DRILL Logo: E.L. Cord Luminescence Laboratory


DRI Luminescence Research Lab

The DRI Luminescence Research Laboratory (DRILL) is located at DRI’s northern campus in Reno, NV and offers a broad spectrum of luminescence dating capabilities, including optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and thermoluminescence (TL) techniques. The DRILL is a research laboratory dedicated to fundamental investigations in the luminescence properties of earth materials, and to the application of luminescence dating techniques to geomorphological, geological, and archaeological problems.

The DRILL welcomes collaboration with research institute and university faculty, consultants, and government agency researchers. The DRILL research staff can collaborate on proposals, contribute to grant writing, and consult on study design. We can also arrange training for undergraduate and graduate students, post-docs, and visiting researchers.




Desert Research Institute
Northern Nevada Science Center
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512


The Glow Curve

Save the Date! New World Luminescence Dating Workshop, June 11-14, 2024 Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV


Photo of Dr. Christina M. Neudorf

Dr. Christina M. Neudorf

Christina is an Assistant Research Professor and Manager of the DRI Luminescence Laboratory (DRILL). Her research combines field observations and sedimentology, sampling, remote sensing, and geochronological methods to gain insights into the style and rate of landscape change and human/environment interactions in the Quaternary Period. Her research includes developing luminescence dating techniques to refine temporal records in archaeology and geology, and she is the writer of The Glow Curve Blog. You can view her full CV and follow her on Twitter @tweencmn.

emma bloomfield

Dr. Kathleen Rodrigues

Kathleen is a Quaternary geochronologist that specializes in radiation exposure dating techniques including optically stimulated luminescence, thermally stimulated luminescence and electron spin resonance. Her research interests are focused on the development and application of luminescence dating methods to address questions in Quaternary geomorphology, paleoclimatology, and archaeology. Her recent work has focused primarily on the development of novel methods for dating eruption events in the Great Basin and defining the timescales over which tephra reworking occurs in the landscape.

Photo of Dr. Amanda Keen-Zebert

Dr. Amanda Keen-Zebert

Amanda’s research interests lie at the intersection geochronology and geomorphology. She uses luminescence dating to find the rates and timescales of geomorphic processes and their response to climate, tectonic, environmental, and anthropogenic change over the Quaternary.


Photo of DRILL team dating rocks in the field.

PI: C. Neudorf
Sponsor: Lincoln County Archaeological Initiative

Developing Luminescence Dating Methods to Better Understand People Through Time and Place in the Western US

Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating determines when a mineral (i.e., sand grain) was last exposed to sunlight. It holds great promise to provide empirical age control to a variety of archaeological research questions in the western US, such as: when did the ancient lakes contain water that attracted the area’s earliest inhabitants; when did sand dunes bury archaeological sites; when was rock art covered by silt or thick paint; when were rock features such as cairns or walls built; or even when was a rock artifact left behind? This research builds on a previous Lincoln County Archaeological Initiative (LCAI) funded project, entitled “Late Pleistocene to middle Holocene Landscape use in Coal Valley, Basin and Range National Monument, Lincoln County, Nevada” (L17AC00006) that discovered two challenges in applying traditional OSL methods to beach ridges created by pluvial Lake Coal’s waters: 1) the quartz normally used for OSL was not bright enough to produce a dateable signal, and 2) the very fine sand and silts sampled from the beach gravels were actually younger wind-blown sands that under-estimated the true age of the water-lain beach ridges. This project develops innovative techniques that refine the use of feldspar rather than quartz for the luminescence signal and dating the rock surfaces (e.g., the surfaces of beach pebbles, gravels, or boulders) directly.

Photo of an adobe mud structure.

PI: C. Neudorf
Sponsor: National Park Service, National Center for Preservation Technology and Training

Adapting Luminescence Dating Techniques to Derive And Preserve the Chronology of Adobe Building Construction in North America

Adobe mud and other forms of unfired earthen structures have been built in the US for over a thousand years. The construction date of adobe block buildings is rarely recorded in historical documents and dating methods using radiocarbon, artifacts and tree rings have presented challenges. Ascertaining the chronology of construction is critical for determining the historic context and cultural significance of these buildings.  This research explores the use of Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to determine when adobe structures were built or modified.

Photo of sediment layers.

PI: K. Rodrigues
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology)


Testing the Impact of Reworking on the Isochronicity of Tephras Deposited in Diverse Sedimentary Environments

The isochronous deposition of tephra is a fundamental assumption that impacts tephrochronology and interpretations about paleoclimate and reconstructions of landscape dynamics, such as lake-level fluctuations, that are made from tephra correlations. A second outstanding problem in tephrachronology is the lack of a reliable dating methods to date tephras that are older than the 35 ka upper limit for reliable radiocarbon and younger than the 120 ka lower limit of reliable K/Ar and 40Ar/39Ar dating techniques. The proposed research tests the isochronicity of deposition and the timescales over which postdepositional reworking of tephra occurs through well-established luminescence dating techniques and tests new experimental techniques to directly date volcanic glass in tephras. Owing to the wealth of existing data and to conflicting interpretations of lake-level of some tephras in the Lahontan basin, it is an ideal study site to test the broader assumptions about tephra isochronicity and reworking. Through this research, we will investigate fundamental questions regarding how the stratigraphic record in terrestrial sedimentary environments is deposited and determine the level of confidence that can be placed on tephra beds as isochronous time-stratigraphic markers and develop new luminescence methods to date volcanic materials.

