Thursday, December 03, 2015

Fall 2015 U-M Geoscience News

Ben van der Pluijm ended a nearly 15 year stint as director of the Global Change Program, which offered a set of introductory courses on planetary stewardship and sustainability, and (College of LSA’s first) minor degree (GCminor). The inception of this educational program was funded by generous support of the Hewlett Foundation and the U-M’s Provost Office, in collaboration with Tim Killeen (now president of Univ of Illinois) and other colleagues at U-M. The GC Program has been absorbed by U-M Program in the Environment’s growing offerings. Ben is now developing a new course that focuses on societal resilience (Earth/Environ259), moving from the aspirations of sustainability to the impacts of change. Over the summer, Ben also worked on a new version of the successful Earth Structure textbook, which changed so much that a new title will be used (draft cover below). “Processes in Structural Geology and Tectonics” radically reorganizes the standard course outline, by integrating observation, theory and process, without losing site of fundamentals. The primary goal of this new approach is to improve students’ understanding and retention of key elements and processes in this area of study. An experiment with online posting is under development (, allowing greater international access and lower prices (see also earthstructureweb on Facebook).

Graduate student Austin Boles continues the development of H analysis as a proxy of fluid sources, most recently on samples from the Alpine Fault of New Zealand. Erin Lynch is similarly working on sources and timing of fluid history, focusing her efforts on the Cordilleran fold-thrust belts of S and N America. Samantha Nemkin, jointly supervised with Rob van der Voo, continues her work on the timing of remagnetization using the paleomagnetic fold test in limestones and fold dating of interbedded shales. Several undergraduate students are also involved in these projects. Various projects with recent group members Anja Schleicher (GFZ Potsdam) and Elisa Fitz-Diaz (UNAM) are continuing as well. A project on dating deformation in the Canadian Rockies that started well over a decade ago with then-PDF Peter Vrolijk (van der Pluijm et al., Nature, 2001), culminated in a regional study and synthesis of the Alberta Rockies that emphasizes the importance of short deformation pulses instead of long-lasting, continuous deformation (Pana and van der Pluijm, GSAB, 2015). These views are not embraced by everyone.

Ben and Lies continue to host U-M alumni travel, most recently to the Barents and White seas, visiting Russian harbor cities like Murmansk and Arkhangelsk (picture), seeing samples from the bottom of the Kola Peninsula deep hole (an amazing 12 km deep!), and foggy Nordkapp and Tromsø in Norway, all of which with 24 hr daylight.

Lastly, a GSA-Baltimore set of sessions organized by PhD grads Sam Haines, Bernie Housen, Eric Tohver and Arlo Weil celebrates Ben’s 30 years of research and graduate mentoring at Michigan, and, gasp, his 60th birthday.

Modified from: Geoscience News, Fall 2015.

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