Department of Earth SciencesWestern Science

Dr. Roberta Flemming


Roberta FlemmingAssociate Professor
Ph.D. Queen's University, 1997
Office: BGS 0172
Labs: BGS 1062, 1063
Phone: (519) 661-3143
Fax: (519) 661-3198

Research Interests

Professor Roberta Flemming and her research group study a variety of mineralogical and geological problems using a combination of crystallography, mineral chemistry and spectroscopy. Observations made from synthetic minerals produced at high temperatures and pressures in the laboratory, and from natural minerals found in Earth and planetary materials, are used to understand changes in mineral structure, chemistry, cation distribution, solid-solubility, and phase transition behaviour in response to changes in pressure, temperature, and composition (P-T-X), on Earth and other planetary bodies.

Flemming employs a variety of techniques, including X-ray diffraction and microdiffraction, Rietveld refinement of diffraction data, electron probe microanalysis (EPMA), and a variety of spectroscopic techniques, including solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Flemming’s current research objectives are outlined below:

  1. Fundamental understanding and quantification of mineral behavior as a function of pressure (P), temperature (T) and composition (X) by synthesizing minerals at various P-T-X, and studying their crystal structure (X-ray diffraction/Rietveld refinement), crystal chemistry (EPMA), and cation order-disorder (MAS and MQ MAS NMR spectroscopy: e.g. 29Si, 27Al, 17O, 23Na, 45Sc, etc.). 
  2. Systematic mineralogical investigation of meteorites. In situ µXRD provides rapid mineral ID for meteorite classification and clues to thermal and shock history. In situ µXRD also provides shock stage quantification, as a function of strain related mosaicity (streaking or asterism along Debye rings, measured as FWHMc).  Rietveld refinement of powder XRD data provides modal mineral abundances, and enables crystal structural study of selected phases.
  3. Systematic investigation of Kimberlite Indicator Minerals (KIM) (e.g. garnet, chromite, ilmenite). Variation in unit cell parameters (µXRD) is correlated to geochemical data (EPMA) with the aim of developing µXRD as a tool for diamond exploration. Inclusions and strain related mosaicity in minerals give additional clues to origin.
  4. Development of micro X-ray diffraction (µXRD) as a tool for geologists. µXRD provides a unique opportunity to correlate crystal structural information with other microanalytical data on the microscopic scale (100-300 µm) not previously available.  In situ examination of minerals preserves orientational information. Anticipated projects include development of µXRD-related exsolution geothermometry (e.g. two pyroxenes), and quantification of strain-related mosaicity (FWHMc) in minerals in meteorites, impact structures, and tectonically deformed rocks, with the aim of developing a µXRD strain index.

    Selected Publications

    Flemming’s Research Group:

    Berger, J.A., Schmidt, M.E. , Gellert, R., Campbell, J.L., King, P.L., Flemming, R.L., Pradler, I., Thompson, L.M., van Bommel, S.J.V., Boyd, N.I., Perrett, G.M., Elliott, B.E., Fisk, M., and Yen, A. (2016) A global Mars dust composition refined by the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer in Gale Crater. Geophysical Research Letters. Online Jan 9, 2016, DOI: 10.1002/2015GL066675.

    Craig, M.A., Osinski, G.R., Cloutis, E.A., Flemming, R. L., Izawa, M.R.M., Reddy, V., Fieber-Beyer, S.K., Pompilio, L., van der Meer, F., Berger, J.A., Bramble, M.S., and Applin, D.M. (2016) Fitting the curve in Excel®: Systematic curve fitting of laboratory and remotely sensed planetary spectra. Computers and Geosciences, in press November 2016.

    Bramble, M.S., Flemming, R.L., and McCausland, P.J.A. (2015) Grain size measurement from two-dimensional micro-X-ray diffraction: Laboratory application of a radial integration technique. American Mineralogist, 100 (8-9): 1899-1911. (Aug-Sept 2015)

    Flemming, R.L., Terskikh, V. and Ye, E. (2015) Aluminum environments in synthetic Ca-Tschermak clinopyroxene (CaAlAlSiO6) from Rietveld refinement, 27Al NMR and first principles calculations. American Mineralogist, 100 (10): 2219-2230. (Oct 2015)

    McNeil, A.G., Linnen, R.L., and Flemming, R.L. (2015) A method for hydrothermal synthesis of columbite-(Mn), tantalite-(Mn), hafnon and zircon at 800°-850°C and 200 MPa. Canadian Mineralogist, 53, 1073-1081. DOI: 10.3749/canmin.1400077

    Pickersgill, A.E., Flemming, R.L. and Osinski, G.R. (2015a) Toward quantification of strain-related mosaicity in shocked lunar and terrestrial plagioclase by in situ micro-X-ray diffraction. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 50 (11): 1851-1862.

