Fall 2014 Colloquia

September 8: Herschel McDivitt, Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Title: Oil and Gas Production in Indiana – How is it Regulated?

Synopsis: In my presentation will cover the following areas:

  • Overview of current oil and gas production in Indiana
  • How and why it is regulated
  • Role of the Division of Oil and Gas
  • What about all those "scary" things like hydraulic fracturing, earthquakes, and fiery faucets?
Rooney Landscapt

September 15: Tyrone Rooney Michigan State University. Title: From initiation to termination - the critical role of magma in rift evolution

Abstract:The evolution of the continental lithosphere during the rupture of continents involves a series of processes that requires a multi-disciplinary approach to their study. Geochemistry provides a powerful tool that can augment geophysical and tectonic observations and provide a unique control on the rifting process. In this talk we will examine the geochemical evidence for mantle plume contributions to rift magmatism, the consequences of lithospheric thinning on magma generation, and the long term impact of rifting processes on the upper mantle. Our focus will be on the East African Rift - the archetypical example of continental rifting, with application to magma-rich rifting worldwide.

September 22: Alan Chapman, Missouri University of Science and Technology. Title: Constraints on Plateau Architecture and Assembly From Deep Crustal Xenoliths, Northern Altiplano (SE Peru)

Abstract: Newly discovered xenoliths from southern Peru permit examination of lithospheric processes by which thick crust (60-70 km) and high average elevations (3–4 km) resulted within the Altiplano, the second most extensive orogenic plateau on earth. The most common petrographic groups of xenoliths studied here are igneous or metaigneous rocks with radiogenic isotopic ratios consistent with recent derivation form asthenospheric mantle (87Sr/86Sr = 0.704-0.709, 143Nd/144Nd = 0.5126-0.5129). A second group of high-grade metasedimentary xenoliths, the focus of this study, have more radiogenic compositions (87Sr/86Sr = 0.711-0.782, 143Nd/144Nd = 0.5122-0.5126) and are interpreted as metamorphosed cover units of the central Andes. Felsic granulites representing Mesozoic (Upper Triassic or younger) metasediments, based on the distribution of detrital zircon U-Pb ages, equilibrated at ˜0.9 GPa (˜30 km paleodepth) and 750°C. Equivalent non-metamorphosed rocks comprise the country rocks that Quaternary xenolith-hosting volcanic rocks intrude. A Sm-Nd garnet-whole rock isochron of 42 ± 5 Ma demonstrates that garnet growth took place during the late Eocene. Monazite grains associated with quenched anatectic melts from the same rocks yield a range of ion microprobe U-Pb ages from 3.2 ± 0.2 to 4.4 ± 0.3 Ma. These disparate geochronologic datasets are reconciled by a model wherein Mesozoic cover rocks were transferred to ˜30 km depth beneath the plateau in the Eocene and progressively heated until at least Pliocene time with no signs of unroofing, as evidenced by thermodynamic modeling, monazite chemistry, and homogenous garnet zonation. Mafic granulites and peridotites from the same xenolith suite apparently comprise the basement of the metasedimentary sequence, exhibiting isotopic characteristics of central Andean basement. Calculated equilibrium pressures for these basement rocks are as low as 1.1 GPa (36 km below the surface) suggesting that the basement-cover interface lies beneath the northernmost Altiplano at some 30-35 km below the surface. Together, these results indicate that the thickening of the crust under the northernmost Altiplano started earlier than the documented major uplift episodes of the northern plateau (latest Oligocene and Miocene) and was coeval with a flat slab-related regional episode of deformation. Total shortening must have been at least 10% more than previous estimates in order to satisfy the basement to cover depth constraints provided by the xenolith data. Sedimentary rocks at this depth require that Andean basement thrusts decapitated earlier Triassic normal faults, trapping Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks below the main decollement. Magma loading from intense Cenozoic plutonism within the plateau may be responsible for part of the burial of the Paleozoic cover rocks to > 30 km as well as played a significant role in thickening the crust under the northern Altiplano. Fragments of Arequipa terrane basement or Brazilian craton crust were not recognized among the xenoliths investigated here.

