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Meeting Plate Tectonics – Dietmar Müller

Meeting Plate Tectonics – Dietmar Müller

These blogposts present interviews with outstanding scientists that bloomed and shape the theory that revolutionised Earth Sciences — Plate Tectonics. Get to know them, learn from their experience, discover the pieces of advice they share and find out where the newest challenges lie!


Meeting Dietmar Müller


Dietmar Müller is Professor of Geophysics at the University in Sydney and leads the EarthByte research group. He started his academic career in Germany at the University of Kiel and obtained his PhD in Earth Science at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, in 1993. Throughout his career he has straddled the boundary between geology, geophysics and computing.

Figure out what you actually enjoy doing and just go and do that.

You were educated in Germany and in the USA. How did you end up in Australia?

After I finished my PhD in 1993, I saw an advert for a lectureship in geophysics at the University of Sydney in EOS. I had never been to Australia and had no idea what life in Sydney might be like, but I thought, I might as well send off an application. A couple of months later I got a postcard from Sydney University, informing me that I had been shortlisted for the position. I thought this was vaguely interesting, but as a fresh PhD graduate, I mainly had my eyes on a couple of postdoctoral fellowships in Europe. Then I got a phone call for an interview. They had clearly decided that flying me to Sydney, all the way across the vast Pacific Ocean, was far too expensive. But they seemed to be interested in my vision for the future, and at the end of the phone interview they asked me: “If we offered the position to you, would you take it?” The thing is, this was the first real job anyone offered to me, so I thought, it’s probably a good idea to say “sure, why not”. Soon they faxed me a contract (these were not yet the days of the internet). Then I thought, hmm, what is this place actually like? So I went to the public library in San Diego and borrowed a VHS tape on Sydney. It included footage of Bondi Beach, Sydney Harbour and the Blue Mountains, with a few kangaroos and koalas thrown in for good measure. I thought this looks ok, it could be a liveable place. After I finally got my visa, I booked a 1-way flight to Sydney, and in late October 1993 I showed up in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and ran into a guy who turned out to be the Head of Department. He looked at the Scripps T-shirt I was wearing, and said: You must be the guy we hired! Of course, he had never seen me, so my T-shirt was my main identifying feature. Remarkably, over 25 years later, I am still there.

Dietmar settling into life in Australia in the 90s, mapping Devonian carbonates in Yass. Credit: unknown.

What is your main research interest? How would you describe your approach and methods?

I lead an Australian research effort, with many international links, to develop and continue to refine something that could be called a virtual Earth Laboratory. I have been an advocate for open-source software and open-access data during my entire career to make science transparent and reproducible. Based on these principles we have spearheaded the development of custom software and global data sets to reconstruct the Earth through time. To understand the Earth’s evolution we need to change our geographic reference system as we go back in time, because of plate tectonics. The plate tectonic revolution in the late 60s and 70s established the principles of how plate tectonics works. Applying these principles to build an Earth model is essentially what I have focussed my career on. I have always had a fascination with Earth evolution over geological time because its comprehension lies so far outside the everyday experience of humans. Most people cannot grasp the relevance of processes on vastly longer timescales than our own lifetime. But understanding the rhythms of Earth’s deep past and thinking about time like a geologist can perhaps give us the perspective we need for a more sustainable future. To dive into the Earth’s past, plate tectonics is indispensable. We need to be able to reconstruct geological data to their original environments. Doing this effectively requires open-source software and open-access data sets that can be shared amongst the community, enabling collaboration.

How do you build an open-source software system from scratch?

Dietmar Müller and Mike Gurnis in Altadena, 2006, taking a break from planning GPlates development. Credit: Melanie Symonds.

When I arrived in Sydney (over 25 years ago) there was no open software to build plate tectonic models, let alone to link plate motions to mantle convection models so that we can investigate the evolution of the entire plate-mantle system. I assembled a small team, partnering with Michael Gurnis at Caltech, to build the community GPlates software. This effort was initially supported by the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) enabling the development of GPlates1.0 on Linux and PCs and its Geographic Markup Language-based information model. In 2005, we managed to get a small educational grant from Apple Computers to develop the GPlates for Macs. We are lucky that shortly afterwards the AuScope National Collaborative Research Infrastructure was established which has supported GPlates development since 2007. That allowed us to fully develop reconstructions of plate boundary networks through time, which is essential for coupling plate tectonics to mantle convection models, as well as the 3D interactive visualisation of mantle volumes and lastly the functionality to model plate deformation, a key step beyond the classical rigid plate tectonic theory. We also developed a python library, pyGPlates, that allows users to link our plate models to many other forms of spatiotemporal data analysis and to other types of models, including geodynamic and paleoclimate models.

The slow carbon cycle is like slow cooking… over millions of years

What would you say is your favourite aspect of doing research?

Understanding the Earth as a system. I am interested in integrating observations from Plate Tectonics and mantle convection with landscape evolution and surface environments through time. I would like to adopt a definition of Earth System Science that actually includes the entire solid Earth, as well as the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere.

What are the real world applications of your research?

There are many applications of plate tectonics. They include understanding solid Earth evolution, palaeogeography, paleoclimate, paleoceanography, paleobiology, and spatiotemporal data mining, for instance for resource exploration. Most mineral deposits are associated with plate boundaries, so being able to link ore deposit formation with plate motions and the kinematic and geodynamic history of plate boundaries allows us to start understanding why certain mineral deposits form at specific windows in space and time, something we have recently started doing using the Andes as a case study.

Students will be entering a transformed workplace unlike any their parents knew

What do you consider to be your biggest academic achievement?

