Cyclosilicate Mineral Tourmaline

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Jeffrey E. Post, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Post

Photograph by Cara Santelli, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Jeffrey Post is the curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. As far back as he can remember in childhood, Post collected rocks and fossils around his home near Madison, Wis. The symmetry of mineral crystals fascinated him, and experiments with a large chemistry set helped develop his interest in science. He earned a Ph.D. from Arizona State University in 1981 and joined the Smithsonian in 1984. Post’s research projects include the physical and chemical properties of fine-grained, environmentally significant minerals such as clays, manganese oxides, and iron oxides. He also uses powerful X-ray beams at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory (Upton, N.Y.) to study the crystal structures of these minerals. With his Smithsonian colleagues, Post is always seeking new gem and mineral acquisitions for the Smithsonian. He analyzes specimens to resolve curatorial questions, oversees loans of Smithsonian gems to other museums, supervises the team that is building the collection website, meets with donors, and answers public inquiries about the Smithsonian mineral collection.

Meet our associated expert

This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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Shear zone in gneiss, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA
Courtesy of Marli Bryant Miller

About Regional Metamorphism

Regional metamorphism takes place over large areas of Earth's surface where tectonic plates crash together, pushing up mountain ranges. The metamorphic processes typically happen between temperatures of 350-650 degrees C (660-1,200 degrees F) and at depths of 5-20 km (3-12 miles). High pressures from these enormous collisions cause the rocks to recrystallize and the new mineral grains align into an arrangement like a layer cake, or a sponge when it is squeezed; that texture is called foliation. Low-grade metamorphic rocks, like slate, split easily into sheets. High-grade metamorphic rocks, like gneiss, may be foliated but do not break into sheets.