Zachary Burton

Zachary F. M. Burton, Ph.D.

Scientist
Environmental & Earth Sciences
Maynard
  • CV (English)
  • Contact Card

Dr. Burton has 5 years of industry, federal, and academic experience in geochemistry, geology, and petroleum systems modeling. As an environmental scientist in Exponent’s Environmental & Earth Sciences practice, he evaluates and addresses a broad range of complex environmental challenges. Dr. Burton’s work builds on expertise developed while conducting research with the U.S. Department of Energy, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and New Zealand’s Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences and while performing petroleum geochemistry internship work with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and California Resources Corporation. He has also conducted energy policy analysis for the Precourt Institute for Energy.

Due to this breadth of experience, Dr. Burton is especially suited to support clients navigating challenging environmental issues across industries including energy resources, chemicals, mining and minerals, and government. Dr. Burton’s expertise has included research and industry work related to oil seep geochemistry, biodegradation of petroleum compounds, mixing of oil and gas from multiple point sources, trace and major element geochemistry (including rare earth element analysis), stable isotope geochemistry (carbon, oxygen, sulfur), radiogenic isotope geochemistry (uranium-thorium-lead systems), mineralogy, shale resources (unconventionals), sedimentary organic properties, soil and sediment geochemistry, natural gas systems, three-dimensional numerical modeling of multiphase (e.g., oil, gas, water) subsurface systems, ocean chemistry, water quality, and methane release in oceanic settings.

Dr. Burton has authored numerous papers on chemical fingerprinting, petroleum geochemistry, and numerical modeling of hydrocarbon systems.

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • Ph.D., Geological & Environmental Earth Sciences, Stanford University, 2021
  • B.A., Earth & Oceanographic Science, Bowdoin College, 2015
  • U.S. Department of Energy Research Fellowship, 2016–2020

    Stanford University Full Doctoral Fellowship, 2015–2020

    Shell Foundation Grantee, 2018, 2020

    Gordon Research Conferences Fellowship, 2020

    The Geological Society of America Research Grantee, 2019

    The Clay Minerals Society Research Grantee, 2019

    National Science Foundation Travel Grantee, 2019

    American Association of Petroleum Geologists Research Grantee, 2018

    Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment Grantee, 2017

    Stanford McGee/Levorsen Research Grantee, 2016

    GSA/ExxonMobil Field Scholarship, 2014–2015

    IUGFS/ConocoPhillips Field Scholarship, 2015

    National Association of Geoscience Teachers Scholarship, 2015

LANGUAGES

  • German
  • Spanish

Publications

Bishop, J. L., M. Yeşilbaş, N. W. Hinman, Z. F. M. Burton, P. A. J. Englert, J. D. Toner, A. S. McEwen, V. C. Gulick, E. K. Gibson, C. Koeberl, “Martian subsurface cryosalt expansion and collapse as trigger for landslides.” Science Advances 7 (2021): eabe4459.

Burton, Z. F. M., K. Kroeger, A. Hosford Scheirer, Y. Seol, B. Burgreen-Chan, and S. A. Graham. “Tectonic uplift destabilizes subsea gas hydrate: A model example from Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand.” Geophysical Research Letters 47, no. 7 (2020): e2020GL087150.

Jacobson, M. Z., A.-K. von Krauland, Z. F. M. Burton, S. Coughlin, C. Jaeggli, D. Nelli, A. Nelson, Y. Shu, M. Smith, C. Tan, C. Wood, and K. Wood. “Transitioning all energy in 74 metropolitan areas, including 30 megacities, to 100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS).” Energies 13, no. 18 (2020): 4934.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. M. Moldowan, L. B. Magoon, R. Sykes, and S. A. Graham. “Interpretation of source rock depositional environment and age from seep oil, east coast of New Zealand." International Journal of Earth Sciences 108, no. 4 (2019): 1079–1091.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. M. Moldowan, R. Sykes, and S. A. Graham. “Unraveling petroleum degradation, maturity, and mixing and addressing impact on petroleum prospectivity: Insights from frontier exploration regions in New Zealand." Energy & Fuels 32, no. 2 (2018): 1287–1296.

