Portrait of Jaakko Putkonen

Jaakko Putkonen

  • Director Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering, Associate Professor, Geology & Geological Eng
    • Geomorphology, Arctic/Antarctic/Alpine Landscapes, Climate Change

Contact Info

Office Address

Leonard Hall Room 103
81 Cornell Street Stop 8358
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8358


Jaakko Putkonen is the Director of the Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering, where a team of researchers and educators, scientists and engineers collaborate to solve the hardest research problems and educate the leaders and doers of the future.

Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering specializes in solving fundamental problems related to geology and earth science. Many of our projects are directly linked to the jobs and industries of today. Examples of such are the graduate students locating new deposits of oil in the Bakken area, or designing better methods to tease out more of the oil from the existing wells. Undergraduates learn these techniques as part of teams and in the class rooms. Water is as important to humans as oil. Our faculty and students study the snow fall, ground water, wetlands, and rivers to determine how the natural water traverses through our life and landscape.

Prior to becoming the Director, J. Putkonen was a faculty member in the School and was teaching high attendance introductory courses, and upper level specialized courses, in addition to running field expeditions, field trips, and conducting externally funded research.

Putkonen has numerous publications on original research, and has given large number of presentations in professional meetings and conferences.

Putkonen holds a Ph.D. degree in Geology from University of Washington, Seattle.

Jaakko Putkonen has spent his career on field expeditions studying the landscapes and changing climate in extreme environments including Arctic, Antarctica, high Himalaya, and deserts of the SW US. He has published papers related to effects of climate change on Arctic animals, such as Musk Oxen, Caribou, and Reindeer. Many of these animals are critical for subsistence hunters and native populations of the North, and thus his research provides window into the future challenges for these populations.

For over twenty years Putkonen has traveled to Nepal where he has mounted expeditions to high Himalaya to study the geology and climate of the high mountains. He has also led a number of field geology courses for US students thus preparing the next generation for international research.

Putkonen has led numerous Antarctic field expeditions to study the landscape evolution and geologic history of the coldest and driest continent on Earth. On his expeditions he has had the privilege to visit parts of Earth where no human has been before. Currently he is working on an ice core that his research group drilled in Antarctica which is believed to be one of the oldest ice surviving on Earth.

Landscape evolution affects all of us in the form of catastrophic landslides, but mostly by small intermittent movement of surficial sand and pebbles that undermines structures, and affects all constructed environment. Much of his effort has gone to determining the rate of surface erosion in the deserts of the SW US. This research is illuminating the effects of the past changes in the climate on Earth surface.

PhD, 1997, University of Washington, Seattle