Award Date

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Committee Member

Margaret Odlum

Second Committee Member

Tomas Capaldi

Third Committee Member

Pamela Burnley

Fourth Committee Member

Karen Harry

Number of Pages



Fault mirrors are reflective, thin, typically <1 mm thick, fault slip surfaces in exhumed fault zones that can provide a record of thermal, chemical, and rheological changes to fault materials during deformation. This study investigates a series of hematite coated fault mirrors along bedrock fault scarps in Miocene volcanic rocks near Lake Mead, Nevada. The studied faults are located in a structurally complex area that includes NE-SW trending left-lateral strike-slip faults of the Lake Mead fault system, NW-SE right-lateral strike-slip faults of the Las Vegas Shear Zone, and N-S striking extensional faults of the Northern Colorado River Extensional Corridor.New zircon U-Pb ages from fault scarp host rocks 21-BC-03 and 21-BC-05 are and 13.86 ± 0.27 Ma and 12.90 ± 0.31 Ma (2σ standard error), respectively. New apatite (U-Th)/He dates range from 5.64 ± 0.46 Ma to 12.4 ± 0.36 Ma (2σ standard error) and are interpreted to be partially reset after eruption due to reheating. Inverse thermal history modeling in HeFTy of apatite He dates indicates a thermal history of reheating to ~65 °C which is interpreted as shallow burial around ~11 - 5 Ma followed by cooling to the surface, interpreted as exhumation between ~4.5 - 2 Ma. The zircon U-Pb ages, apatite He dates, and inverse thermal history models indicate the fault host rocks were erupted to the surface and stayed within the upper ~2 km of the crust since the Miocene. Nearly vertical fault scarps that host the fault mirror surfaces exhibit two sets of slickenlines, indicating oblique and strike-slip motion, with different orientations indicating that there have been multiple episodes of deformation along the surfaces. Three of the five studied fault scarps have E-W orientations, and one scarp is NW-SE, and one is NE-SW striking. The studied faults are interpreted to have been active during deformation associated with the Lake Mead Fault System and the Las Vegas Valley Shear Zone at 13 – 9 Ma and record both strike slip and oblique slip events in the complex strain field during this time. Micro-nano scale texture and grain morphology analysis of the hematite fault mirror volumes shows extreme strain localization along the fault mirror surface. Some fault mirrors exhibit multiple domains separated by discrete slip surfaces. Comminution and cataclasis appear to be the dominant deformation mechanisms in the fault mirror volume. Hematite textures and morphologies are consistent with observations from other fault systems that are interpreted to record aseismic to sub-seismic slip rates, and relatively low coseismic temperature rise. Fluid injection veins and post-deformation FeO mineralization in fractures are interpreted as evidence of high fluid pressures during slip and fluid circulation postdeformation. The new geochronologic and microstructural data inform on the processes operating along discrete fault surfaces in the shallow crust since the Miocene in the Lake Mead region.


(U-Th)/He Apatite; Boulder City Pluton; Fault mirrors; Lake Mead NV; Patsy Mine Volcanics; U-Pb Zircon



Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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