Presentations

Burton, Z. F. M., J. P. Cassanelli, T. Mukerji, and S. A. Graham. "Impact of sub-gas hydrate sediment thermal conductivity on hydrate-based heat flow derivations." In AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall Meeting Abstracts. December 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., and L. N. Dafov. "Basin and petroleum system modeling to assess sediment carbon and hydrogen content required for biogenic gas hydrate formation." In GSA (The Geological Society of America) 2020 Connects Online. October 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. L. Bishop, P. Englert, R. Bonaccorsi, J. M. Danielsen, and E. K. Gibson. "Aqueous alteration at Mars analogue sites: Geochemistry and mineralogy of sediment from the Dry Valleys (Antarctica), Fuerteventura (Spain), and the Mojave Desert (USA)." In GSA (The Geological Society of America) 2020 Connects Online. October 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., T. McHargue, and S. A. Graham. "Global Eocene-Oligocene boundary unconformity in clastic sedimentary basins." In GSA (The Geological Society of America) 2020 Connects Online. October 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., and O. M. Burton. "A Python-based web application to gauge scientific impact using author sequence." In GSA (The Geological Society of America) 2020 Connects Online. October 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. L. Bishop, P. Englert, P. Dera, C. Koeberl, E. K. Gibson, and J. D. Toner. "Chemical weathering and development of clays, sulfates, and chlorides at a transient Dry Valleys brine pond and relevance to Mars." In SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) Open Science Conference 2020 Meeting Abstracts. Hobart, Australia (moved to virtual). August 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M. "Studying Antarctica to Learn About Mars: Coordinated Spectroscopy, Geochemistry, and Mineralogy of Brine Pond Sediments.” In Sigma Xi Virtual Student Scholars Symposium. May 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. L. Bishop, and J. M. Danielsen. "Altered volcanic material from Fuerteventura, Spain as a possible analogue for the martian surface." In LPSC (Lunar and Planetary Science Conference) Meeting Abstracts, Vol. 51. Houston, TX. March 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. L. Bishop, P. Englert, P. Dera, C. Koeberl, and E. K. Gibson. "Coordinated spectroscopy, geochemistry, and mineralogy of Mars brine pond analogue sediments from Antarctica." In LPSC (Lunar and Planetary Science Conference) Meeting Abstracts, Vol. 51. Houston, TX. March 2020.

Bonaccorsi, R., J. L. Bishop, and Z. F. M. Burton. "Salty clay sites in the Mojave Desert as analogues for Mars: VNIR spectroscopy investigations of fluvio-lacustrine volcaniclastic deposits." In LPSC (Lunar and Planetary Science Conference) Meeting Abstracts, Vol. 51. Houston, TX. March 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., and A. Hosford Scheirer. "Global inventory of sediment organic properties for the modeling of gas hydrate systems.” In Gordon Research Conference Meeting Abstracts. Galveston, TX. February 2020.

Burton, Z. F. M., T. R. McHargue, T. Kukla, R. B. Bloch, J. T. Gooley, S. A. Graham, J. Harrington, C. Jaikla, and C. H. Kremer. "Deep marine turbidites during the early Eocene hothouse highstand." In AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall Meeting Abstracts. San Francisco, CA. December 2019.

Bishop, J. L., C. Koeberl, P. Englert, J. Toner, V. Gulick, Z. F. M. Burton, E. K. Gibson, and A. S. McEwen. "Martian near-surface S and Cl brines in fractured and porous regolith could trigger microscale soil collapse and cause Recurring Slope Lineae." In AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall Meeting Abstracts. San Francisco, CA. December 2019.