I am most well-known for my work on the age and palaeophysiogeography of the ocean basins. I started working on this as a PhD student. My thesis supervisor, John Sclater, made a name for himself with the first isochron map of the ocean basins. But there was no digital map. Having a digital grid, linked to a global plate model, was going to be critical for studying a whole range of processes from subduction, plate-mantle interaction, the evolution of ocean gateways through time, dynamic surface topography, and many others. I decided to synthesize all the data that we had available at the time to create the first digital map of the ocean basins, followed by a set of reconstructed paleo-age maps. This has enabled a lot of research, both my own and that of the community. For example, it has allowed us to look at the volume of the ocean basins through time (via the connection between the age and the depth of the ocean floor). A more recent achievement, fresh off the press, represents an epic decadal effort on part of the EarthByte group to complete a global plate model for the Mesozoic/Cenozoic period that includes plate deformation. Classical plate tectonics requires plates to be rigid and separated by narrow boundaries. It’s astonishing that it’s taken about 30 years since diffuse deformation was first widely recognised in the 80s to get to the point of systematically building a global model incorporating diffuse deformation for the geological past (soon to appear in Tectonics). It reveals that about a third of the continental crust has been deformed since the breakup of Pangea, about 77 million km2, partitioned into 65% extension and 35% compression. That roughly corresponds to the total area of North and South America and Africa together. The model can be used to investigate the evolution of crustal strain, thickness, topography, temperature, and heat flux, globally.

Total distributed continental deformation accumulated over 240 million years of rifting and crustal shortening. In Dietmar et al. (to come in 50th anniversary plate tectonics volume in Tectonics). A global plate model including lithospheric deformation along major rifts and orogens since the Triassic.

What would you say is the main problem that you solved during your most recent project?

Recently, I became involved in the Deep Carbon Observatory. There are a few quite exciting problems involved in understanding the Earth’s deep carbon cycle and, being an area I have not traditionally worked in, it’s a new adventure for me to try to understand how plate tectonic drives the geological carbon cycle. One of the problems that we tackled in the course of connecting plate tectonics to the “slow carbon cycle” is to investigate seafloor weathering. The slow carbon cycle takes place over tens of millions of years, driven by a series of chemical reactions and tectonic activity and is part of Earth’s life insurance, as it has maintained the planet’s habitability throughout a series of hothouse climates punctuated by ice ages. We were able to build on ocean drilling results and laboratory experiments from other groups to understand how of the storage of C02 and carbon in the ocean crust changes through time, as a function of the age of the ocean crust and of the bottom water temperature, which is quite important, because temperature strongly modulates this process. This is something we published in Science Advances in 2018.It is quite a cool paper!

We actually need geochemists and geophysicists to work together

After being many years active in the academia, looking back, what would you change to improve how science in your field is done?

The biggest change in my time in academia is the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and data science as a universal, rapidly growing research area and set of tools to analyse big or complex data, to assimilate data into models and to quantify uncertainties in process models and predictions. There is an urgent need for all Earth science students to become literate in these areas. By the time this year’s first-year students will graduate, they will be entering a transformed workplace unlike any their parents knew. However, the need for changing staff profiles and undergraduate curricula are often recognised and implemented much more slowly than the evolution of the world outside of our ivory towers. But this change needs to happen.

What you just exposed, goes to some extent in line with my next question: What are the biggest challenges right now in your field?

Most of the problems that we are left with are complicated problems that aim at understanding the complexity of the Earth system. That could be anything from structural geology to understanding physical and chemical problems. An example is the field of geodynamics. It is mostly dominated by looking at the physics of mantle convection. And then there is another bunch of people who look at the chemistry of the mantle. These fields have not been properly connected. We actually need geochemists, geophysicists and geologists to work together to try to understand how the Earth system works. Then we need to connect deep Earth evolution to surface environments, understand the exchange of fluids and volatiles between the solid Earth and the oceans and atmosphere.

You actually have to be in for the long game

Building a geological time machine at the University of Sydney, 2009. Credit: Rhiannon McKeon

What was your motivation, starting as an Early Career Researcher? Did you always see yourself staying in academia?

As a kid I was inspired to become a scientist by taking long walks along Germany’s Baltic Sea beaches, picking up unusual rocks and fossils along the way, none of which really belonged there. They had all originated in Scandinavia, where they had been scraped off by moving glaciers and dropped much further south after being transported in the ice over 1000 km. I still have a small collection of these rocks and fossils which include remains of sea urchins and squids from the Cretaceous period and over 400 My old pieces of ancient reefs that had once been buried deeply in the Scandinavian crust. I always wanted to be an academic, I wanted to understand how the Earth works, over geological time. I never had any second thought about that. I can see today that students are often quite confused about what they want to do. Because they are unsure about where the future might take them, they don’t end up focussing on any one subject and are not necessarily inclined to acquire skills that are deep and broad enough to excel. If you want to be successful at anything, you need to become really good at something, and persevere. Be good at something that you actually enjoy, and be in it for the long game.

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by the pioneers of open source software and open access data. Open science is the key to forming global research teams and advancing studies of the Earth system. I am inspired by Paul Wessel at the University of Hawaii, who, together with his colleagues, built one of the most extensive geo-software systems, the Generic Mapping Tools, over the past ~30 years; I started using an early version of it during my PhD and am still using it! In terms of open access data, one of my heroes in Earth Sciences is David Sandwell at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who revolutionised our knowledge of the deep structure of the ocean basins by making his global satellite gravity maps freely available to the community. On the geochemistry side, Kerstin Lehnert at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has accomplished an amazing feat by leading the EarthChem database effort, and now the Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance, a nice example for bringing geochemistry and geophysics together.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Not long after I arrived at the University in Sydney, the then professor of geophysics pulled me aside and said: “I have one piece of advice for you: Stay away from University politics and just do your own thing“. That’s exactly what I have done and that’s the best advice I have ever received. It is easy to get carried away with politics at many different levels…

Stay away from University politics

What advice would you give to students?