Tudor Lecture September 29: Bill Ellsworth USGS Menlo Park, California. Title: Mixing Water and Faults: The Changing Patterns of Seismicity in Stable North America

Dr. William L. Ellsworth has over 40 years of experience as a research seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. Currently a senior research seismologist in the Earthquake Science Center, he served as Chief of the Branch of Seismology and Chief Scientist of the Earthquake Hazards Team. He received B.S. in Physics and M.S. in Geophysics from Stanford University and his Ph.D. in Geophysics from MIT. His research focuses on problems of seismicity, seismotectonics, probabilistic earthquake forecasting, and earthquake source processes.

He was a founder of the PASSCAL Program of IRIS, co-principal investigator of the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD), and currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). He is a past President of the Seismological Society of America, a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the Department of the Interior.

Abstract: The dramatic increase in earthquake activity in the central and eastern U.S. since 2009 is an unintended consequence of changing practices for the production of oil and gas from low permeability formations. Although hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has been widely discussed in the media as a cause, it does not appear to be a significant contributor to the increased seismic activity. Rather, the anomalous earthquakes can be linked to disposal of wastewater by injection into deep, undepleted formations in many cases. In this talk, I will discuss several field investigations of induced or potentially induced earthquakes and challenges these earthquakes pose for the development of predictive models of seismic hazard.

October 6: Audrey Sawyer, University of Kentucky Title: Hydrologic speed bumps: Heterogeneity in water and nutrient exchange between rivers and aquifers

Abstract In recent decades, nitrate loads to rivers and coasts have increased dramatically and contributed to eutrophication and hypoxia in coastal waters. A primary sink for nitrate in the environment is denitrification in aquatic sediments. In rivers and estuaries, surface water-groundwater exchange transports nitrate across the sediment-water interface and thus influences nitrogen fate. Due to heterogeneity in aquatic sediments, rates of water and nitrate exchange vary over orders of magnitude at scales ranging from centimeters to kilometers. Here, I use numerical models and field observations to quantify sedimentary controls on surface water-groundwater interactions and implications for nitrogen fluxes from aquifers to rivers and estuaries. At the core-scale, I show that the presence of small zones of organic-rich silt significantly increase the efficiency of nitrate removal in shallow aquatic sediments. Nitrate removal rates are as much as 100 times more efficient in heterogeneous sediments than equivalent homogeneous sediments. At larger scales, stratigraphy strongly controls the form and fluxes of nitrogen from aquifers to estuaries. Field studies from the Delaware Inland Bays (USA) show that peat-filled paleochannels divert fresh groundwater discharge to channel margins. Saltwater exchange and ammonium production are locally enhanced in sediments near the channel margins. In interfluves far from paleochannels, fresh groundwater discharges rapidly near the coast and carries a large nitrate load. I estimate that more than 99% of the groundwater-borne nitrate flux to the Delaware Inland Bays occurs within interfluve portions of coastline, and more than 50% of the ammonium flux occurs at paleochannel margins. The difficulty of characterizing heterogeneity in aquatic sediments remains one of the greatest challenges to measuring and predicting nitrogen fate in aquatic systems.

October 13: Becky Lange, University of Michigan. Title: The origin of voluminous, highly differentiated rhyolites, the most evolved magmas on Earth and the resolution of several paradoxes