T. R. McHargue, Z. F. M. Burton, T. Kukla, R. B. Bloch, J. T. Gooley, S. A. Graham, J. Harrington, C. Jaikla, and C. H. Kremer. "Large volume turbidite deposition on continental margins in a greenhouse world: The early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO)." In GSA (The Geological Society of America) Meeting Abstracts. Phoenix, AZ. September 2019.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. L. Bishop, P. Englert, C. Koeberl, and E. K. Gibson. "Clays from Antarctica Dry Valleys provide analogues for clays formed under cold, dry conditions on Mars." In EUROCLAY (European Clay Groups Association & The Clay Minerals Society) Meeting Abstracts. Paris, France. July 2019.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. L. Bishop, P. Englert, C. Koeberl, and E. K. Gibson. "Salts and clays beneath surface sediments in Antarctica provide clues to weathering and geochemistry on Mars." In LPSC (Lunar and Planetary Science Conference) Meeting Abstracts, Vol. 50. Houston, TX. March 2019.

Englert, P., J. L. Bishop, Z. F. M. Burton, E. K. Gibson, C. Koeberl, D. Tirsch, J. D. Toner, and B. Sutter. "Near surface geochemistry and mineralogy at the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, serves as an analog for some near surface sites on Mars." In LPSC (Lunar and Planetary Science Conference) Meeting Abstracts, Vol. 50. Houston, TX. March 2019.

Bishop, J. L., J. D. Toner, P. Englert, V. C. Gulick, A. S. McEwen, Z. F. M. Burton, M. F. Thomas, E. K. Gibson, and C. Koeberl. "Salty solution to slipping soils on martian slopes." In LPSC (Lunar and Planetary Science Conference) Meeting Abstracts, Vol. 50. Houston, TX. March 2019.

Burton, Z. F. M., A. Hosford Scheirer, Y. Seol, and S. A. Graham. "Modeling tectonic uplift as a mechanism for destabilization of gas hydrate." In AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall Meeting Abstracts. Washington, DC. December 2018.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. M. Moldowan, A. Hosford Scheirer, and S. A. Graham. "Advanced geochemical technologies determine source-rock depositional environment, crude oil thermal maturity and the extent of oil cracking in the frontier Pegasus Basin, New Zealand." In AAPG ACE (The American Association of Petroleum Geologists Annual Convention and Exhibition) Meeting Abstracts. Salt Lake City, UT. May 2018.

Burton, Z. F. M., J. L. Bishop, P. Englert, C. Koeberl, and E. K. Gibson. "Chemically active horizon in a soil pit from an intermittent pond site in the Dry Valleys Region, Antarctica and implications for soil processes on Mars." In LPSC (Lunar and Planetary Science Conference) Meeting Abstracts, Vol. 49. Houston, TX. March 2018.

Burton, Z. F. M., and E. M. Peterman. “Characterizing the metamorphic history of garnet-kyanite-cordierite schists in western Massachusetts: a new record of early Acadian orogenesis and possible UHP metamorphism.” In The Geological Society of Maine Meeting Abstracts. Waterville, ME. April 2015.

Peterman, E. M., Z. F. M. Burton, J. N. Rubel, D. R. Snoeyenbos, and A. R. Kylander-Clark. "A 30 Myr record of retrograde metamorphism and multiple generations of monazite and garnet in western MA revealed by coordinated LASS and EPMA." In AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall Meeting Abstracts. San Francisco, CA. December 2014.

Burton, Z. F. M. “Characterizing reactions and fluid pulses in 30 Myr of continuous retrograde metamorphism using LASS monazite petrochronology.” In Bowdoin College 2014 President’s Science Symposium. Brunswick, ME. October 2014.

