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Crystal growth, deformation, and dissolution in ore deposits

My primary interest is applying fundamental crystal growth, dissolution, and deformation processes to understand ore deposit formation. 


Previous Work

As an undergrad, I dipped my toes into the research pool with an independent research project on the causes of color in petrified wood. In doing this project, I discovered my love of microscopy and micro-analysis and also a deep appreciation for "pretty" rocks.

As a PhD student at the University of Oregon, my research was focused on understanding quartz growth in porphyry Cu ore deposits. I used high temperature and pressure crystal growth experiments, field observations, and natural sample characterization to understand quartz vein formation in the Butte, Montana Cu-Mo deposit.


Figure 9 from Mustoe & Acosta (2016) showing orange and pink petrified wood with dendrites.

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Satellite image of the 2014 open pit mine in Butte, where I worked briefly as an intern for the Washington Company.

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Core sample of a quartz vein from Butte


Scanning electron microscope cathodoluminescence images from Butte quartz veins. Figure 2 from Acosta et al. (2022).

Scanning electron miscoscope images of rutile and quartz crystals I grew in a cold seal pressure vessel. Figure 8 from Acosta et al. (2020).

Current Research

I recently submitted a first-author paper on calcite epitaxial growth dynamics and Sr incorporation. The project involved growing Sr-doped calcite overgrowths on cleaved calcite substrates that mimicked natural weathering surfaces.


As a post-doc, I am working on understanding olivine growth in the Ubehebe Peak W skarn deposit. I am using experiments, field observations, and natural sample characterization to understand reaction pathways in the prograde contact aureole.


Figure from the submitted manuscript showing the influence of substrate type on overgrowth morphology.

Future Research Directions

The natural progression of my research interests (the making and breaking of crystals in ore deposits) has me excited to explore different types of ore deposits, specifically REE-rich carbonatites and IOCG deposits.  I am eager to develop microanalytical techniques and geochemical models that will help scientists to interpret deformation and growth textures in these deposits to hopefully tell a story about how they formed. I'll continue to use experiments to try to understand the interplay between kinetics and equilibrium thermodynamics in economic geology.


A garnet crystal I precipitated from a carbonate melt.

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