You have to figure out what you enjoy and what you would like to do. You should not choose a career because you think this career will pay more money than another one, or it may seem there are more jobs in one field than another. The advice I would give to students is to try to figure out what you actually enjoy doing and just go and do that. The future will be driven by big and complex data analysis and simulation and modelling, but there will still be a need for people who can identify a rock. If you can do both, you’ll have a job without any doubt!

 

Dietmar Müller, November 2018 in his office. Credit: Jo Condon, AuScope

 

Interview conducted by David Fernández-Blanco

Minds over Methods: Mineral reactions in the lab

Minds over Methods: Mineral reactions in the lab

 

Mineral reactions in the lab

André Niemeijer, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University, the Netherlands

In this blogpost we will go on a tour of the High Pressure and Temperature (HPT) Laboratory at Utrecht University and learn about some of the interesting science done there.

André Niemeijer next to a striated fault surface. Credit: André Niemeijer.

André’s main interest is fault friction and all the various processes that are involved in the seismic cycle. This includes the evolution of fault strength over long and short timescales, the evolution of fault permeability and the effects of fluids. His current research is aimed at understanding earthquake nucleation and propagation by obtaining a better understanding of the microphysical processes that control friction of fault rocks under in-situ conditions of pressure, temperature and fluid pressure.

Most of the deformation in the Earth’s brittle crust occurs on and along faults. Fault movement produces fine-grained wear material or gouge, which is very prone to fluid-rock interactions and mineral reactions (Wintsch, 1995). It has long been recognized that the presence of a fluid allows for deformation to occur at much lower differential stresses than without.

Pressure solution

One of the mechanisms by which this deformation occurs is pressure solution (alternatively termed “solution-transfer creep” or “dissolution-precipitation creep”). This mechanism operates through the dissolution of materials at sites of elevated stress, diffusion along grain boundaries and re-precipitation at low stress sites (e.g. pores). Pressure solution is an important diagenetic process in sandstones and carbonates as evidenced by the presence of stylolites in many carbonate rocks, which are often used as counter tops and floors (particularly in banks, I noticed). In addition, it has been suggested that pressure solution plays an important role in the accommodation of (slow) shear deformation of faults (Rutter & Mainprice, 1979) and possibly in controlling the recurrence interval of earthquakes (Angevine, 1982).

Fluid-rock interactions in the lab

Experimentally, it is challenging to activate pressure solution or mineral reactions in the laboratory, because they are typically slow processes. Moreover, it is difficult to find evidence of their operation. We have used a unique hydrothermal rotary shear apparatus, which is capable of temperatures up to 700 °C to activate pressure solution in fine-grained quartz gouges. We were able to prove that new material was precipitated by using a combination of state-of-art electron microscopy techniques that involve cathodoluminescence (CL).

The hydrothermal rotary shear apparatus at the HPT laboratory at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Credit: André Niemeijer.

Signature of pressure solution

The CL signal of a mineral depends on the type and level of impurities and defects that are present. We used quartz derived from a single crystal which showed relatively uniform CL. Because our apparatus has various metal alloy parts, small amounts of aluminium are present in the fluid. Aluminium can be incorporated in newly precipitated quartz, which gives a different CL signal. This allows us to map the locations where quartz has newly formed and link this to the experimental data. Taken together, we can use these to derive and constrain microphysical models for fault slip that can be used to extrapolate to natural conditions (e.g. Chen & Spiers 2016, van den Ende et al., 2018).

RGB overlay of secondary electron and cathodoluminescence signals in a deformed quartz sample. Newly precipitated quartz shows up in a blue colour. Credit: Maartje Hamers.

Mineral reactions

Outcrops of natural faults often show evidence for enhanced mineral reactions with increasing shear strain. For instance, the Zuccale fault (Isle of Elba, Italy) has a high content of talc in the highest strained portion of the fault (Collettini & Holdsworth, 2004). Talc is a frictionally weak mineral and its presence in the Zuccale fault provides an explanation for the possibility of slip along this low-angle normal fault. We were able to produce talc experimentally from mixtures of dolomite and quartz in only 3-5 days of shearing at low velocity. This shearing was accompanied by major weakening, with friction dropping from 0.8 to as low as 0.3. The reaction to talc is sensitive to temperature and fluid composition. At slightly higher temperature, we produced diopside and forsterite which are frictionally unstable and generated audible laboratory earthquakes.

Identifying reaction products

We tried a whole range of different analytical techniques to identify the reaction products. Despite the obvious frictional weakening that we observed, talc was only observed in two samples with x-ray diffraction (XRD). Fourier-transform Infrared analysis, on the other hand, proved to be very sensitive to talc and has the big advantage that only a small amount of material is needed (~70 mg). Electron microscopy with EDS-analysis (Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy) proved helpful to some extent, because it shows the phase distribution. However, the small size of reaction products gives a mixed chemistry, which complicates the identification of reaction products. Finally, to positively identify the various phases in the different samples, we employed Raman mapping.

RGB overlays of EDS analyses of samples deformed at 300 °C (left) and 500 °C (right). Dolomite appears in yellow, quartz in blue, calcite in red, talc in cyan in the left image, while dolomite is orange, calcite is red, diopside is purple and forsterite is cyan in the right image. Credit: André Niemeijer.

Outlook

Our studies have shown that reactions can be quite rapid in fine-grained fault gouges. These reactions can have a profound effect on both fault strength and stability but are typically ignored in large-scale models of the seismic cycle. Incorporating reactions requires models that can account for the effect of stress and grain size reduction on the development of faults, which is not an easy task, but is a necessary ingredient to understand the long-term behavior of faults.