    Pickersgill A.E., Osinski, G.R. and Flemming, R.L. (2015b) Shock effects in plagioclase feldspar from the Mistastin Lake impact structure, Canada. Meteoritics & Planetary Science. 50 (9): 1546–1561.

    Bramble, M.S., Flemming, R.L., Hutter, J.L., Battler, M.M., Osinski, G.R., and Banerjee, N.R. (2014) A temperature-controlled sample stage for in situ micro-X-ray diffraction: Application to Mars analogue mirabilite-bearing perennial cold spring precipitate mineralogy.  American Mineralogist, 99: 943-947.

    Libbey, R.B., Longstaffe, F.J. and Flemming, R.L. (2013) Clay mineralogy, oxygen isotope geochemistry and water/rock estimates, Te Mihi area, Wairakei Geothermal Field, New Zealand. Clays and Clay Minerals, 61 (3): 204-217.

    McCausland, P.J.A., Flemming, R.L., Wilson, G.C., Renaud, J., Dillon, D. and Holdsworth, D.W. (2013) The Wood Lake, Ontario H4 ordinary chondrite, a new Canadian meteorite. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 50(1): 32-43.

    Izawa, M.R.M., Flemming, R.L., Zhan, R., and Jisuo, J. (2012) Characterization of green clay concretions from the Tonggao Formation, South China: Mineralogy, petrogenesis and paleoenvironmental implications. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 49(9): 1018-1026.

    Haring, M.M., Flemming, R.L., Terskikh, V., Grossman, L. and Simon, S.B. (2012) Crystal structure and cation ordering in fassaite from Type B CAI TS62B in Allende CV3.  43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, March 19-23, Texas. Abs. # 2601.

    Izawa, M.R.M., Flemming, R.L., Banerjee, N.R. (2011) QUE 94204: A product of partial melting of an enstatite chondrite like protolith. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 46: 1742–1753.

    Izawa, M.R.M., Flemming, R.L., Banerjee, N.R. and McCausland, P.J.A. (2011) Micro X-ray diffraction (μXRD) assessment of shock stage in enstatite chondrites. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 46: 638-651.

    Vinet, N., Flemming, R.L. and Higgins, M.D. (2011) Crystal structure, mosaicity and strain analysis of Hawaiian olivines using in situ X-ray diffraction. American Mineralogist, 96: 486-497.

    Smith, E., Helmstaedt, H.H. and Flemming, R.L. (2010) Survival of brown colour in diamond during storage in the subcontinental lithospheric mantle. Canadian Mineralogist, 48: 571-582.

    Izawa, M.R.M., Flemming, R.L., King, P.L., Peterson R.C., and McCausland, P.J.A. (2010)  Mineralogical and spectroscopic investigation of the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite by X-ray diffraction and infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 45: 675-698.

    Izawa, M.R.M., Flemming, R.L. McCausland, P. J. A., Southam, G., Moser, D.E. and Barker, I.R. (2010) Multi-technique investigation reveals new mineral, chemical, and textural heterogeneity in the Tagish Lake C2 chondrite. Planetary & Space Science, 58: 1347-1364.

    Izawa, M.R.M., King, P.L., Flemming, R.L., Peterson R.C., McCausland, P.J.A. (2010)  Mineralogical and spectroscopic investigation of enstatite chondrites by X-ray diffraction and infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets, 115: (doi:10.1029/2009JE003452).

    Izawa, M.R.M., Banerjee, N.R., Flemming, R.L. and Bridge, N.J. (2010) Preservation of microbial ichnofossils in basaltic glass by titanite mineralization. Canadian Mineralogist, 48: 1255-1265.

    Flemming, R.L. (2007) Micro X-ray Diffraction (µXRD): A versatile technique for characterization of Earth and planetary materials. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 44: 1333-1346.


    Flemming with Collaborators:

    Greenberger, R., Mustard, J., Osinski, G., Tornabene, L., Pontefract, A., Marion, C., Flemming, R., Wilson, J., and Cloutis, E. (2016) Hyperspectral mapping of alteration assemblages within a hydrothermal vug at the Haughton impact structure, Canada.  Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Online Sept. 6, 2016, DOI: 10.1111/maps12716.

    Nikitczuk, M.P.C., Schmidt, M.E. and Flemming, R.L. (2016) Microbial ichnofossils in continental basaltic tuffs: Expanding the record of endolithic microborings. G.S.A. Bulletin. Published online April 20, 2016, DOI: 10.1130/B31380.1.

    Sapers, H.M., Osinski, G.R., Flemming, R.L., Buitenhuis, E., Tornabene, L.L., Hainge, J. and Blain S. (2016) Hydrothermal activity preserved in ejecta at the Ries impact structure, Germany. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, in press November 2016.

