Steven Anderson

Steven Anderson

Professor of Earth Sciences, Winchester Distinguished Faculty

Earth and Atmospheric Science
Natural and Health Sciences

Contact Information

Mailing Address
University of Northern Colorado
Earth and Atmospheric Science
Campus Box 100
Greeley, CO 80639


Ph.D. Arizona State University, Geology

M.S. Arizona State University, Geology

B.S. Cornell College, Geology

Professional/Academic Experience

One of Dr. Anderson’s greatest passions is teaching in field and international settings, and he has taught field courses for Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, the University of Pittsburgh, Black Hills State University in South Dakota, the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program, and the University of Northern Colorado. Dr. Anderson has received several awards as an educator, including the EPA’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Environmental Education.

His research focuses on the surfaces of active and older lava flows and how they are influenced by the behavior of a volcano. Dr. Anderson has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles, including two in Nature, and he has received several NSF grants to support his research. He has studied active volcanoes in more than a dozen countries, and has been supported by the NSF NASA to study lava flows on Earth, Mars and Venus.  He enjoys combining his love of volcanoes with education by participating in radio and television spots that feature his work, including the BBC’s Volcano Live show that was viewed by several million in Europe in 2012. He has held university leadership roles, serving as Chair of the Science Department at Black Hills State University and the Director of the Mathematics and Science Teaching Institute at the University of Northern Colorado.

Research/Areas of Interest

Dr. Anderson conducts research in two different but complimentary areas. His primary research interests focus on what the surfaces of active and older lava flows can tell us about the behaviors of the volcanoes that produce them (See more about his work: Volcanoes beyond Earth). He typically involves both graduate and undergraduate students in his research, bringing them to research sites in Hawaii, Peru, Chile, and the western United States. His second area of research centers on relationships between teaching and learning in introductory college geoscience courses. He is well-known for his work on geologic misconceptions, with this work leading to the publication of the most widely-used concept test in the Earth sciences called the Geoscience Concept Inventory (Libarkin and Anderson, 2003).

Publications/Creative Works

Anderson, S.W, and Libarkin, J.C., 2016. Conceptual mobility and entrenchment in introductory geoscience courses: New questions regarding physics’ role in learning Earth science concepts; Journal of Geoscience Education, accepted for publication. v. 64, p. 74-86. doi:

Anderson, S.W., Smrekar, S.E., and Stofan, E.R., 2012. Tumulus development on lava flows: Insights from observations of active tumuli and analysis of formation models; Bulletin of Volcanology, doi:10.1007/s00445-012-0576-2.

Ghent, R., Anderson, S.W., and *Pithawala, T., 2012. The formation of small cones in Isidis Planitia, Mars through mobilization of pyroclastic surge deposits; Icarus, v. 217, p. 169-183, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2011.10.018.

Anderson, S.W., *McColley, S., Fink, J.H., and *Hudson, R., 2005. The development of fluid instabilities and preferred pathways in lava flow interiors: insights from analog experiments and fractal analysis; in Manga, M., and Ventura, G., eds., Kinematics and dynamics of lava flows; Geological Society of America Special Paper 396, p. 147-161, doi: 10.1130/2005.2396(10).

Libarkin, J.C., and Anderson, S.W., 2005. Assessment of Learning in Entry-Level Geoscience Courses: Results from the Geoscience Concept Inventory; Journal of Geoscience Education; v. 53. p. 394-401.

Anderson, S.W., Stofan, E.R., Smrekar, S.E., Guest, J.E., and *Wood, B., 1999. Pulsed inflation of pahoehoe lava flows: Implications for flood basalt emplacement; Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 168, p. 7-18.