Edited by Derya Gürer

References

  • Angevine, C. L., Turcotte DL, Furnish MD. (1982) Pressure solution lithification as a mechanism for the stick-slip behavior of faults. Tectonics 1 (2), 151-160 doi:10.1029/TC001i002p00151.
  • Chen, J. and Spiers CJ. (2016) Rate and state frictional and healing behavior of carbonate fault gouge explained using microphysical model. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 121 (12), 8642-8665 doi:10.1002/2016JB013470.
  • Collettini, C. and Holdsworth RE. (2004) Fault zone weakening and character of slip along low-angle normal faults: Insights from the Zuccale fault, Elba, Italy. Journal of the Geological Society 161 (6), 1039-1051 doi:10.1144/0016-764903-179.
  • E H Rutter, D H Mainprice (1979)On the possibility of slow fault slip controlled by a diffusive mass transfer process. Gerlands Beitr. Geophysik, Leipzig 88 (1979) 2, S. 154-162.
  • van den Ende, M. P. A., Chen J, Ampuero J., Niemeijer AR. (2018) A comparison between rate-and-state friction and microphysical models, based on numerical simulations of fault slip. Tectonophysics 733, 273-295 doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2017.11.040.
  • Wintsch, R. P., Christoffersen R, Kronenberg AK. (1995) Fluid-rock reaction weakening of fault zones. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 100 (B7), 13021-13032 doi:10.1029/94JB02622.

Minds over Methods: Linking microfossils to tectonics

Minds over Methods: Linking microfossils to tectonics

This edition of Minds over Methods article is written by Sarah Kachovich and discusses how tiny fossils can be used to address large scale tectonic questions. During her PhD at the University of Brisbane, Australia, she used radiolarian biostratigraphy to provide temporal constraints on the tectonic evolution of the Himalayan region – onshore and offshore on board IODP Expedition 362. Sarah explains why microfossils are so useful and how their assemblages can be used to understand the history of the Himalayas. And how are new technologies improving our understanding of microfossils, thus advancing them as a dating method?

 

                                                                          Linking microfossils to tectonics

Credit: Sarah Kachovich

Sarah Kachovich, Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, Australia.

Radiolarians are single-celled marine organisms that have the ability to fix intricate, siliceous skeletons. This group of organism have captured the attention of artist and geologist alike due to their skeletal diversity and complexity that can be observed in rocks from the Cambrian to the present. As a virtue of their silica skeletons, small size and abundance, radiolarian skeletons can potentially exist in most fine-grained marine deposits as long as their preservation is good. This includes mudstones, hard shales, limestones and cherts. To recover radiolarians from a rock, acid digestion is commonly required. For cherts, 12-24 hours in 5 % hydrofluoric acid is needed to liberate radiolarians. Specimens are collected on a 63 µm sieve and prepared for transmitted light or scanning electron microscope analysis.

Animation of radiolarian diversity. Credit: Sarah Kachovich

Scale and diversity of modern radiolarians. Credit: Sarah Kachovich (radiolarians from IODP Expedition 362) and Adrianna Rajkumar (hair).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improving the biostratigraphical potential of radiolarians

The radiolarian form has changed drastically through time and by figuratively “standing on the shoulders of giants”, we correlate forms from well-studied sections to determine an age of an unknown sample. A large effort of my PhD was aimed to progress, previously stagnant, research in radiolarian evolution and systematics in an effort to improve the biostratigraphical potential of spherical radiolarians, especially from the Early Palaeozoic. The end goal of this work is to improve the biostratigraphy method and its utility, thus increasing our understanding of the mountain building processes.

The main problem with older deposits is the typical states of preservation, where radiolarians partly or totally lose their transparency, which makes traditional illustration with simple transmitted light optics difficult. Micro-computed tomography (µ-CT) has been adopted in fields as diverse as the mineralogical, biological, biophysical and anatomical sciences. Although the implementation in palaeontology has been steady, µ-CT has not displaced more traditional imaging methods, despite its often superior performance.

Animation of an Ordovician radiolarian skeleton in 3D imaged through µ-CT. Credit: Sarah Kachovich

To study small complex radiolarian skeletons, you need to mount a single specimen and scan it at the highest resolution of the µ-CT. The µ-CT method is much like a CAT scan in a hospital, where X-rays are imaged at different orientations, then digitally stitched together to reconstruct a 3D model. The vital function of the internal structures provides new insights to early radiolarian morphologies and is a step towards creating a more robust biostratigraphy for radiolarians in the Early Paleozoic.

Linking radiolarian fossils to tectonics

Radiolarian chert is important to Himalayan geologists as it provides a robust tool to better document and interpret the age and consumption of oceanic lithosphere that once intervened India and Asia before their collision.The chert that directly overlies pillow basalt in the ophiolite sequence (remnant oceanic lithosphere) represents the minimum age constraint of its formation. In the Himalayas, over 2000 km of ocean has been consumed as India rifted from Western Australia and migrated north to collide with Asia. Only small slivers of ophiolite and overlying radiolarian cherts are preserved in the suture zone and it is our job to determine how these few ophiolite puzzle pieces fit together.

Another way I have been able to link microfossils to Himalayan tectonics is by studying the history and source of erosion from the Himalayas on board IODP Expedition 362. Sedimentation rates obtained from deep sea drilling can provide ages of various tectonic events related to the India-Asia collision. For example, we were able to date various events such as the collision of the Ninety East Ridge with the Sumatra subduction zone, which chocked off the sediment supply to the Nicobar basin around 2 Ma as the ridge collided with the subduction zone.

Left: Results from the McNeill et al. (2017) of the sedimentation history of Bengal Fan (green dots) and Nicobar Fan (red dots). Middle/right: Reconstruction of India and Asia for the past 9 million years showing the sediment source from the Himalayas to both basins on either side of the Ninety East Ridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, on board Expedition 362 we were able to use microfossils to understand how and why big earthquakes happen. We targeted the incoming sediments to the Sumatra subduction zone that were partly responsible for the globally 3rd largest recorded earthquake (Mw≈9.2). This earthquake occurred in 2004 and produced a tsunami that killed more than 250,000 people.

