Campus: CSU Los Angeles -- October 17, 2005
CSULA Faculty Traveled to the Lower Crust of the Earth
Traveling by foot, helicopter and boat through mountains, glaciers and icebergs for
about a month, Cal State L.A.'s geology assistant professor Nate Onderdonk was recently
part of a team of eight researchers conducting field work in the remote areas of eastern
According to Onderdonk, "East Greenland is one of the few places in the world where you
can get a look at the lower crust of the Earth."
This summer arctic expedition, funded by Chevron Texaco and the Norwegian Science Foundation,
involved professors from several universities in Europe and the U.S., including Cal State
With direct implication on interpreting oil-bearing rocks in the North Sea and other regions,
Onderdonk explains, "The work was focused on understanding how changes in rock properties
in the Earth's lower crust can result in the collapse of large mountain chains, the
formation of deep oil-bearing basins, and the break up of continents."
He adds that the expedition is important in learning about general tectonic processes and
in assessing oil reserves.
Despite severe weather, unstable cliffs and animal encounters, the team was able to evaluate
the development of a large sedimentary basin in the Scorsbysund area, investigate some
unique rocks that emerged from greater than 40km deep in the Earth's crust, and study a
large flat surface called a "peneplain" in geology. The team will return to eastern
Greenland next summer to complete the field research.
Onderdonk, who received his Ph.D. in geology from UC Santa Barbara, is also currently
researching tectonic problems in southern California including how and why large areas of
southern California have rotated along the San Andreas plate boundary and the development
of such major fault zones as the Big Pine fault north of Santa Barbara and the San Jacinto
fault near Hemet.
Contact: Margie Yu, Public Affairs Specialist, (323) 343-3047