    Tomori, W.B., Yanful, E.K., Flemming, R.L., Amoo, I.A., Aiyesanmi, A.F. and Adekoya, J.A. (2016) Mineralogy and Geochemistry of Soil in Ondo State Bitumen Environment, Nigeria. Earth Sciences, in press December 2016. [Paper # 1611057]

    Blamey, N., Parnell, J., McMahon, S., Mark, D., Tomkinson, T., Lee, M., Shivak, J., Izawa, M., Banerjee, N., and Flemming, R. (2015) Evidence for methane in Martian meteorites. Nature Communications. 6, Article number: 7399. doi:10.1038/ncomms8399. June 2015.

    Greenberger, R.N., Mustard, J.F., Cloutis, E.A., Mann, P., Wilson, J.H.,  Flemming, R.L., Robertson, K.M., Salvatore, M.R., and Edwards, C.S. (2015) Hydrothermal alteration and diagenesis of terrestrial lacustrine pillow basalts: coordination of hyperspectral imaging with laboratory measurements. Geochemica et Cosmochemica Acta, 171: 174-200.

    Osinski, G.R., Bunch, T.E., Buitenhuis, E., Flemming, R.L. and Wittke, J.H. (2015) Impact melt- and projectile-bearing ejecta at Barringer Crater, Arizona. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 432, 283-292.

    Schulze, D.J., Flemming, R.L., Shepherd, P.H.M., Helmstaedt, H. (2014) Mantle-derived guyanaite in a Cr-omphacitite xenolith from Moses Rock diatreme, Utah. American Mineralogist, 99: 1277-1283.

    Ronholm, J., Schumann, D., Sapers, H.M., Izawa, M., Applin, D., Berg, B., Mann, P., Vali, H., Flemming, R.L., Cloutis, E.A., and Whyte, L.G. (2014) A mineralogical characterization of biogenic calcium carbonates precipitated by heterotrophic bacteria isolated from cryophilic polar regions. Geobiology, 12 (6): 542-556.

    Tervahauta, T., van der Weijden, R.D., Flemming, R.L., Hernández Leal, L., Zeeman, G., Buisman, C.J.N. (2013) Calcium phosphate granulation in anaerobic treatment of black water: a new approach to phosphorus recovery. Water Research. Online October 30, 2013.

    de Bruyn, J.R., Goiko, M., Mozaffari, M., Bator, D., Dauphinee, R.L., Liao, Y., Flemming, R.L., Bramble, M.S., Hunter, G.K., Goldberg, H.A. (2013) Dynamic Light Scattering Study of Inhibition of Nucleation and Growth of Hydroxyapatite Crystals by Osteopontin. PLoS ONE, 8 (2): e56764.

    Osinski, G.R., Tornabene, L.L., Banerjee, N.R., Cockell, C.S., Flemming, R.L., Izawa, M.R.M.,  McCutcheon, J., Parnell, J. Pickersgill, A., Pontefract, A., Sapers, H.M., and Southam, G. (2012) Impact-generated hydrothermal systems on Earth and Mars. Icarus, 224(2): 347-363.

    Sornadurai, D., Sastry, V.S., Paul, V. T., Flemming R., Jose, F., Ramaseshan R., Dash, S. (2012) Microstructure, crystal structure and mechanical properties of the new ternary intermetallic alloy phase Zr2TiAl. Intermetallics, 24: 89-94.

    Parnell, J., Boyce, A.J., Osinski, G.R., Izawa, M.R.M., Banerjee, N., Flemming, R. and Lee, P. (2012) Evidence for life in the isotopic analysis of surface sulphates in the Haughton impact structure, and potential application on Mars. International Journal of Astrobiology, 11(2), 93-101.

    Moser, D.E., Davis, W.J., Reddy, S., Flemming, R.L. and Hart, R.J. (2009) Zircon U-Pb strain chronometry reveals deep impact-triggered flow.  Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 277: 73-79.

    Courses Taught

    Undergraduate courses (currently taught):
    Earth Sciences 2206A: Mineral Systems, Crystallography and Optics
    Earth Sciences 3310B: Structure and Chemistry of Minerals and Materials (odd years)
    Earth Sciences 3312B: Genesis of Meteorites and Planetary Materials (even years)

    Undergraduate courses (previously taught):
    Environmental Science 300F: Great Lakes Pollution (2001, 2002)
    Earth Sciences 3341B: Environmental Geochemistry (2003)

    Graduate Courses:
    Geology/Geophysics 9580A/9680A: Graduate Seminar (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2016)
    Geology 9516B: Advanced Mineralogy and Crystallography (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017)
    Geology 9549A/B: Special Topics in Mineralogy (2005, 2012)



    Jeff Berger (Ph.D. ongoing) Geochemical and mineralogical weathering changes in ferrobasaltic volcaniclastic deposits: An analogue for Mars surface processes. (joint with M. Schmidt, Brock Univ.)