Abstract: The tectonic setting of voluminous (≥100’s of km3) highly differentiated (high-SiO2, low-Sr) rhyolite is often continental lithospheric extension, where bimodal eruption with basalt is common. The origin of these rhyolites is paradoxical because their presumed immediate parental source (dacite) is required to be even more voluminous, and yet is generally sparse as an erupted magma type in these tectonic settings. Instead, voluminous dacite most commonly erupts at continental arcs with thick crust, a tectonic setting notable for the scarcity of rhyolite (e.g., central Andes and eastern Sierra Nevada batholith). In this study, Ar geochronology, geochemistry, and the phenocryst assemblage of rhyolites erupted episodically over a 40 Myr interval from western Mexico are used to propose a model in which progressive episodes of partial melting lead to the formation of voluminous highly differentiated rhyolite. A key component to the model is lithospheric extension, which permits the invasion of significant volumes of basaltic magma into the upper (≤ 20 km) crust. Initial basaltic injections freeze into the granitoid upper crust as a complex of sills and dikes. Over time, subsequent injections of basalt drive partial melting of this mixed lithology. At temperatures of ˜850 ± 50°C, in the presence of an H2O-rich fluid, partial melts of a 50:50 source lithology will be rhyolitic, of which ˜70-80% may be from the pre-existing granitoid and ˜20-30% from the basalt intrusions. However, the Sr in the rhyolitic partial melt may be preferentially derived from the mafic sills, owing to a lower bulk partition coefficient for Sr (and possibly higher Sr contents) in the gabbro vs. granitoid. Thus, these initial rhyolitic melts may have a Sr isotopic signature that is largely derived from the gabbroic intrusions, whereas other major and trace elements may be derived from the granitoid source. Over time, numerous batches of these rhyolitic melts will collectively form large volumes of "true" granite in the upper crust. It is proposed that extensive partial melting of these young minimum-melt granitic bodies, driven by another episode of extension and influx of basaltic magma into the upper crust, allows significant volumes of highly differentiated rhyolites to be erupted, often coevally with basalt.

October 19-22: No colloquium, GSA Meeting in Vancouver BC, Canada

October 27: Bill Gilhooly, IUPUI Earth Sciences. Title: Tracking photosynthetic sulfide oxidation in a meromictic lake using sulfate δ34S and δ18O.

November 3: Jennifer Glass, Georgia Tech. Title: Metals, Methane and Microbes: Exploring Novel Metabolisms by Integrating Geochemical and Biological Approaches

Abstract: Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with 25x the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Microbes are responsible for the majority of methane cycling on Earth, and methane-based metabolisms may have sustained ancient ecosystems prior to the rise of oxygen. We are exploring microbial mechanisms of anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) in diverse habitats by integrating geochemical and molecular biology approaches. This approach enabled us to identify key enzymes catalyzing AOM coupled to sulfate reduction in uncultivated microbes at marine methane seeps, and is now the focus of a new project aiming to characterize unknown microbes mediating AOM coupled to iron and manganese reduction in Lake Matano, an ancient ocean analogue. I will present these and other examples to illustrate the power of coupling geochemical data with activity rate measurements and next-generation "meta-omics" sequencing technologies to probe biogeochemical questions from multiple angles

November 10: Mickey Gunter, Distinguished Professor and Chair, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho and Marsh-Professor-at-Large, University of Vermont, Burlington Vermont
Title: Teaching and research in mineralogy: From academic halls to courtroom walls.

When I started my career as a professor, I assumed I would do the normal professor "thing": teach, perform research, and provide service, all in my chosen specialty of mineralogy. This more or less happened until the fall of 1999, when I was contacted by attorneys who represented WR Grace in a series of "asbestos-related" civil lawsuits resulting from their former vermiculite mine near Libby, Montana. The attorneys wanted me to explain to a jury some basic geological and mineralogical concepts (i.e., what’s vermiculite, what’s asbestos, how did the vermiculite mine form, etc.). Like most mineralogists I was well aware of the issues surrounding asbestos; in fact I’d even written a paper titled, "Asbestos as a metaphor for teaching risk perception," published in the Journal of Geological Education in 1994.

For some background, what started as concerns for asbestos exposure in the occupational settings or schools has, over the past 20-30 years, morphed into concern for "asbestos" exposure in the natural environment. And while "pure" asbestos was mined and used in the occupational setting, the current issues more often deal with purported "asbestos" content of consumer products ranging from duct tape to baby powder. Many of these legal issues deal with the definition of asbestos in differing settings (i.e., the built vs. the natural environment).

