Dr. Saxon E. Sharpe

mollusks, climate change, paleoenvironments, Paisley Caves, Snowmastodon project, Snowmass,

Professional Interests

My research as a Quaternary paleoecologist focuses on the interaction between biotic systems and climate: how climate variation can affect individual species and communities and their various response to climate change. Through my work regarding the Yucca Mountain proposed nuclear waste repository, I had the opportunity to delve into the paleoecology and long-term climate of southern Nevada and the southwest to gain an appreciation of glacial and interglacial periods and landscape change brought about by those climate extremes. My favorite climate and landscape proxy materials are terrestrial and (freshwater) aquatic mollusks and vegetation remains from packrat (Neotoma) middens (nests). Mollusks and vegetation can enhance our understanding of past hydrologic and climate variability and landscape change over time, thus providing insight into future variability. I feel that it is essential to apply the results of paleoenvironmental studies to help solve problems facing urban and natural areas such as water quality and availability, natural versus human induced climate variation, loss of biodiversity, and the effects of global warming on natural biotic communities and agriculture.

Research Areas of Interest and Expertise

  • Paleoecology
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Paleohydrology
  • Paleogeochemistry
  • Restoration Ecology


Ph.D. 1998 University of Nevada, Reno Geology
M.S. 1991 Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff Quaternary Studies
B.A. 1976 The Colorado College, Colorado Springs Environmental Planning

Selected Publications

Sharpe, S.E. Bright, J.B. (2014) A high-elevation MIS 5 hydrologic record using mollusks and ostracodes from Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA. Quaternary Research 82 604–617.

Miller, I.M., Pigati, J.S., Anderson, R.S., Johnson, K.R., Mahan, S.A., Ager, T.A., Baker, R.G., Blaauwg, M., Bright, J., Brown, P.M., Bryant, B., Calamari, A.T., Carrara, P.E., Cherney, M.D., Demboski, J.R., Elias, S.A., Fisher, D.C., Gray, H.J., Haskett, D.R., Honke, J.S., Jackson, S.T., Jiménez-Moreno, G., Kline, D., Leonard, E.M., Lifton, N.A., Lucking, C., McDonald, H.G., Miller, D.M., Muhs, D.R., Nash, S.E., Newton, C., Paces, J.B., Petrie, L., Plummer, M.A., Porinchu, D.F., Rountrey, A.N., Scott, E., Sertich, J.J.W., Sharpe, S.E., Skipp, G.L., Strickland, L.E., Stucky, R.K., Thompson, R.S., and Wilson, J. (2014) Summary of the Snowmastodon Project Special Volume A high-elevation, multi-proxy biotic and environmental record of MIS 6–4 from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA. Quaternary Research 82: 618–634.

Mensing, S.A., Sharpe, S.E., Tunno, I., Sada, D.W., Thomas, J.M., Starratt, S., and Smith, J. (2013) The Late Holocene Dry Period: multiproxy evidence for an extended drought between 2800 and 1850 cal yr BP across the central Great Basin, USA. Quaternary Science Reviews 78: 266-282.

Sharpe, S., Bassett, S., Mensing, S., Sada, D., and Thomas, J. (2011) Effects of climate change on spring ecosystem hydroecology as a guide to developing alternative water policies.  Final EPSCoR report, September 2011.

Sharpe, S.E. (2010) Past elevations and ecosystems of Walker Lake provide a context for future management decisions, In: Restoration of a Desert Lake in an Agriculturally Dominated Watershed: The Walker Lake Basin, M. Collopy and J. Thomas eds. DRI and UNR, April 2010. http://www.nevada.edu/walker/downloads/2010-Walker-Report-Past-Elevations.pdf

Sharpe, S.E. and Forester, R.M. (2008) Continental-aquatic mollusk hydrochemical occurrence patterns: Implications for population dynamics and paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Quaternary International 188: 105-116.

