From micron to mountain-scale
  • Room 018, Rolle Building, Plymouth University

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The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences organises a regular series of research seminars throughout the academic year to which everyone is welcome to attend. Speakers - both external and internal to the University - will talk on topics related to all aspects of Earth Sciences.

Today's speaker is Dr Catherine Mottram from the University of Portsmouth.

Mountains form where the Earth’s plates collide; during this upheaval rocks are deformed by massive forces. The rates and timescales over which these deformational processes occur are determined from tiny accessory minerals that record geological time through radioactive decay. However, there remain major unresolved challenges in using chemical and microstructural markers to link the dates to specific deformation events and discerning the effects of deformation on these phases.

Here, the chemical signatures and deformation textures from micron-scale accessory phases are used to decode the record of mountain belt-scale deformational processes encrypted in the rocks. The Himalayan orogen is used as an ideal natural laboratory to understand the chemical processes that have modified the Earth’s crust during orogenesis. 

Combined laser ablation split-stream U-Th-Pb and REE analysis of deformed monazite and titanite, along with Electron BackScatter Diffraction (EBSD) imaging and Pressure-Temperature (P-T) phase equilibria modelling are used to: (1) link accessory phase ‘age’ to ‘metamorphic stage’; (2) to quantify the influence of deformation on monazite (re)crystallisation mechanisms and its subsequent effect on the crystallographic structure, ages and trace-element distribution in individual grains; and (3) understand how deformation is accommodated through different chemical and structural processes that operate at varying scales through time.

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