UTD Professor to Help Convene Hawaii Workshop On Western Pacific Subduction Zone

Dr. Robert J. Stern

Dr. Robert J. Stern

Dr. Robert J. Stern, professor and head of the Geosciences Department at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) is helping organize a workshop in Hawaii next month on the chemistry and physics of one of the Earth’s most important subduction zones.

He will be joined at the workshop by UTD geosciences graduate student Trey Hargrove of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The workshop, to be held Sept. 8-12 in Honolulu, will focus on interior dynamics and chemical recycling associated with the 1,700-mile-long Izu-Bonin-Mariana arc system, which extends from Tokyo to Guam in the Western Pacific. The arc system is one of two sites identified by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) “subduction factory” initiative as an area for concentrated geophysical and geochemical study.

Subduction zones mark areas where one of the earth’s plates, usually a dense oceanic plate, descends beneath another plate. The subducted plate comprising the crust and part of the upper mantle, is mixed back into the Earth’s deeper mantle. The region where the plates descend is defined by deep trenches, lines of volcanoes parallel to the trenches – known as island arcs – and zones of large earthquakes dipping from the trenches landward beneath the volcanoes.

“Understanding the physics and chemistry of subduction zones is one of the great scientific challenges for the geoscientific community in the 21st century,” Stern said. “At the Honolulu workshop, some of the top talents in this field will share their research and insights into the environment of this important arc system.”

The workshop is expected to attract some 100 researchers from the United States, Japan and other nations.

In the spring of 2001, Stern led a six-week marine expedition, sponsored by the NSF, to survey and sample parts of the Mariana arc. Stern was joined by several students and professors from UTD, as well as by science teachers from school districts in two Dallas-Fort Worth area cities – Garland and Keller.

Stern will discuss the results of that expedition at the workshop.

Stern earned a Ph.D. degree in earth sciences from the University of California at San Diego and a B.Sc. degree in geology from the University of California at Davis. He became a member of the UTD faculty in 1982. His research interests include the evolution of the continental crust, applications of remote sensing for understanding the tectonics and resources of arid regions and the geology of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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