High Canadian Arctic. Kurt is also interested in understanding spatial patterns in climate during the Last Glacial Maximum (~20,000 years ago) and the influence these patterns had on mountain glaciers in the western United States.



Ault, A.K., Guenthner, W.R., Reiners, P.W., Moser, A.C., Channer, M.C., Miller, G.H., Refsnider, K.A., 2018, (De)coupled zircon damage, metamictization, and He diffusivity, to be submitted to Lithosphere.

Gilbert, A., Flowers, G.E., Miller, G.H., Refsnider, K.R., and Radić, V., 2017. The projected demise of Barnes Ice Cap: evidence of an unusually warm 21st century Arctic. Geophysical Research Letters, v. 44, p. 2810-2816.

Leonard, E.M., Laabs, B.J.C., Plummer, M.A., Kroner, R.K., Brugger, K.A., Spiess, V.M., Refsnider, K.A., Xia, Y., and Caffee, M.W., 2017. Late Pleistocene glaciation and deglaciation in the Crestone Peaks area, Colorado Sangre de Cristo Mountains, USA chronology and paleoclimate. Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 158, p. 127-144.

Refsnider, K.A. and Miller, G.H., 2013. Ice-sheet erosion and the stripping of Tertiary regolith from Baffin Island, eastern Canadian Arctic. Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 67, p. 176-189.

Refsnider, K.A., Miller, G.H., Fogel, M., Frechette, B., Andrews, J.T., Bowden, R., and Farmer, G.L., 2013. Carbonate precipitation, chemical weathering, and palynomorph preservation beneath the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Quaternary Research, v. 81, p. 94-105.

Miller, G.H., Refsnider, K.A., Lehman, S.J., and Southon, J.R., 2014. Unprecedented recent summer warmth in Arctic Canada. Geophysical Research Letters, v. 40, p. 5745-5751..

Briner, J.P., Lifton, N.A., Miller, G.H., Refsnider, K.A., Anderson, R., and Finkel, R., 2014. Using in situ    cosmogenic 10Be, 14C, and 26Al to decipher the history of polythermal ice sheets on Baffin Island, Arctic Canada. Quaternary Geochronology, v. 19, p. 4-13.

Refsnider, K.A., Miller, G.H., and Rood, D., 2012. Establishing an absolute chronology for the Plio-Pleistocene Arctic Clyde Foreland Formation using a combined amino acid racemization and cosmogenic radionuclide approach. Quaternary Geochronology, v. 16, p. 21-34.

Miller, G.H., Geirsdóttir, Á., Zhong, Y., Larsen, D.J., Otto-Bliesner, B.L., Holland, M.M., Bailey, D.A., Refsnider, K.A., Lehman, S.J., Southon, J.R., Anderson, C., Bjornsson, H., and Thordarson, T., 2012. Abrupt onset of the Little Ice Age triggered by volcanism and sustained by sea-ice/ocean feedbacks. Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 39, L02708. DOI:10.1029/2011GL050168

Refsnider, K.A., Miller, G.H., Hillaire-Marcel, C., Ghaleb, B., Fogel, M., Bowden, R., 2012. Last Glacial Maximum Laurentide Ice Sheet oxygen isotope composition recorded by subglacial carbonate precipitates on Baffin Island. Geology, v. 40, p. 135-238. DOI: 10.1130/G32335.1

Laabs, B.J.C., Marchetti, D.W., Munroe, J.S., Gosse, J.C., Lips, E.W., Refsnider, K.A., Becker, R.A., Mickelson, D.M., and Singer, B.S., 2012. Chronology of latest Pleistocene mountain glaciation in the western Wasatch Mountains, Utah, U.S.A. Quaternary Research, v. 76, p. 272-284.

Refsnider, K.A., 2010. Dramatic increase in late Cenozoic alpine erosion rates recorded by cave sediment in the southern Rocky Mountains. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 297, p. 505-511.

Refsnider, K.A. and Miller, G.H, 2010. Reorganization of ice sheet flow patterns in Arctic Canada and the mid-Pleistocene transition. Geophysical Research Letters, v. 37, LI13502, DOI:10.1029/2010GL043478.

Refsnider, K.A., Brugger, K.A., Leonard, E.M., McCalpin, J.P., and Armstrong, P. Last Glacial Maximum equilibrium-line altitude trends and precipitation patterns in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, southern Colorado, USA. Boreas, v. 38, p. 663-678.

Laabs, B.J.C., Refsnider, K.A., Munroe, J.S., Mickelson, D.M., Applegate, P.J., Singer, B.S., and Caffee, M.W., 2009. Latest Pleistocene glacial chronology of the Uinta Mountains: support for moisture-driven asynchrony of the last deglaciation. Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 28, p. 1171-1187.

Refsnider, K.A., Laabs, B.J.C., Plummer, M.A., Singer, B.S., Mickelson, D.M., and Caffee, M.W., 2008. Last glacial maximum climate inferences from cosmogenic dating and glacier modeling of the Western Uinta ice field, Uinta Mountains, Utah. Quaternary Research, v. 59, p. 130-144.

Refsnider, K.A., Laabs, B.J.C., and Mickelson, D.M., 2007. Glacial geology and equilibrium line altitude reconstructions for the Provo River drainage, Uinta Mountains, Utah, U.S.A. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, v. 39, n. 4, p. 529-536.

Laabs, B.J.C., Munroe, J.S., Rosenbaum, J.G., Refsnider, K.A., Mickelson, D.M., Singer, B.S., and Caffee, M.W., 2007. Latest Pleistocene glaciation of the Upper Bear River Basin, Utah. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, v. 39, n. 4, p. 537-548.

Refsnider, K.A. and Brugger, K.A., 2007. Rock glaciers in central Colorado as indicators of late-Holocene climate change: a lichenometric study using Rhizocarpon subgenus Rhizocarpon: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, v. 39, p. 127-136.

Munroe, J.S., Laabs, B.J.C., Shakun, J.D., Singer, B.S., Mickelson, D.M., Refsnider, K.A., and Caffee, M.W., 2006. Latest Pleistocene advance of alpine glaciers in the southwestern Uinta Mountains, northeastern Utah, USA: Evidence for the influence of local moisture sources: Geology, v. 34, p. 841-844.

Brugger, K.A., Refsnider, K.A., and Whitehill, M.F., 2006. Variations in glacier length and ice volume of  Rabots Glaciär in response to climate change, 1910-2003. Annals of Glaciology v. 42.



Press coverage of Kurt Refsnider's academic endeavors:

Articles and columns authored by Kurt Refsnider:

  • Fully Loaded series for Bike Magazine
  • "Saguaros to Slickrock," Mountain Flyer Issue 60 (January 2019)
  • "Bikepacking the Storied Landscapes of Northern Patagonia," Mountain Flyer Issue 52 (May 2017)
  • "Where will the Bikepackers Go?" Dirt Rag Issue 201 (October 2017)

Instruction at Prescott College

Instruction at Prescott College

Environmental Studies

The Environmental Studies and Sustainability Program centers on education in natural systems and processes of the Earth,... Read More

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Bachelor of Science

The Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Studies is for students seeking rigorous multi­disciplinary exploration... Read More

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Conservation Biology

Conservation Biology is an interdisciplinary field that has developed rapidly to respond to a global crisis confronting... Read More

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Earth Science

Earth Sciences focuses on study of the physical aspects of the natural environment. Read More

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Marine Studies

Marine Studies at Prescott College has a strong focus on ecology of the marine environment (physical oceanography and... Read More

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