Incorporating Cutting Edge Scientific Results from the Margins-Geoprisms Program into the Undergraduate Curriculum, Rupturing Continental Lithosphere Part II: Introducing Euler Poles Using Baja-North America Relative Plate Motion Across the Gulf of California

Friday, 19 December 2014
John P Loveless, Smith College, Northampton, MA, United States, Scott E K Bennett, Geologic Hazards Science Center, Golden, CO, United States, Susan M Cashman, Humboldt State Univ, Arcata, CA, United States, Rebecca J Dorsey, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, United States, Andrew Mark Goodliffe, University of Alabama, Geological Sciences, Tuscaloosa, AL, United States and Melissa A Lamb, Univ St Thomas, Saint Paul, MN, United States
The NSF-MARGINS Program funded a decade of research on continental margin processes. The NSF-GeoPRISMS Mini-lesson Project, funded by NSF-TUES, is designed to integrate the significant findings from the MARGINS program into open-source college-level curriculum. The Gulf of California (GOC) served as the focus site for the Rupturing Continental Lithosphere (RCL) initiative, which addressed several scientific questions: What forces drive rift initiation, localization, propagation and evolution? How does deformation vary in time and space, and why? How does crust evolve, physically and chemically, as rifting proceeds to sea-floor spreading? What is the role of sedimentation and magmatism in continental extension?

We developed two weeks of curriculum, including lectures, labs, and in-class activities that can be used as a whole or individually. This component of the curriculum introduces students to the Euler pole description of relative plate motion (RPM) by examining the tectonic interactions of the Baja California microplate and North American plate. The plate boundary varies in rift obliquity along strike, from highly oblique and strike-slip dominated in the south to slightly less oblique and with a larger extensional component in the north. This Google Earth-based exercise provides students with a visualization of RPM using small circle contours of the local direction and magnitude of Baja-North America movement on a spherical Earth. Students use RPM to calculate the fault slip rates on transform, normal, and oblique-slip faults and examine how the varying faulting styles combine to accommodate RPM. MARGINS results are integrated via comparison of rift obliquity with the structural style of rift-related faults around the GOC. We find this exercise to fit naturally into courses about plate tectonics, geophysics, and especially structural geology, given the similarity between Euler pole rotations and stereonet-based rotations of structural data.