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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING
Doing Business As Name:University of Wyoming
PD/PI:
  • Kevin R Chamberlain
  • (307) 766-2914
  • kchamber@uwyo.edu
Award Date:06/30/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 179,992
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 179,992
  • FY 2020=$179,992
Start Date:07/01/2020
End Date:06/30/2023
Transaction Type:Grant
Agency:NSF
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Paleomagnetism and Geochronology of Mafic Dikes in Morocco, Reconstructing West Africa in Proterozoic Supercontinents
Federal Award ID Number:1953286
DUNS ID:069690956
Parent DUNS ID:069690956
Program:Tectonics
Program Officer:
  • Stephen Harlan
  • (703) 292-8552
  • sharlan@nsf.gov

Awardee Location

Street:1000 E. University Avenue
City:Laramie
State:WY
ZIP:82071-2000
County:Laramie
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:00

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Wyoming
Street:
City:
State:WY
ZIP:82071-2000
County:Laramie
Country:US
Cong. District:00

Abstract at Time of Award

Over billions of years of Earth history, continents have drifted across the globe, periodically assembling into supercontinents. Pangea was the most recent of these: a single landmass that joined the Americas to Europe and Africa, prior to spreading of the Atlantic Ocean. Pangea was likely preceded by more ancient supercontinents named Rodinia (about 900 million years ago) and Nuna (about 1.5 billion years ago), both existing within the “Proterozoic” time interval of primordial life. Although these supercontinents have names, their exact arrangements of continental fragments remain uncertain. Regardless, geologists are beginning to speculate on whether the supercontinental transitions generally have an accordion-like pattern of motion (imagine a future for the Americas reversing their course and drifting eastward to close the Atlantic Ocean and re-collide with Europe and Africa), or whether continents circumnavigate the globe (imagine the Americas continuing to drift westward to close the Pacific Ocean and collide with eastern Asia and Australia, thus turning the old supercontinent “inside-out”). These ideas help shape our view of Earth’s evolving deep interior over billions of years, and also give geographical context to the formation of mineral deposits, ancient climate records, and biological evolution at the longest timescales. This project uses two complementary methods of laboratory measurement to determine how the continents have moved across the Earth’s surface: paleomagnetism—the ancient record of the geomagnetic field that is recorded by rocks; and the isotopic dating of the age of rocks using the radioactive decay of uranium to lead. The project focuses on the least well-understood continental fragment in the Nuna and Rodinia supercontinental landmasses: the West African craton. Within West Africa, particularly the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco, recent advances of geological understanding provide an opportunity to apply the two methods to ancient volcanic rock systems (“mafic dikes”) of a variety of ages, to produce more accurate reconstructions of the Nuna and Rodinia landmasses and to discover the patterns of Earth’s supercontinental transitions. The project will involve collection of rock samples in the field, laboratory analyses on those specimens, and publication of results in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to the scientific goals of the project, important societal outcomes associated with this project include training the next generation of Earth scientists in an important science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) discipline; incorporation of the project’s results into public museum displays; and development of educational modules with K-12 public school teachers. Uncertainties in the configurations of supercontinents Nuna and Rodinia currently permit either of two end-member views on long-term global geodynamics: whether supercontinents tend to revert to prior configurations, or turn “inside-out.” It is also possible that they have alternated between those two patterns in time. West Africa's paleogeography is the least constrained of all major Precambrian cratons, and its previously hypothesized placement either within the middle of pre-Pangean supercontinents or along their periphery is crucial to the aforementioned debate. This project seeks to conduct an integrated paleomagnetic and geochronological study of mafic dike swarms in Precambrian inliers of the Anti-Atlas Mountains, Morocco. High-quality and precisely dated paleomagnetic poles obtained from this study will fill a notable gap in the tectonic and kinematic history of West Africa and neighboring blocks in Nuna and Rodinia, and provide essential ground-truth to the debate on supercontinental transitional styles. 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.

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