From the seismic profiles (see example below), we found that the seismic horizon where the pre-decollement formed coincided with a thick layer of biogenetically rich sediment (e.g. radiolarians, sponge spicules, etc.) found whilst drilling. Under the weight of the overlying Nicobar Fan sediments, this critical layer of biogenic silica is undergoing diagenesis and fresh water is being chemically released into the sediments. The fresh water within these sediments is moving into the subduction zone where it has implications to the physical properties of the sediment and the morphology of the forearc region.

The Sumatra subduction zone. The dark orange zone represents the rupture area of the 2004 earthquake. Also shown are the drill sites of IODP Expedition 362 and the location of seismic lines across the plate boundary.

Seismic profile: The fault that develops between the two tectonic plates (the plate boundary fault) forms at the red dotted line. Note the location of the drill site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Hüpers, A., Torres, M. E., Owari, S., McNeill, L. C., Dugan, & Expedition 362 Scientists, 2017. Release of mineral-bound water prior to subduction tied to shallow seismogenic slip. Science, 356: 841–844. doi:10.1126/science.aal3429

McNeill, L. C., Dugan, B., Backman, J., Pickering, K. T., & Expedition 362 Scientists 2017. Understanding Himalayan Erosion and the Significance of the Nicobar Fan. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 475: 134–142. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2017.07.019

Highlights at EGU 2017 from the division for Tectonics and Structural Geology

Susanne Buiter (outgoing TS president, Geological Survey of Norway) and Claudio Rosenberg (incoming TS president, UPMC France)

It is with great pleasure that we write this blog welcoming everyone to EGU’s upcoming General Assembly in Vienna, and especially to the many events organised by our division for Tectonics and Structural Geology! We are highlighting some of the week’s many events below, though it is in fact really difficult to choose highlights as of course the contribution of every individual to the success of the meeting is a highlight!

The TS programme can be found directly at these two links:

http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2017/meetingprogramme/TS

http://egu2017.eu/EGU2017_schedule_TS.pdf

We would encourage you to download the meeting app (http://app.egu2017.eu) and/or make a personal programme (http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/egu2017/personal_programme) in addition to taking the above pdf schedule along to Vienna.

In the list below we emphasized award lectures, PICO sessions, poster-only sessions, short courses that TS co-organises, and of course the opportunities where you can give us feedback, such as the division meeting and Meet EGU. But please don’t forget that we are running several scientific sessions in parallel throughout the day!

At the General Assembly and throughout the year, you can follow the division via our webpage (http://www.egu.eu/ts/home/), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TSdivision), twitter (https://twitter.com/EGU_TS) and the division mailing list (http://lists.egu.eu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/ts).

Don’t forget to tweet about the General Assembly using #EGU17TS and #EGU17!

We wish you a great conference!

Susanne and Claudio

 

Monday 24 April

  • Start of the TS scientific programme at 08:30 with three sessions in parallel: TS1.4 “New geochronological approaches for quantification of geological processes”, 3 “Structures and patterns in fractured and porous media: witnesses for paleostress and fluid flow”, and TS7.4 “Probing the subduction plate interface”
  • Short course SC48 “Publishing in EGU journals: Solid Earth and Earth Surface Dynamics – Meet the Editors”, 13:30-15:00, room -2.91
  • PICO TS8.1 “Digital mapping and 3D visualization approaches in the Earth Sciences”, 15;30-17:00, PICO spot 5a
  • TS division Early Career Scientists event at Brandauers Bierbögen (Heiligenstädter Str 31), starting at 20:00

 

credit: Susanne Buiter

 

Tuesday 25 April

  • TS1.3 “Folding and Fracturing of Rocks – 50 years of research since the seminal text book of JG. Ramsay”, 08:30 – 10:00/D3 and 17:30-19:00/Hall X2
  • PICO TS8.3 “Analogue and numerical modelling of tectonic processes”, 10:30-12:00, PICO spot 5a
  • The Stephan Mueller medal lecture by Cees Passchier, “Panta Rhei – the changing face of rocks “, 16:00-17:00, room D3
  • Poster-only session TS1.1 “Open Session on Tectonics and Structural Geology”, 17:30 – 19:00, Hall X2

 

credit: Susanne Buiter

 

Wednesday 26 April

  • PICO TS1.2 “Teaching Structural Geology and Tectonics in the 21st century”, 08:30-10:00, PICO spot 1
  • The Arne Richter Award lecture by João Duarte “The Future of Earth’s Oceans: consequences of subduction invasion in the Atlantic”, 09:30-10:00, room D3
  • Short course SC9/TS10.1 “Virtual Polarizing Microscopy in Petrology and Microtectonics”, 10:30-12:00 room -2.16
  • Division meeting of Tectonics and Structural Geology: Your chance to provide us with feedback on the division and our programme. A light lunch will be provided. 12:15 – 13:15, room G1
  • PICO TS3.3 “Microstructure and texture analysis: New methods and interpretations”, 13:30-15:00, PICO spot 5b
  • Poster-only sessions:
    • TS8.4 “Learning from failed models and negative results”
    • TS9.2 “Oceanic and continental transform plate boundaries: nucleation, evolution and tectonic significance”

 

credit: Susanne Buiter

 

Thursday 27 April

  • PICO TS8.2 “Unravelling the Earth subsurface structure from seismic imaging and interpretation, geological observations, and numerical Experiments” 10:30-12:00, PICO spot A
  • Arthur Holmes medal lecture by Jean-Pierre Brun, “The extending lithosphere”, 12:15-13:15, room E1
  • Meet the EGU Division Presidents of Tectonics and Structural Geology (us!), 13:30-14:15, EGU Booth
  • Meet the incoming EGU Division President (Claudio) and the ECS Representatives of Tectonics and Structural Geology (Anne Pluymakers and João Duarte (both outgoing), and Anouk Beniest (incoming)), 14:15-15:00, EGU Booth

