CAREER: Merging Geoscience Research and Education to Investigate Convergent-Margin Deformation and Improve Spatio-Temporal Problem Solving in STEM Education
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Mountain ranges have significant impacts on water and mineral resources, human population centers, climate and weather, and are linked to natural hazards such as landslides, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Despite their societal and environmental impact, the development of mountain ranges remains enigmatic. This project is focused on reconstructing the age, location, and amount of deformation that formed the southern Peruvian Andes. This location is representative of other mountain ranges that form between converging oceanic and continental tectonic plates, allowing this work to advance the global understanding of mountain building. Products of this research are used to create new open-access geoscience course modules for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. A new Global Tectonics course for undergraduate and graduate students that is based on research from this project includes an international field research experience in the research area in southern Peru. This field experience links tectonics, resources, hazards, and human impacts, facilitating students'' perception of issues with global dimensions. These education initiatives contribute toward building a strong STEM workforce that is adept at working with diverse datasets to solve problems across spatial and temporal scales. This project uses field mapping, cross-section construction, geochronology, bedrock and detrital thermochronology, kinematic reconstruction, and virtual outcrop models to constrain the timing, position, and magnitude of crustal shortening accumulated across the southern Peruvian Andes since the Cretaceous Period. These datasets test how inherited rheologic contrasts, temporally variable subduction zone geometry, and interactions between surface and deep earth processes govern the development of mountain ranges along convergent margins. With this new dataset on the temporal and spatial patterns of deformation and mountain building, the principal investigator and students assess how the upper plate responds to changes in subduction zone processes, the discrepancies between measurements of crustal strain at geologic and modern time frames, and how crustal deformation, thickening, and surface uplift are linked in time and space. This work also contributes toward research and education goals identified by the geoscience and tectonics communities. This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.