My main role in these cases is mineral identification and characterization. In some cases this can be straightforward and in others very complex, with the complex occurring both on a mineralogical and nomenclature level. As an example of something that should be straightforward, the following was obtained by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from a government agency in regard to mineral identification in soils: Pyroxenes are very hard to distinguish from Na/K poor actinolite/tremolite [sic]. It might be done in some cases, but it would be slow, costly, and there is no certainty of success if attempted.I could not have predicted 15 years ago where my work in the legal arena would have taken me, while the above-cited material might be a low point, editing a petition presented to the Supreme Court of the USA would be a high point.

Paul Knauth

November 17: Paul Knauth, Arizona State University. Title: Faint Young Sun Paradox–Worse than thought?

Scientists have long wondered how Earth’s surface was warm enough to have liquid water in the Archean, given that the young sun’s luminosity was some ˜25% lower than it is today. Wat does this mean for the composition of the atmosphere at the time? Paul thinks he has just analyzed a preserved sample of the Archean atmosphere itself.

November 18 On Tuesday at noon, he will present The Precambrian Greening of the Earth. Paul is convinced that photosynthetic forms of life colonized land far earlier than most geologists think. He and Martin Kennedy published their evidence in Nature in 2009, and other contingents of the earth science community are beginning to come around, just in the last couple of years.

Abstract: 40 years of investigation of the oxygen isotopic composition and geologic nature of sediments over geologic time continue to indicate that the early oceans at 3.5 Ga were as warm as hot tap water (˜60°C). According to current astrophysical models, the sun was 20% less luminous at that time and the whole Earth should have been frozen unless there was a special atmospheric composition to produce appropriate atmospheric heating. So far, the best modelers can do is produce a hypothetical (and questionable) atmosphere that would keep it barely above freezing–if that. The situation is even more dire for Mars, where most of the initial atmosphere was lost well before the Late Heavy Bombardment and the putative, subsequent "warm, wet period." I will show actual data, discuss various interpretations, explore assumptions in the speculative models, and express my own prejudices regarding many aspects of this important issue, including a possible direct analysis of the Archean atmosphere.

December 1: Terry Pavlis, University of Texas at El Paso. Title: Tectonics in Extreme Environments: Interactions between erosion and tectonics in the southern Alaska orogen.

December 8: Wolfram Kuerschner, University of Oslo Title: Vegetation patterns during the End-Triassic mass extinction: did better genes enhance survival chances of land plants?

Abstract: Polyploidy, or whole genome doubling, is regarded as an important evolutionary phenomenon. It is a key mechanism for plant speciation leading to new evolutionary lineages. It has been suggested that polyploid plant species may cope better with environmental stress than their diploid relatives, improving their survival chances during periods of dramatic biodiversity decline. So far, however, the fossil record of plants has remained largely unexplored as an archive for ancient whole genome doubling events. In my presentation I will focus on the Triassic – Jurassic (Tr-J) period, which witnessed large-scale volcanism (the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, CAMP) associated with the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. This scenario implies an increase in atmospheric CO2 and consequently rises in global temperature by about 5°C. The associated environmental changes caused one of the big 5 biotic crises in the fossil record. It shows a decline by 65% of marine invertebrate genera, and 20% of terrestrial families. By contrast, only one group of seed-ferns (Peltaspermales) went extinct. Conifers, particularly the Cheirolepidiaceae, became very dominant in the aftermath of the mass-extinction. In my presentation I show evidence for genetic mutations inferred from aberrant pollen clusters and variability in pollen size of the conifer pollen Classopollis. The data imply that this group of conifers produced unreduced pollen, which is regarded as one of the main mechanism of polyploid formation in modern land plants. Hence, the formation of polyploids may have reduced the extinction risk of these conifers during the Tr-J biotic crisis. Notably this conifer group appears to be hardly affected by environmental stress during the Tr-J period.