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 Greenland.

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 L.A.

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


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