PIRE: ExTerra Field Institute and Research Endeavor: Western Alps


ExTerra Field InstituteSubduction zones occur at convergent plate boundaries where one tectonic plate is forced deep into Earth’s mantle beneath another overriding plate. Subduction zones are the sites of major chemical differentiation within the Earth — this is where Earth makes buoyant continental crust. Because we cannot directly sample or investigate rocks at depth, we have no direct observations of deep processes in active subduction zones. Consequently, rocks that have been exhumed from fossil subduction zones are absolutely essential to understanding subduction – these rocks actually participated in subduction zone processes to great depths and retain a record of those processes. The ExTerra Field Institute and Research Endeavor (E-FIRE) will unite US ExTerra scientists and students with our European colleagues also working on subduction systems (through ZIP: Zooming In between Plates, a Marie Curie training network). The E-FIRE Field Institutes will gather ExTerra and ZIP scientists in the field in the Western Alps to collect field data and rock samples, discuss research questions, and develop new approaches to answering these questions together. Further scientific integration will occur through workshops, student exchanges, and student internships.

The proposed research focuses on three important aspects of subduction-zone processes:

1) Geochemical cycling by fluids within subduction zones
2) Timing and conditions of fluid release within subduction zones
3) Behavior of materials within subduction zones

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