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Research > Research Departments > Geology & Geophysics

Geology & Geophysics
Overview | Awards & Recognition | Photos

Bob Detrick, Geology and Geophysics Department chair (right) with research specialists John Collins (left) and Beecher Wooding and the ocean-bottom seismometers they are building as part of a National Science Foundation-funded instrument pool. These instruments detect and record earthquakes and human-made sound sources to learn about the planet’s internal structure. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst)
The scientists and research staff of the Geology and Geophysics Department (G&G) study volcanism, the structure and evolution of the ocean basins and their margins, earthquakes and hydrothermal processes on the seafloor, and the role of the oceans in past climate change.

Staff, students, and postdoctoral investigators in G&G totaled 127 in 2003, and were involved in more than 250 research projects. In July, Associate Scientist Delia Oppo co-led a team of scientists, technicians, and students from the United States and Indonesia as they collected seafloor cores in the Makassar Strait, Indonesia. Oppo and her research team are using these cores to determine whether long-term variations in the behavior of El Niño/Southern Oscillation influence regional climate variations on time scales of hundreds to thousands of years. They want to find out if changes in ocean circulation and temperature in the western Pacific happened at the same time as North Atlantic climate variations during glacial and interglacial periods.

In the spring, Associate Scientist Rob Reves-Sohn led the first of four expeditions to study a massive sulfide deposit on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at the Trans-Atlantic Geotraverse (TAG) site, about 2,000 miles east of Miami. To understand what is driving hydrothermal activity at the site, they deployed a network of seismometers and temperature probes from R/V Atlantis to monitor earthquake activity associated with faulting and fluid flow. Statistical correlations between seismic activity and vent fluid temperatures will be used to study fluid circulation patterns beneath the surface and to understand the role of faulting in sustaining hydrothermal flow over tens of thousands of years.

Rob and Juan Pablo Canales, a research associate, returned in the fall for the second research leg to carry out a seismic refraction experiment aimed at delineating the position and size of magma bodies that might be driving hydrothermal activity at this site. Two additional legs are planned for 2004 to recover the seismometers and probes.

In September, Joan Bernhard accepted a tenured associate scientist position in G&G. Bernhard’s research lies at the intersection of geology, biology, and chemistry—an emerging interdisciplinary field known as geomicrobiology—as she pursues studies of tiny single-cell creatures that are surprisingly abundant in oxygen-depleted environments, such as deep in the Black Sea and in some seafloor mud sediments.

—Robert S. Detrick (rdetrick@whoi.edu)
Department Chair

Related Web Sites
Geology & Geophysics Department
Videos of deep earth convection forces
Model of deep-sea hydrothermal system