Prior Experience

Research Fellow, U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory, 2016–2020

Research Fellow, Stanford University School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, 2015–2020

Research Assistant, NASA Astrobiology Institute, 2018–2020

Energy Resources Analyst, Stanford Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2019–2020

Petroleum Geoscientist (Intern), California Resources Corporation, 2018

Petroleum Geochemist (Intern), Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, 2018

Energy Policy Analyst, Precourt Institute for Energy, 2017–2018

Geology & Oceanography Laboratory Manager, Bowdoin College, 2014–2015

Substitute Teacher, U.S. Department of Defense in Germany, 2013

Project Experience

Petroleum chemistry and geology

International oil and gas producer: Refined and tested models to reconstruct organic geochemical properties of subsurface shales, accounting for petroleum expulsion and thermal degradation, cracking, and chemical transformation. Applied model to characterize shale properties in Gulf of Mexico, Permian Basin (West Texas), and DJ Basin (Colorado) and advised technical teams operating onshore unconventional and deep-water assets.

International oil and gas producer: Conducted geochemical and geophysical well log-based geologic assessment to determine the petroleum quality and potential of numerous subsurface intervals in the Delaware Basin of West Texas. Delivered recommendations for key hydraulic fracturing target lines to executive leadership to guide future drilling campaigns.

New Zealand government Crown Research Institute (Geological and Nuclear Sciences) and consortium of oil and gas producers: Performed biomarker-based forensics and petroleum fingerprinting of oil seep samples from New Zealand’s east coast (using liquid chromatography, GC-FID, GC-MS, and GC-MS-MS—gas chromatography-flame ionization detection, -mass spectrometry, and -tandem mass spectrometry—for n-alkane, isoprenoid, sterane, and terpane analysis, and novel applications of diamondoid compound analysis in conjunction with saturate and aromatic stable carbon isotope analysis). Assessed biodegradation of petroleum compounds (including heavy oil) in the environment, mixing of oil and gas from multiple point sources (plus chemometrics training to classify statistical populations of oil samples from various sources), distribution of hydrocarbons in the subsurface, and thermal degradation and chemical modification of petroleum.

Hydrocarbon systems modeling

U.S. oil and gas producer: Constructed three-dimensional subsurface petroleum systems model across San Joaquin Basin (California) to assess viability of unconventional (hydraulic fracturing) targets via analysis of spatial distribution of geochemical properties, subsurface temperatures and heat flow, sediment and rock porosity and permeability, and multiphase flow.

U.S. Department of Energy and New Zealand government: Employed Schlumberger’s basin and petroleum system modeling software suite to characterize natural gas hydrate systems. Modeled subsea tectonism offshore New Zealand (East Coast Basin) to test potential for hydrostatic pressure-driven gas hydrate destabilization and methane release into the oceanic water column.

U.S. Geological Survey and Schlumberger Center of Excellence for Petroleum Systems Modeling (Germany): Contributed to seismic- and drilling-based modeling effort to quantify gas hydrate abundance (resource potential, subsurface methane volumes, hydrate saturations/concentrations in pore space) in the Terrebonne Basin (Gulf of Mexico).

U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory: Conceptualized and built 2-D and 3-D synthetic models using Schlumberger’s PetroMod platform to systematically test the effect of variations in sediment organic properties (carbon and hydrogen contents) on biogenic (microbial) methane generation and gas hydrate formation.

U.S. DOE NETL and consortium of oil and gas producers: Developed novel synthetic models to systematically analyze the impact of subsurface salt accumulations and salt migration on heat flow disruptions and temperature anomalies, geothermal saline fluid circulation, and impact on gas hydrate recycling (disassociation and reaccumulation). Performed model ground-truthing and calibration using localities characterized during deep-water drilling and geophysical (seismic) exploration at Blake Ridge (offshore U.S. Atlantic coast) and Green Canyon (Gulf of Mexico).

U.S. DOE NETL and international oil and gas producer: Undertook synthetic earth systems modeling to assess the utility, potential pitfalls, and non-uniqueness of using well-described pressure- and temperature-based stability conditions of methane hydrate as a calibration tool in constraining basal heat flows in sedimentary basins, with consideration of rock physics parameters (particularly sediment thermal conductivity), hydrothermal fluid conduction and convection, and geothermal gradients.

