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Faculty Image James Sears
Office: CHCB 362
Phone: (406) 243-5251


Current Position:

Professor of Geosciences.

Director of Geology Field Camp.


I recieved my PhD from Queen's University, Canada, in 1979, and have taught at the University of Montana since 1982. I research the structure and tectonics of the Rocky Mountain region.

Office Hours:

MWF 3-4 pm, CHCB 362

Field Of Study:

Tectonics and structural geology

Research Interests:

Siberia-North America plate tectonic reconstruction.

Origin of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River basin.

Gold mineralization in the Montana Rockies.


GEO 101


Hiking, travel.


Northern Arizona University, 1967-1971 (BS Geology)

University of Wyoming, 1972-1973 (MS Geology)

Queen's University, 1975-1979 (PhD Geology)

Teaching Experience:

1990-present            Full Professor, University of Montana

1982-1990            Associate Professor, University of Montana, Tenured in 1988

1979-1982            Assistant Professor, Auburn University

1978                        Instructor, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

1975-1978            Teaching Assistant, Queen's University

1974-1975            Geologist, Wyoming Water Resources Research Inst.

1974                        Instructor, University of Wyoming

1972-1973            Research/Teaching Assistant, University of Wyoming

1970                        Field Assistant, Museum of Northern Arizona

1969-1971            Teaching Assistant, Northern Arizona University


Geological Society of America, Fellow

Tobacco Root Geological Society

Specialized Skills:

Field geology since 1968.

Professional Experience:

Geologic consulting

International Experience:

2008-2009 UM Central Asian textbook project

2008, 2004  Siberian expeditions

2006 Exchange Professor, University College, Cork, Ireland

2002-03 Exchange Professor, University of Helsinki, Finland

1998 Sabbatical at University of Wales

1993 Honorary Research Professor, Adelaide University, Aust.

1992-93 Honorary Visiting Professor, Auckland University, NZ

1984 Visiting Professor, Universite d'Avignon, France

1975-1979 PhD student, Queen's University, Canada

Selected Publications:

Sears, J.W., 2011, Transforming the Siberian craton back to North America: Geology, in review.


Sears, J.W., 2011, Late Cretaceous syn-tectonic gold mineralization along the Lewis and Clark line shear zone of the Belt basin, central-western Montana: Economic Geology, in review.


Sears, J.W., MacDonald, C., and Lonn, J., 2010, Lewis and Clark Line, Montana: Tectonic evolution of a crustal-scale flower structure in the Rocky Mountains, in Morgan, L.A., and Quane, S.L., eds., Through the generations: Geologic and anthropogenic field excursions in the Rocky Mountains from modern to ancient: Geological Society of America, Field Guide 18, p. 1-20.


Sears, J.W., Link, P.K., Balgord, E.A., and Mahoney, J.B., 2010, Quartzite of Argenta, Beaverhead County, Montana, revisited: Definitive evidence of Precambrian age indicates edge of Belt basin: Northwest Geology, v. 39, p. 41-47.


Lonn, J.D., MacDonald, C., Sears, J.W.,  and Smith, L.N., 2010, Geologic map of the Missoula East 30’ X 60’ quadrangle, western Montana: Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Open File  Report 593Map, scale 1:100,000.


Sears, J.W., 2009, Great elliptical basin, western United States: Evidence for top-down control of the Yellowstonee hotspot and Columbia River Basalt Group:



Sears, J.W., Hendrix, M.S., Thomas, R.C., and Fritz, W.J., 2009, Stratigraphic record of the Yellowstone hotspot track, Neogene Sixmile Creek Formation, SW Montana: Journal of Volcanological  and Geothermal Research.


MacLean, J., Sears, J. W., Chamberlain, K.C., Khudoley, A K, and Prokopiev, A. V., 2009, Detrital zircon geochronology of Proterozoic strata from southeastern Siberia and southwestern North America: Testing proposed paleogeographic connections, in Stone, D., ed., Geology and Tectonic Origins of Northeast Russia:  A Tribute to Leonid Parfenov: Stephan-Mueller series, European Geophysical Union.


Meere, P.A., Mulchrone, K.F., Sears, J.W., and Bradway, M.D., 2008, The effect of non-passive clast behaviour in the estimation of finite strain in sedimentary rocks: Journal of Structural Geology, v. 30, p. 1264-1271.


Sears, J.W., and Link, P.K., 2007, Quartzite of Argenta: Neihart Quartzite equivalent?, in Thomas, R.C., and Gibson R., eds., Geologic history of Southwest Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 36, p. 221-230.


Sears, J.W., 2007, Lithospheric control of Gondwana breakup: Implications of a trans-Gondwana icosahedral fracture system, in Foulger, G.M., and Jurdy, D.M., eds., Plates, Plumes, and Planetary Processes: GSA Special Paper 430, p. 593-601.


Sears, J.W., 2007, Belt-Purcell basin: Keystone of the Rocky Mountain fold-and-thrust belt, United States and Canada, in  Whence the Mountains? Inquiries into the Evolution of Orogenic Systems: A Volume in Honor of Raymond A. Price: GSA Special Paper 433, p. 147-166.


Burtis, E.W, Sears, J.W., and Chamberlain, K.R., 2007, Age and petrology of Neoproterozoic intrusions in the northern Rocky Mountains, U.S.A.: Correlation with the Gunbarrel Magmatic Event, in Proterozoic Geology of Western North America and Siberia, Link, P.K., and Lewis, R.S., eds.: SEPM Special Publication 86, p. 175-192.


