New EarthScope Geochronology Graduate Student Research and Training Program


Organizers: Rebecca Flowers (CU), Ramon Arrowsmith (ASU), Jim Metcalf (CU), Blair Schoene (Princeton), Tammy Rittenour (USU) - Fall 2014

The EarthScope Institute on Geochronology and the Earth Sciences brought together 43 participants and 16 geochronology experts in Vancouver, British Columbia on October 17-18, 2014, immediately before the 2014 Geological Society of America National Meeting. The audience consisted of graduate students and faculty interested in using geochronology in their research, but lacking experience with the methods. The course introduced the participants to the basic theory of well-established geochronology methods, highlighted examples of how geochronology data sets can be used to answer significant Earth science questions, and emphasized practical considerations and tactical strategies for designing projects that include geochronology. The methods covered ranged from U-Pb and 40Ar/39Ar to luminescence and 14C dating. The speakers included long-standing leaders in their fields as well as early to mid-career scientists. In addition, the course introduced the new EarthScope Geochronology Graduate Student Research and Training program, a multi-year project that will offer support of up to $10,000 to graduate students to collect and interpret geochronology data with relevance to EarthScope science targets (http://www.earthscope.org/information/publications/science-plan) through visits and hands-on data acquisition in participating geochronology labs (see more information at http://www.earthscope.org/science/geochronology/). The program aims to promote interdisciplinary and innovative science by fostering new relationships between graduate students, scientists, and geochronology labs at different institutions. The awards will be made via a competitive process with the first submission deadline on March 16, 2015. Feedback from both the lecturers and participants was overwhelmingly positive about the potential benefits of this program.

Alexandra Horne

Alexandra Horne measures pit volumes created during laser ablation at the Arizona State University Geochronology Laboratories. The new Training Program will support graduate students collecting similar geochronology data in support of EarthScope science targets.

This unique gathering of geochronology experts and participants led to insightful exchanges about promoting successful interdisciplinary collaborations. Themes that emerged included the importance of: 1) close interaction between geochronologists and collaborating students at all stages of the process, even from the outset of study design so that optimal samples are targeted and collected properly, 2) using appropriate mineral separation and sample preparation procedures prior to arriving at the lab, 3) reporting the uncertainties associated with geochronology dates, and 4) developing skills to rigorously evaluate, present, and interpret geochronology data. This hands-on training at the graduate level provides the foundation for students to become an expert user of these facilities throughout their careers.

Watch the videos of the geochronology methods presentations on the official EarthScope channel at www.youtube.com/earthscopeinfo