Geology Professor Daniel Stockli uncovers forces behind Switzerland’s Molasse Basin formation


Jorge Corona

Daniel Stockli presents a seminar to students and faculty at the Jackson School of Geosciences on Monday afternoon. The talk discussed the geology of the Molasse Basin in Switzerland, Stockli’s native land.

Mark Carrion

Students learned about the forces driving geological formations during a lunchtime discussion in the geosciences department Monday. 

Geological sciences professor Daniel Stockli presented a talk on the geological events behind the formation of the Molasse Basin, an area located in central Switzerland just north of the Alps, where Stockli was born and raised. 

The talk is part of a series known as “Brown Bag Seminars,” in which a graduate student from the Jackson School of Geosciences organizes a talk led by an expert covering a geology topic. Participants are invited to bring their own sack lunches, as the talks are usually hosted around noon. 

Anastasia Piliouras, a second-year geological sciences graduate student, helped organize Monday’s seminar with Stockli. 

Piliouras said the main goal of Stockli’s talk was to reconstruct the history of the Molasse Basin in Switzerland by proposing an alternative hypothesis for its formation.

Stockli’s talk delved into the methods used to explain the formation of the Molasse Basin. Using thermochronology, which employs radioactive dating to analyze the temperature of rocks at a given period in time, he suggests that the basin formed from tectonic as opposed to volcanic activity.

Geological sciences senior Brandee Carlson, who is currently working on an undergraduate research project, attended Stockli’s talk. 

“It’s interesting to see what everyone else is doing in the department,” Carlson said. “I learned more about methods.”

Studying the formation of the basin has personal significance for Stockli, who grew up in the city of Lucerne, Switzerland, along the western arm of the Molasse Basin.

“Whenever a house was being built, I went to go collect a sample,” Stockli said, describing days when he would go back and visit his family in Lucerne while studying geology in college. “It is a place close to my heart.” 

Piliouras said she got involved with geology because she has always had an interest in the environment and its role in everyday life. 

“Everything that we study has to do with how the area around you has changed,” Piliouras said.