 

Friday 28 April

  • 17:30 – 19:00 Friday evening poster sessions! All are in Hall X2:
    • TS5.1 “Bridging Earthquakes and Tectonics: give-and-take”
    • TS5.4 “Advances in understanding earthquake processes and hazards in regions of slow lithospheric deformation”
    • TS6.1 “The evolution and architecture of rifts, rifted passive margins, and mid oceanic ridges: from mantle dynamics to surface processes”
    • TS7.5 “The Caledonian orogen of the North Atlantic region: understanding tectonic processes in collisional belts”
    • TS7.6 “Lithospheric and crustal dynamics of the Wilson Cycle: The Iberia case study”

 

credit: Susanne Buiter

 

Introducing the people behind the TS division

This week we present the many volunteers behind the activities of the Tectonics and Structural Geology (TS) division. We can also be found on http://www.egu.eu/ts, Facebook and twitter. We are always happy to hear new ideas and feedback! Just drop a message on ts@egu.eu and don’t forget to stop by the division meeting during the General Assembly in April next year.


Susanne Buiter
President

susanneI am a senior researcher and team leader for Geodynamics at the Geological Survey of Norway and am also for 20% at the Centre for Excellence CEED at the University of Oslo. I use a model-based approach to investigate deformation processes on the scale of the upper crust to the upper mantle. These include rifted margins, sedimentary basins, thrust wedges, subduction zones, continental collision, and the entire Wilson Cycle itself.

As president for the TS division since 2013 I have tried to serve our community through a broad and hopefully exciting TS session programme at our General Assembly in Vienna. It has been great fun working closely together with all of you! Apart from geo-spamming your inbox and GA scheduling, my work also involves short courses (e.g. ERC funding or Open Access publishing), the EGU Outreach Committee (e.g., the ECS-medallist networking reception), the TS division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Award committee, tweeting division news and maintaining close ties with our sister organisations, the GSA Structural Geology and Tectonics Division and AGU Tectonophysics section.

All of this is of course only possible with the expertise help of the TS team who have been absolutely wonderful to collaborate with! I will step down at the General Assembly in April 2017 when I will take over as EGU Programme Committee chair, looking forward to that!

Personal webpage: http://www.geodynamics.no/buiter

 

Magdalena Scheck-Wenderoth – Deputy President

leniCurrently I’m a professor for basin analysis at RWTH Aachen University in joint appointment with the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ in Potsdam, where I lead the section basin modelling. This includes studies on the structure and dynamics of sedimentary basins on one hand and the utilization of the subsurface on the other. Therefore I work on data-based 3D lithosphere-scale to reservoir-scale basin models of sediments, crust and lithospheric mantle, coupled transport of heat and fluids in the subsurface, regional 3D gravity modelling, structural and subsidence history and salt dynamics.

As deputy president of TS I try to assist the current president Susanne Buiter where needed. As my research is focused on Geoenergy and Geodynamics of sedimentary basins, I try to make links of TS with the ERE and GD divisions aiming at avoiding overlap and making the best possible programme.

Personal webpage:

http://www.gfz-potsdam.de/en/section/basin-modeling/staff/profil/magdalena-scheck/

 

Marcel FrehnerNews & Media Officer and Webmaster

mfrehnerI am a senior scientist and lecturer (so-called “Oberassistent”) at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland) in the Group for Structural Geology and Tectonics. My main scientific interest is the mechanical investigation of geological and geophysical processes. For this, I developed various numerical modelling codes, but I also integrate my theoretical and numerical work with field and laboratory data. My process-oriented research focuses on topics in structural geology (i.e., deformation of rock units, mostly folding) and rock physics (i.e., mostly seismic properties of porous and/or fractured rocks).

Within the EGU-TS team, I am the News & Media Officer. In fact, the TS Division does not have much direct contact with media representatives, as they would contact the scientists directly. So, my job mainly involves running and feeding the TS homepage, Facebook page, and Twitter account, as well as coordinating external communication among the TS board.

Personal webpage: http://www.marcelfrehner.ch/

 

Francesca CifelliOutstanding Student Poster and PICO award coordinator

picture_cif_cropI am associate professor in structural geology at the Department of Science (Roma TRE University) in Rome, Italy. My research activity mainly focuses on palaeomagnetic studies applied to the reconstruction of the rotational history and structural evolution of curved mountain chains. Among my study areas are the Calabrian Arc, Northern Apennines, Gibraltar Arc, Central Iran, and the Central Anatolian Plateau. In Italy, I am very active in science communication and high-school teachers training.

I am a member of the EGU Committee of Education (CoE) for the organization of the GIFT (Geophysical Informations for Teachers) workshop. Within the TS team, I coordinate together with the TS President the Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) Awards.

 

Fabrizio StortiStephan Mueller Medal Committee Chair

storti%20foto%201I have been president of the TS Division from 2009 to 2013, after serving as vice-president since 2005. Over the last four years I chaired the TS Stephan Mueller Medal committee, a role always taken by the past president of the division. From 2013 to 2016 I also chaired the EGU Topical Events Committee. So I spend more than a decade in the EGU and it is now time for me to step down and leave space to new people, with new ideas and a renewed enthusiasm. My experience in EGU is very positive because of the bottom-up philosophy that allowed me to propose ideas, strategies and improvements that contributed in some way to help the Union to constantly grow and offer higher standards, assembly after assembly, and to start playing a role much broader than the organization of congresses. I believe that dedicating some time and energy to contribute improving “our environment” as scientists and mentors is somehow dutiful, very rewarding and instructive, and so I warmly encourage all you to think about volunteering for some kind of support to the activities of the TS Division. This support includes considering the journal Solid Earth for publishing your work, help it to grow and become a well reputed, reference journal for Earth Scientists. You can find more information on publishing in Solid Earth in these two TS blogs (blogs.egu.eu/divisions/ts): Solid Earth journal: the possibilities of open access publishing and Publishing in Solid Earth: interview with Anna Rogowitz

Personal webpage: http://www.next.unipr.it/index.php/en/

 

Anne PluymakersEarly Career Scientists Representative
João DuarteEarly Career Scientists Co-Representative

anne-225x300joao-225x300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about Anne and João, and the TS Early Career Scientists team, in the TS blog “Introducing our Early Career Scientist Team”!