Soil and sediment geochemistry and mineralogy

NASA Astrobiology Institute: Characterized geochemical and mineralogical distributions of shallow, transient brine pond-associated sediment in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (Antarctica) using data obtained via reflectance spectroscopy (VNIR, bidirectional, FTIR), sulfur and oxygen isotopic analysis, instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Identified distinct associations of evaporitic minerals (chlorides, gypsum) and chemical weathering/aqueous alteration products (poorly crystalline proto-clays) in sediments directly overlying shallow permafrost aquiclude, with focus on chemically active horizon with elevated major, minor, and trace elemental abundances (including rare earth elements). Results were tied to geochemical and mineralogical discoveries by CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument) instrument on the Mars Curiosity rover and by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) instrument and by the European Space Agency’s orbiter-based OMEGA (Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces, et l'Activité) instrument.

Agriculture (six farms in southeastern Maine): Performed field sampling and laboratory analysis (gas chromatograph and discrete wet chemistry analyzer work) to assess the effects of tillage practices on nitrogen-mineralization and on carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane emissions from agricultural soils.

U.S. DOE NETL, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, and numerous oil and gas producers: Completed exhaustive literature review and synthesis of deep-sea drilling results (especially DSDP, IODP, ODP data derived via Rock-Eval pyrolysis) at 43 gas hydrate locations along the North American, South American, European, Asian, and Australian continental margins, as well as onshore sub-permafrost locations in Alaska, Canada, and China to build the first comprehensive global inventory of sediment organic properties (namely, carbon and hydrogen content) associated with the occurrence of biogenic methane hydrate with direct implications for future resource assessment and exploration and global distribution of hydrocarbon occurrence/carbon reservoirs.

NASA Astrobiology Institute: Analyzed evaporitic sediments from Koehn Lake basin (Mojave Desert, Southern California) and nearby chemically-altered rock outcrops via sedimentological analysis and reflectance spectroscopic analysis to characterize assemblages of salts, sulfates, and mineral-rich muds developed under intermittent aqueous activity in an endorheic basin.

NASA Astrobiology Institute: Prepared and analyzed ash, tephra, and mafic wallrock material from Fuerteventura (Canary Islands, Spain) via reflectance spectroscopy to characterize mineralogical byproducts of chemically-induced weathering under relatively arid climatic conditions.

NASA Ames and The SETI Institute: Performed laboratory soil-water experiments to characterize the disruptive potential of sulfate-chloride reactions (particularly between gypsum and chlorides plus oxychlorine salts), which on Earth instigate sinkholes, cave collapse, landslides, soil upheave, and road buckling/failure. Additional work on cryosalts (under extremely low-temperature environmental conditions) was conducted to tie results to aerial observations by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment.

University of California, Santa Barbara and Bowdoin College (under National Science Foundation support): For a site in western Massachusetts, performed geochronologic and inorganic geochemical laboratory analysis via SEM (scanning electron microscopy) BSE (back-scattered electron imaging), SEM EDS (energy-dispersive spectroscopy), SEM CL (cathodoluminescence imaging), LA-ICP-MS (laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry), and EPMA (electron probe micro-analysis) WDS (wavelength-dispersive spectroscopy). Focused particularly on radiometric dating via uranium, thorium, and lead isotopic systems, on quantification and assessment of lanthanide series metals (rare earth elements) and yttrium, as well as general elemental abundances, and on characterizing temporal variations in mineralogical assemblages via petrographic and scanning electron microscopy.

Bowdoin College Department of Earth and Oceanographic Science: Managed geochemical and mineralogical research laboratory. Advised mineral science research activities conducted using SEM BSE, SEM EDS, and SEM EBSD (electron backscatter diffraction) analysis.

Oceanography, ocean chemistry, and water quality

Gulf of Maine: Performed time series analysis in MATLAB of remote sensing data and buoy-derived measurements (focusing on chlorophyll concentrations) to characterize multiyear seasonal variation in phytoplankton bloom severity and to identify terrestrial nutrient point sources.

