Stacia Gordon Lecture

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Bhutan Himalaya

Time Capsules from deep within the Himalayan Mountains: how tiny crystals record the evolution of Earth's largest mountain belt

A public lecture by Stacia Gordon, Associate Professor, University of Nevada-Reno

The Himalayan mountain belt began to form as a result of the collision of India with Asia ~50 million years ago. This mountain belt continues to grow today, and has resulted in the largest mountains on Earth. As the Himalaya has grown taller, it also has grown deeper. At depth (~40 km below Earth’s surface), pressures and temperatures are so great as to begin to melt and ductilely deform rocks that were originally at the surface of India and Asia. These rocks form the base or the roots of the Himalayan mountain belt. Across the Himalaya, some of the rocks that were buried to these great depths have since been exhumed back to the surface. Tiny, but very rugged minerals extracted from these exposed rocks represent time capsules that preserve a record of the thermal, chemical, and temporal evolution of Himalayan rocks from burial to exhumation.

In this lecture Dr Gordon traced this evolution through the Bhutanese Himalaya, describing how the tiny crystals reveal the role of melting, deformation, major fault systems, and erosion in the evolution of the mountain belt. The data collected from the active Himalaya are crucial for understanding ancient mountain systems where much of the record of their evolution has been erased.

Dr Stacia Gordon is an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada-Reno. She studies the thermal, rheologic and chemical changes that occur as a result of plate-tectonic processes and is particularly interested in understanding rocks that have been subjected to ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) conditions, the role of partial melting on the rheology of the rigid upper part of Earth, the driving forces behind rapid rates of exhumation of the deep crust, and the interactions of deformation and metamorphism. She is on sabbatical in Perth through July 2016, splitting time at Curtin University and The University of Western Australia. 

Dr Gordon is a UWA Robert and Maude Gledden Senior Visiting Fellow.