Photo of researcher in the field collecting soil sample.

PI: Kathleen Rodrigues
Sponsor: Desert Research Institute

Exploring the Application of Luminescence for Tracing Temperature Changes in Soils Affected by Wildfires

The role of wildfires on soil properties is a complex and generally less studied phenomenon relative to the aboveground effects of fire. Soil heating resulting from wildfires has a number of potential impacts on soil constituents and their properties including the loss or reduction of soil structure and organic matter, reduced porosity, and increased pH. Because fire damage to the soil system increases with increasing soil temperature, the soil temperature reached during a fire is an important factor in predicting post-fire erosion and debris flow hazards, the capacity for plant regeneration, and thus the recovery potential of burned areas. This research project serves to evaluate the application of thermoluminescence to post-fire soil temperature reconstruction by leveraging a well-established temperature-luminescence sensitivity relationship that exists for quartz.


Wolfe, S. A., Demitroff, M., Neudorf, C.M., Woronko, B., Chmielowska-Michalak, D., Lian, O.B. (2023). Late Quaternary eolian dune-field mobilization and stabilization near the Laurentide Ice Sheet limit, New Jersey Pine Barrens, eastern USA. Aeolian Research, 62, 100877.

Rodrigues, K., Keen-Zebert, A., Shepherd, S., Hudson, M. R., Bitting, C. J., Johnson, B. G., & Langston, A. (2023). The role of lithology and climate on bedrock river incision and terrace development along the Buffalo National River, Arkansas. Quaternary Research, 1-15.

Chupik, C., Koehler, R., & Keen‐Zebert, A. (2022). Complex Holocene Fault Ruptures on the Warm Springs Valley Fault in the Northern Walker Lane, Nevada–Northern California. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 112(1), 575-596.

Rodrigues, K., Stapor, F. W., Rink, W. J., Dunbar, J. S., & Doran, G. (2022). A 5700-year-old beach-ridge set at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and its implication for Holocene sea-level history in the southeastern USA. The Holocene, 32(1-2), 40-56.

Rodrigues, K., Huot, S., & Keen-Zebert, A. (2022). Exploring the application of blue and red thermoluminescence for dating volcanic glasses. Radiation Measurements, 153, 106731.

Bacon, S. N., Bullard, T.F., Kimball, V., Neudorf, C.M., Baker, S.A., (2022). Landscape response to hydroclimate variability shown by the post-Bonneville Flood (~18 ka) fluvial-geomorphic history of the middle Snake River, Idaho, USA. Quaternary Research, 1-23.

Mahan, S.A., Rittenour, T.M., Nelson, M.S., Ataee, N., Brown, N., DeWitt, R., Durcan, J., Evans, M., Feathers, J., Frouin, M., Guérin, G., Heydari, M., Huot, S., Jain, M., Keen-Zebert, A., Li, B., Lopez, G., Neudorf, C., Porat, N., Rodrigues, R., Sawakuchi, A.O., Spencer, J.Q.G., Thomsen, K., (2022). Guide for interpreting and reporting luminescence dating results. GSA Bulletin 2022, doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/B36404.1.

Lancaster, N., Bacon, S.N., Bullard, T.F., Neudorf, C.M., Keen-Zebert, A.K., Decker, D.L., Boggs, M.L., (2021). Tectonic, hydrogeologic, and climatic controls on Late Holocene dune formation, China Lake Basin, Indian Wells Valley, California, USA. Quaternary Research, 1–17.

Marcotte, A.L., Neudorf, C.M., Langston, A.L., (2021). Lateral bedrock erosion and valley formation in a heterogeneously layered landscape, Northeast Kansas. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 46(11), 2248–2263.

Cheng, F., Zuza, A.V., Haproff, P.J., Wu, C., Neudorf, C., Chang, H., Li, Xiangzhong, Li, Bing, Li. (2021). Accommodation of India-Asia convergence via strike-slip faulting and block rotation in the Qilian Shan fold thrust belt, northern margin of the Tibetan Plateau. Journal of the Geological Society 178 (3), doi: https://doi.org/10.1144/jgs2020-207.

Gray, H. J., Keen-Zebert, A., Furbish, D. J., Tucker, G. E., & Mahan, S. A. (2020). Depth-dependent soil mixing persists across climate zones. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(16), 8750-8756.