Sharpe, S.E., Cablk, M.E., and Thomas, J.M. (2008) The Walker Basin, Nevada and California: Physical Environment, Hydrology, and Biology. Rev. 01. Desert Research Institute Technical Report #41231, April 2008, 63 p. Download PDF: Walker River Report

Sharpe, S.E. (2007) Using modern through mid-Pleistocene climate proxy data to bound future variations in infiltration at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, in Levich, R.A., and Stuckless, J.S., eds., The Geology and Climatology of Yucca Mountain and Vicinity, Southern Nevada and California: Geological Society of America Memoir 199, p. 155-205, doi: 10.1130/2007.1199(05).

Sharpe, S.E., Cablk, M.E., and Thomas, J.M. (2007) The Walker Basin, Nevada and California: Physical Environment, Hydrology, and Biology. Desert Research Institute Technical Report #41231, May 2007, 63 p.

Johnson, W.G., Sharpe, S.E., Bullard, T.F. and Lupo, K. (2005) Characterizing a First Occurrence of Bison Deposits in Southeastern Nevada.  Western North American Naturalist 65(1): 24-35. 

Sada, D.W. and Sharpe, S.E. (2004) (eds.) Conference Proceedings. Spring-fed Wetlands: Important Scientific and Cultural Resources of the Intermountain Region. http://www.dri.edu/spring-fed-wetlands

Sharpe, S.E. (2004) Solute Composition: A Parameter Affecting the Distribution of Freshwater Gastropods In Conference Proceedings. Spring-fed Wetlands: Important Scientific and Cultural Resources of the Intermountain Region. http://www.dri.edu/images/stories/conferences_and_workshops/spring-fed-wetlands/spring-fed-wetlands-sharpe.pdf

Sharpe, S.E. (2004) Chapter 6, Climate: Past Present and Future, Yucca Mountain Site Description Revision 02.  Civilian Radioactive Waste Management System Management and Operating Contractor.  Yucca Mountain Project.

Waugh, J., S. Link, E. McDonald, D. Rhode, and S. Sharpe. (2003) Characterization of the Environmental Envelope for the Design of Long-Term Covers: Closeout Report. GJO-2003-485-TAC, Environmental Sciences Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Grand Junction, CO.

Sharpe, S.E. (2003) Future Climate Analysis – 10,000 to 1,000,000 Years After Present. Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. MOD-01-001 Rev. 01.  Yucca Mountain Project.

Sharpe, S.E. (2003) Lower Klamath Lake, Oregon CASIS 240 Site: Molluscan Analysis. Report submitted to Fish and Wildlife Service, Sherwood, Oregon, January 19, 2003.

Sharpe, S.E. (2002) Red Mountain Site, Salt River Valley, Arizona: Molluscan Analysis. Report submitted to Archaeological Consulting Services, Ltd. Tempe, Arizona July 9, 2002.

Young, M., Cooper, C., Sharpe, S. Miller, J., Shafer, D. (2002) Upward Advection:  Dynamic Simulation of Vadose Zone Moisture Flux.  National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Operations Office.  May 2002.

Sharpe, S.E. (2002) Future Climate Analysis – 10,000 to 1,000,000 Years After Present. Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. MOD-01-001 Rev 00.  Yucca Mountain Project.

Sharpe, S.E. (2002) Constructing Seasonal Climograph Overlap Envelopes From Holocene Packrat Midden Contents, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado. Quaternary Research 57:306-313.

U.S. D. I.  Bureau of Land Management (2001) “Administrative Draft EIS for the Walker River Basin Project (Lyon, Mineral, and Douglas Counties, NV and Mono County, CA)” Sharpe served as Assistant Project Manager.

Sharpe, S., McDonald, E., Bullard, T., and Rhode, D. (2001) Work Plan for Natural and Archaeological Analog Studies at the CERCLA Waste Disposal Cell, Monticello, Utah.  Prepared for Environmental Sciences Laboratory USDOE.

Sharpe, S.E. and Forester, R.M. (2001) Reconstructing Past And Forecasting Future Climate At Yucca Mountain, Nevada In "Back to the Future - Managing the Back End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle to Create a More Secure Energy Future," Proceedings of the 9th International High-Level Radioactive Waste Management Conference (IHLRWM), April 29 - May 3, 2001, Las Vegas, Nevada. La Grange Park, Illinois: American Nuclear Society.

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