    Alysha McNeil (Ph.D. ongoing) Crystallization processes and solubility of Mn-columbite, Mn-tantalite, microlite, pyrochlore, wodginite and titanowodginite in highly fluxed haplogranitic melts. (joint with R. Linnen)

    Fenkge Cao (M.Sc. ongoing) Characterizing shock effects in Martian meteorite NWA 8171 based on Micro-Raman and Micro-XRD.

    Mitchel Galarneau (M.Sc. ongoing) P-T-X constraints on ilmenite unit cell parameters and relationship to diamond potential in kimberlites.

    Victoria Houde (M.Sc. ongoing) Cation order-disorder in spinel from CAIs in carbonaceous chondrites to quantify temperature in the early solar nebula.

    Dylan Langille (M.Sc. ongoing) Mineralogical characterization of the Strange Lake peralkaline granites: Study of the HREE-rich pegmatite host rock, Lac Brisson, Quebec, Canada. (joint with N. Pietrzak-Renaud)

    Yaozhu Li (M.Sc. ongoing) Analysis and quantification of shock stage in ureilite olivine by in-situ micro-X-ray diffraction (joint with P. McCausland)

    Diego Uribe (M.Sc. ongoing) Enstatite achondrites as indicators of environments and processes in early planetary differentiation. (joint with P. McCausland and M. Izawa, Okayama Univ., Japan)


    Michael Craig (Ph.D. 2016) Reflectance and emission spectroscopy: Curve fitting methods with application to impact glasses and the varying grain size of planetary analogue minerals. (joint with G. Osinski and E. Cloutis (Univ. of Winnipeg))

    Matthew Izawa (Ph.D. 2012) Planetary Materials Science and Astrobiology. (joint with N. Banerjee)

    Patrick Shepherd (M.Sc. 2015) Chromite crystal structure and chemistry applied as an exploration tool.

    Annemarie Pickersgill (M.Sc. 2014) Shock metamorphic effects in Lunar and terrestrial plagioclase feldspar investigated by optical petrography and micro-X-ray diffraction. (joint with G. Osinski)

    Jared Shivak (M.Sc. 2013) New Mineralogical and Geochemical Characterization of Martian Meteorites: Implications for Habitability and Astrobiological Exploration of Mars. (joint with N. Banerjee)

    David Edey (M.Sc. 2012) Micro-Computed Tomography semi-empirical beam hardening correction: Method and application to meteorites.  (joint with D. Holdsworth, Robarts)

    Monika Haring (M.Sc. 2012) Crystal structure and Al/Si cation ordering In “fassaite”: A combined single crystal, 27Al and 29Si NMR study.

    Michael Craig (M.Sc. 2010) The effects of impact on the NIR spectra of carbonates and calibrations for use in planetary remote sensing. (joint with G. Osinski)

    Ben Harwood (M.Sc. 2009) Crystal-chemical relationships in kimberlitic and non-kimberlitic garnet and ilmenite.

    Matthew Izawa (M.Sc. 2008) Mineralogy and IR spectroscopy of the Tagish Lake C2 chondrite and enstatite chondrites. (joint with P. King)

    Jingshi Wu (M.Sc. 2005) Cation ordering in diopside-jadeite solid solution.

    Andrea Cade (M.Sc. 2003) Colouration in lazurite from Baffin Island, Nunavut. (joint with M. Fleet)

    Available projects include:

    Crystal structure, cation ordering and configurational entropy in aluminous minerals, using NMR spectroscopy and diffraction methods (e.g. Solar system spinel, Al-diopside (‘fassaite’), melilite).

    Systematic determination of unit cell parameters in KIM minerals (e.g. chromite, ilmenite, Cr-diopside) and investigation of crystal structural – crystal chemical correlations.

    Mineralogical investigation of meteorites: Crystal chemical clues to formation, thermal and shock metamorphism, aqueous processing, and weathering. Meteorites of interest include chondrites (e.g. Allende, Tagish Lake), achondrites (e.g. ureilites, 4 Vesta HEDs), martian.

    Systematic determination of unit cell parameters for major minerals in meteorites (e.g. clinopyroxene and olivine) and correlation to mineral chemistry and planetary origin.

    Quantification of strain-related mosaicity in minerals in meteorites, impact structures, and tectonically deformed rocks, with an aim toward development of a µXRD strain index, and calibration using existing strain indices. (e.g. olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase, quartz, KIMS)

    Development of µXRD for exsolution geothermometry. (e.g. two pyroxenes). GADDS image provides simultaneous unit cell information (related to composition) for both phases, as well as their T-dependent orientational relationship.