Sears, J.W., 2007, Rift destabilization of a Proterozoic epicontinental pediment: A model for the Belt-Purcell basin, North America, in Proterozoic Geology of Western North America and Siberia, Link, P.K., and Lewis, R.S., eds.: SEPM Special Publication 86, p. 55-64.

Other Publications:

 Sears, J.W., 2010, Lost lakes and re-arranged rivers: Neotectonic disruption of the Middle Miocene Big Hole River basin, SW Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 39, p. 113-121.


Sears, J.W., 2009, Straths as tectonic timelines and baselines: Example from southwest Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 38.


Sears, J.W., 2009, Laccoliths along the Lewis and Clark line, Garrison, Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 38.

Sears, J.W., and Link, P.K., 2007, Quartzite of Argenta: Neihart Quartzite equivalent?, in Thomas, R.C., and Gibson R., eds., Geologic history of Southwest Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 36, p. 221-230.


Sears, J.W., and Thomas, R.C., 2007, Extraordinary Middle Miocene crustal disturbance in southwestern Montana: Birth of the Yellowstone hot spot? in Thomas, R.C., and Gibson R., eds., Geologic history of Southwest Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 36, p. 133-142.


Sears, J.W., 2007, Middle Miocene karst and debris flows and neotectonic faults near Clark Canyon Reservoir,  Southwest Montana, in Thomas, R.C., and Gibson R., eds., Geologic history of Southwest Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 36, p. 251-260.


Fritz, W.J., Sears, J.W., McDowell, R.J., and Wampler, J.M., 2007, Cenozoic volcanic rocks of SW Montana, in Thomas, R.C., and Gibson R., eds., Geologic history of Southwest Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 36, p. 91-110.


Sears, J.W., 2006, Self-organized breakup of Gondwana:

 HYPERLINK " Tes2.html" Tess2.html.


Sears, J.W., St, George, G.M., and Winne, J.C., 2006, Truncated-icosahedral breakup of Laurasia and Gondwana and anorogenic magmatism:

 HYPERLINK " Tess.html" Tess.html


Sears, J.W., 2006, Belt basin: A triskele rift junction, Rocky Mountains, Canada and USA: Northwest Geology, v. 35, p. 78-86.


Khudoley, A.K., Sears, J.W., and Price, R.A., 2006, Reply to comment by Natapov et al. (2005) : Precambrian Research.


Sears, J.W., Khudoley, A.K., Prokopiev , A.V., Chamberlain, K.R., and MacLean, J. S., 2006, Lithostratigraphic comparison of Meso- and Neoproterozoic strata between SE Siberia and SW Laurentia, in Stone, D.B, ed., Origin of Northeastern Russia: Paleomagnetism, Geology, & Tectonics, Geophysical Institute Report UAG-R-330 (CD publication), University of Alaska, Fairbanks AK 99775-7320  USA.


Sears, J.W., 2006, The Montana transform: Rotation along the northern boundary of the Wyoming foreland: Rocky Mountain Geology, v. 42, n.2, p. 65-76.


Sears, J.W., St. George, G.M., and Winne, J.C., 2005, Continental rift systems and anorogenic magmatism: LITHOS, v. 80, p. 145-154.


J.W. Sears, Jason Braden,  Jason Edwards,  Emily Geraghty,  Frank Janiszewski,  Michael McInenly,  John McLean, Karin Riley,  Edward Salmon, 2005, Rocky Mountain foothills triangle zone,  Sun River,  northwest Montana, in Thomas, R., ed., Annual Meeting Tobacco Root Geological Society, Northwest Geology, v. 34.


Mann, L.S., and Sears, J.W., 2004, The Contact metamorphic aureole of the Late Cretaceous Garnet stock, Garnet-Coloma area, Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 33, p. 34-48.


Sears, J.W., and Hendrix, M., 2004, Lewis and Clark line and the rotational origin of the Alberta and Helena salients, North American Cordillera, in Sussman, A., and Weil, A., eds. Orogenic curvature: Geological Society of America Special Paper, p. 383, p. 173-186.


Sears, J.W., Price, R.A., and Khudoley, A.K., 2004, Linking the Mesoproterozoic Belt-Purcell and Udzha basins across the west Laurentia-Siberia connection: Precambrian Research, v. 129, p. 291-308.


Sears, J.W., and Price, R.A., 2003, Tightening the Siberian connection to western Laurentia: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 115, p. 943-953.


Sears, J.W., and Price, R.A., 2003, The Udzha hypothesis: Siberian spillway to the Belt-Purcell basin: Northwest Geology, v. 32, p. 167-171.


Sears, J.W., and Ryan, P., 2003, Cenozoic evolution of the Montana Cordillera: Evidence from paleovalleys, in Raynolds, R., and Flores, J., eds., Cenozoic Paleogeography of western US: Denver, CO, Rocky Mountain Section, Society of Exploration Paleontologists and Mineralogists, p. 289-301.


Winston, D., Sears, J.W., and Lonn, 2003, Road log, Field Trip #1, Belt Symposium IV:  Missoula-Ravalli-Perma-St Regis-Alberton-Missoula, Montana: Northwest Geology, v. 32, p. 1-17.


Sears, J.W., and Price, R.A., 2002, Hypothetical Mesoproterozoic supercontinent Columbia: Implications of the Siberian-west Laurentian connection: Gondwana Research, v. 5, p. 35-39.


Timmons, J.M., Karlstrom, K.E., and Sears, J.W., 2003, Geologic structure of the Grand Canyon Supergroup: Chapter in Grand Canyon Geology, 2nd ed, Oxford University Press, p. 76-89.

Languages Known:

  • English - elementary proficiency
  • French - elementary proficiency