 

Andrea ArgnaniProgramme Committee member for Methods and Techniques

andrea_maccalube2_2016-cropI am a Senior Scientist at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the National Research Council in Bologna, Italy. In the last 20 years, I carried out research on the tectonic evolution, kinematic reconstructions and geodynamics of the Mediterranean, with special attention to the central Mediterranean palaeogeography, the flank instability of Mount Etna, and the active tectonics of the Messina Straits, Malta Escarpment and central-southern Adriatic Sea. I started with sandbox modelling of Inversion Tectonics in Ken McClay’s laboratory at Royal Holloway (UK), and have been (much later) in charge of the Analogue Modelling Lab at the University of Parma for a couple of years.

I joined the Tectonic Division panel only recently, last year, and am supervising the Methods and Techniques sessions, with much help from Susanne.

Personal webpage: http://www.ismar.cnr.it/people/argnani-andrea?set_language=en&cl=en

 

Rebecca BellProgramme Committee member for Extensional Tectonic Settings

photo_bellI am a Lecturer in Geology and Geophysics at Imperial College London (UK) and I study tectonic evolution in a variety of settings using next generation controlled-source seismic methods and drilling data. One of my primary research interests involves understanding what factors control the geometry and evolution of continental rifts.

I am a member of the programme committee for Extensional Tectonics, which involves developing an exciting programme of sessions on rift-related topics at the EGU General Assembly.

Personal webpage:

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/rebecca.bell

 

Stéphane BonnetProgramme Committee member for Interplay between Tectonics and Surface Processes

photosbonnetnb-1I am Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Toulouse (France). My research activity focus on landscape evolution and on interactions and feedbacks between tectonic, climatic and surface processes, through a combination of original laboratory-scale modelling of landscape erosion and field studies, in France, Pyrénées, Argentina, Chile, Nepal and New Zealand.

In the TS programme committee I work together with the conveners on sessions related to the interaction of tectonics with surface processes.

Personal webpage: http://www.get.obs-mip.fr/profils/Bonnet_Stephane

 

Rüdiger KillianProgramme Committee member for Brittle Deformation and Fault-related Processes and Ductile Deformation, Metamorphism and Magmatism

ruediger-cropI am a post-doc doing research and teaching in the Department of Environmental Sciences, University Basel in Switzerland. One of my main interests is the study of deformed rocks. Trying to identify the involved processes as well as quantifying their contribution based on the analysis of microstructures isn’t only incredibly exciting but might also help to improve rheological models and laboratory to nature extrapolations.

I am in the TS programme committee since 2014 taking care of “Brittle deformation and Fault-related processes” and “Ductile Deformation, Metamorphism and magmatism” which is a very interesting and instructive task. Despite at the beginning, I have sometimes wished there’d be something between “brittle” and “ductile” or no separation at all, by now I’m pretty fine with this historically grown subdivision and I hope I’ll do my job to everyone’s satisfaction; to those who send in their session proposals and we try to find a suitable place for their ideas as well as to all those people who want to find the best session for their abstract within the “brittle” or “ductile” part of our programme.

 

Olivier LacombeProgramme Committee member for Convergent Tectonic Settings

img_blog-olI am professor of tectonics and structural geology in the Institut des Sciences de la Terre de Paris (ISTeP), Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), Paris, France. My fields of interest are various, including analysis of micro/meso structures in the field and under the microscope, paleostress reconstructions, fluid-rock-tectonics interactions and tectonic evolution and mechanics of fold-and-thrust belts.

Within the TS team, I am the officer of the programme committee in charge of ‘Convergent tectonic settings’, and I am trying through years to build a complete and attractive set of sessions on the topic, in close relation to the TS division president.

Personal webpage: http://merco220.free.fr

 

Hiroki SoneProgramme Committee member for Earthquake Tectonics and Crustal Deformation

hirokiI am an assistant professor in Geological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA and a visiting researcher at the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ in Potsdam. I work on experimental rock mechanics looking at the long-term ductile deformation of rocks at crustal depths. I apply knowledges gained in the lab to understand stress states around faults, and how they influence earthquake mechanics, and other geomechanical problems related to petroleum/geothermal reservoirs and subsurface waste management.

I have been a programme committee member for the TS team since 2015 helping organize sessions for the subdivision “Earthquake Tectonics & Crustal Deformation”.

Personal webpage: http://gle.wisc.edu/hiroki-sone-ph-d/

Introducing our Early Career Scientist Team

This week we would like to introduce the Early Career Scientist team of Tectonics and Structural Geology community. Behind the activities organized during EGU and the year-round contacts on social media there is not only 1 single person who is responsible, but a team of people. So here you can read a bit more about each individual and their favorite type of rock science, which simultaneously showcases the entire breadth of topics covered by Tectonics and Structural Geology.

If you’re an Early Career Scientist and want to get involved too, please contact Anne Pluymakers.