Fore River (Portland, Maine) and Harpswell, Maine: Collected water samples each hour over 24-hour period at two localities. Obtained chlorophyll data from samples to characterize hourly variations in chlorophyll concentration.

Quarry ponds, southern Maine and Grand Manan Island, Canada: Assessed water quality (dissolved oxygen, turbidity, conductivity, pH, salinity, temperature) in various quarry ponds using YSI water quality meter instrument suite and Secchi disk.

Bowdoin College Department of Earth and Oceanographic Science: Managed oceanographic research laboratory. Advised palaeoceanographic research activities conducted using ICP-OES (inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry) analysis. Advised research activities on potential impact of ocean acidification on clam flats and mussel beds of coastal Maine conducted using scanning electron microscopy.

Marine sedimentology and synthesis of scientific studies

Stanford University Department of Geological Sciences: Documented subsurface sediment and rock distributions (with a focus on porous, coarse-grained sandstone) at 59 locations along the continental margins of North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania via comprehensive literature review of oil and gas deep-marine drilling results.

Stanford University Department of Geological Sciences: Carried out exhaustive literature review and synthesis of deep-water oil and gas drilling and additional deep-sea drilling results and described climate- and ocean-current-influenced stratigraphy of subsurface clastic sections at 93 locations in marine basins along every continental margin.

Geological fieldwork

Indiana University Geologic Field Station: Completed seven weeks of geological mapping fieldwork, comprehensively characterizing the geology of diverse settings, while based in Montana.

Stanford University and GNS Science: Completed three and a half weeks of sedimentology and stratigraphy fieldwork in the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island.

International oil and gas producer: Completed one week of petroleum geology-centered fieldwork in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming.

Natural resources management firm: Aided in landslide and slope failure surveying and forestry work as part of water quality and forest health monitoring on conservation easements in Northern California.

Energy policy

Precourt Institute for Energy and WECC (Western Electricity Coordinating Council): Characterized changes in the energy mix (renewables, coal, natural gas, nuclear, crude, other) for 11 western U.S. states (the Western Interconnection) over a 15-year time period (2000 to 2015). Examined Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandates from state to state in the 11 states to assess how mandates changed from 2000 to 2015, assessed particular policy components detailed for each state’s RPS, and compared state RPS requirements. Analyzed the use of Renewable Energy Credit (REC) banking for state-specific RPS compliance in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Oregon, including assessment of the effect of REC bonuses and multipliers on state and utility compliance.

Stanford University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering: Quantified (and forecast to year 2050) energy costs, air pollution impacts, job creation, and health and climate ramifications of energy usage across all sectors in 74 metropolitan areas (populations greater than 100,000) worldwide, including 30 megacities (populations greater than 10 million). Assessed energy loads for industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial and government building usage.

Additional Information

Peer Reviewer

Arabian Journal of Geosciences

Environmental Science & Technology

Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering

Marine and Petroleum Geology

Knowledge

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • Ph.D., Geological & Environmental Earth Sciences, Stanford University, 2021
  • B.A., Earth & Oceanographic Science, Bowdoin College, 2015
  • U.S. Department of Energy Research Fellowship, 2016–2020

    Stanford University Full Doctoral Fellowship, 2015–2020

    Shell Foundation Grantee, 2018, 2020

    Gordon Research Conferences Fellowship, 2020

    The Geological Society of America Research Grantee, 2019

    The Clay Minerals Society Research Grantee, 2019

    National Science Foundation Travel Grantee, 2019

    American Association of Petroleum Geologists Research Grantee, 2018

    Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment Grantee, 2017

    Stanford McGee/Levorsen Research Grantee, 2016

    GSA/ExxonMobil Field Scholarship, 2014–2015

    IUGFS/ConocoPhillips Field Scholarship, 2015

    National Association of Geoscience Teachers Scholarship, 2015

LANGUAGES

  • German
  • Spanish