McIntosh, P., Neudorf, C., Lian, O.B., Slee, A.J., Walker, B., Eberhard, R., Doyle, R., Price, D.M., Dixon, G. (2020). Quaternary and early Holocene aeolian deposits of Tasmania and their climatic implications. Quaternary Research, 1–24.

Bacon, S. N., Bullard, T. F., Keen-Zebert, A. K., Jayko, A. S., & Decker, D. L. (2020). Spatiotemporal patterns of distributed slip in southern Owens Valley indicated by deformation of late Pleistocene shorelines, eastern California. Bulletin, 132(7-8), 1681-1703.

Davis, L.G., Madsen, D.B., Valdivia, L.B., Higham, T., Sisson, D.A., Skinner, S.M., Stueber, D., Nyers, A.J., Keen-Zebert, A., Neudorf, C.M., Cheyney, M., Izuho, M., Iizuka, F., Burns, S.R., Epps, C.W., Willis, S.C., Buvit, I. (2019). Late Upper Paleolithic occupation at Cooper’s Ferry, Idaho, USA shows Americas settled before ~16,000 years ago. Science 365, 891–897.

Fulop, E. C., Johnson, B. G., & Keen-Zebert, A. (2019). A geochronology-supported soil chronosequence for establishing the timing of shoreline parabolic dune stabilization. Catena, 178, 232-243.

Williams, T. J., Collins, M. B., Rodrigues, K., Rink, W. J., Velchoff, N., Keen-Zebert, A., … & Prewitt, E. R. (2018). Evidence of an early projectile point technology in North America at the Gault Site, Texas, USA. Science Advances, 4(7), eaar5954.

Furbish, D. J., Schumer, R., & Keen-Zebert, A. (2018). The rarefied (non-continuum) conditions of tracer particle transport in soils, with implications for assessing the intensity and depth dependence of mixing from geochronology. Earth Surface Dynamics, 6(4), 1169-1202.

Furbish, D. J., Roering, J. J., Keen‐Zebert, A., Almond, P., Doane, T. H., & Schumer, R. (2018). Soil particle transport and mixing near a hillslope crest: 2. Cosmogenic nuclide and optically stimulated luminescence tracers. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123(5), 1078-1093.

Mercier, N., Rink, W. J., Rodrigues, K., Morley, M. W., Vander Linden, M., & Whallon, R. (2018). Radiometric dating of the Crvena Stijena sequence. In Crvena Stijena in cultural and ecological context: Multidisciplinary archaeological research in Montenegro (pp. 140-149). Podgorica: Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts: National Museum of Montenegro, 2017.

Beeson, H. W., McCoy, S. W., & Keen-Zebert, A. (2017). Geometric disequilibrium of river basins produces long-lived transient landscapes. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 475, 34-43.

Keen‐Zebert, A., Hudson, M. R., Shepherd, S. L., & Thaler, E. A. (2017). The effect of lithology on valley width, terrace distribution, and bedload provenance in a tectonically stable catchment with flat‐lying stratigraphy. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 42(10), 1573-1587.

Larkin, Z. T., Tooth, S., Ralph, T. J., Duller, G. A., McCarthy, T., Keen-Zebert, A., & Humphries, M. S. (2017). Timescales, mechanisms, and controls of incisional avulsions in floodplain wetlands: Insights from the Tshwane River, semiarid South Africa. Geomorphology, 283, 158-172.

Rodrigues, K., Rink, W. J., Collins, M. B., Williams, T. J., Keen-Zebert, A., & Lόpez, G. I. (2016). OSL ages of the Clovis, Late Paleoindian, and Archaic components at Area 15 of the Gault site, central Texas, USA. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 7, 94-103.

Keen-Zebert, A., Tooth, S., & Stuart, F. M. (2016). Cosmogenic 3He measurements provide insight into lithologic controls on bedrock channel incision: examples from the South African interior. The Journal of Geology, 124(3), 423-434.

Nicoll, K., & Keen-Zebert, A. (2016). Initial chronological determinations at an Archaic site discovered near Stockton, Utah. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 6, 418-423.

Keen-Zebert, A., (2015) Luminescence, Fluvial Sediments. In Rink, W.J., Thompson, J.W. (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Scientific Dating Methods, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg. 465-469. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-6326-5_3-1

Tooth, S., McCarthy, T., Rodnight, H., Keen-Zebert, A., Rowberry, M., & Brandt, D. (2014). Late Holocene development of a major fluvial discontinuity in floodplain wetlands of the Blood River, eastern South Africa. Geomorphology, 205, 128-141.

Keen-Zebert, A., Tooth, S., Rodnight, H., Duller, G. A. T., Roberts, H. M., & Grenfell, M. (2013). Late Quaternary floodplain reworking and the preservation of alluvial sedimentary archives in unconfined and confined river valleys in the eastern interior of South Africa. Geomorphology, 185, 54-66.