 

ECS representatives

anneAnne Pluymakers

I am a post-doc at Physics of Geological Processes, or PGP, in Oslo, Norway. My background is in experimental geomechanics with emphasis on fluid-rock interactions. My current projects are mostly related to shale and CO2. Within the TS team, I am one of the two current ECS representatives. This means I coordinate the different TS activities organized by the team members, and that I also connect to the ECS representatives of the other divisions, and of course to the Division President. What I like best about working in academia is that you’re not only stuck behind a desk, but you also get to build things as well as break some rocks.

 

joaoJoão Duarte

I am an early career researcher at the Instituto Dom Luiz, University of Lisbon, Portugal, where I coordinate the marine geology and geophysics group. I work in the intersection of marine geology, tectonics and geodynamic modelling, with a special focus in the Azores-Gibraltar (Africa-Eurasia) plate boundary. My running projects cover the topics of subduction initiation and supercontinental cycles.  I am co-representative of the TS-ECS. Together with the enthusiastic team of bright ECS presented here we organize a lot of exciting activities within EGU. I am passionate about science communication and I love to share the fun of understanding the workings of the Earth with the general public.

 

The team

Blogmasters

elenoraElenora van Rijsingen

I am a PhD student in Rome and Montpellier, as part of the ITN project CREEP. I study the relationship between the roughness of subducting seafloor and seismogenic behaviour of subduction zones, by using natural data and analogue experiments. Besides that, I also really enjoy being involved in any type of outreach activities. Within the TS team, I am editor of this TS blog, together with Mehmet Köküm. This means that I write blog posts, but also invite other people to write a guest blog.  The reason I became a geologist is because I love how everything on and within the earth is connected, at scales that we humans can hardly even imagine.

 

mehmetMehmet Köküm

I am a 3rd year Phd student and Research Assistant major in Geology at Firat University in Turkey. My PhD involves fault kinematic analyses, using fault slip data obtained from fault surface. I am a field geologist and work on geological mapping, structural geology and active tectonics. I also use remote sensing techniques and digital elevation models to trace the geometry of an active fault. Within the TS team, Elenora van Rijsingen and I are the current EGU Bloggers. We work together to keep the TS Blog on the EGU website up-to-date. If you have any ideas for guest blogs, feel free to contact us!

 

Team members

subhajitSubhajit Ghosh

I am a doctoral research student at the Department of Geology, University of Calcutta in Kolkata, India. By training, I am a structural geologist at the Experimental Tectonics Laboratory (ETL). We mostly work on experimental modelling of different geodynamic and geological processes and rock deformation from micro to meso-scale. My PhD is about understanding the temporal as well as the spatial evolution of the fold-thrust belts in a collisional setting. I also use sandbox models to investigate the neo-tectonic activity of seismically active orogenic fronts. My field area is the eastern Himalaya (Darjeeling-Sikkim). Field trips in the Himalayas are evergreen and enriching for me as it renders exposures to many unknown places and with different sort of life, culture and food. Being part of the ECS-TS team is a fascinating experience; it is great to connect with so many young researchers like myself from all over the world and to become acquainted with their scientific pursuits.

 

annaAnna Rogowitz

I am currently postdoctoral researcher in the structural processes group at the Department of Geodynamics and Sedimentology (University of Vienna, Austria). My research focusses on the (broad) field of strain localization processes in the ductile regime of the lithosphere. After studying the deformation behaviour of calcite marbles for years, I decided to move a bit deeper in the Earth’s interior, and recently started a project on the rheology of eclogites. I love my job for many reasons, which I can’t possibly all list here, but the most recent one I discovered is how incredible fun it is to teach microtectonics! Within the ECS-team, I help in the organization of the ECS dinner during the EGU General Assembly. I also currently try, together with a few others, to organize a pre-EGU field trip for early career scientists.

 

anoukAnouk Beniest

I am a PhD candidate at the ‘Institut des Sciences de la Terre de Paris’, or ISTeP in Paris. I have a background in structural geology and petrology. My PhD project is about the geodynamics of rifted margins, looking at the effects of large-scale, thermal processes on basin-scale processes using a thermo-mechanical and a petroleum system model. Within the TS team, I do the ECS-Monday and jobs-on-Friday announcements on Facebook. This means that I am continuously looking for recent Tectonics/Structural Geology publications by our ECS colleagues, so if you have a publication, send it to the ECS/TS team and it might land on the page! Why did I choose to study geology in the first place? Well, I couldn’t really choose between studying physics/chemistry/mathematics, or spending the rest of my life travelling. I figured a career in geosciences could combine all of my interests. So far, I have not been disappointed and I am looking forward to the challenges and exotic places yet to come.

 

marieMarie Etchebes

I obtained my PhD in geophysics at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, and followed by a post-doc at Earth Observatory of Singapore. As part of my PhD and postdoc, I have been mainly involved in understanding the geometry, kinematics and mechanics of fault systems. My main goal has been to understand how earthquake ruptures repeat through time and space along a given fault or within a fault system. To achieve this goal, I have studied quantitatively the response of geomorphic landscapes to earthquake-induced deformation. Since March 2014, I am a structural geologist at Schlumberger Stavanger Research center (Norway). My main topics cover user-guided automated technologies for fault extraction and characterization from seismic surveys; for realistic geometric and kinematic 3D fault models building;  for structural restoration and paleo-stress analysis, for geomechanical forward modeling And analysis/integration of digital outcrop analogues.

 

rolandRoland Neofitu

I am a M.Sc. student at LMU Munich. My main background lies in tectonics and structural geology. Most of my work involves the tectonics and rift propagation of the southern segments of the East African Rift.  I do this by fault mapping from DEM and satellite data, as well as by studying uplift maps. I am a recent addition to the TS team, so I hope to be able to make an active contribution to the group soon. My favorite moment as a geologist was seeing the Carboneras fault for the first time at Sopalmo, Spain. I became a geologist because of the field work that can be done at amazing places. I hope to be able to visit the East African Rift as well soon.