Skip directly to content

Minimize RSR Award Detail

Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Basil Tikoff
  • (608) 262-4678
Award Date:07/10/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 299,850
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 299,850
  • FY 2020=$299,850
Start Date:08/01/2020
End Date:07/31/2023
Transaction Type:Grant
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: Creating Earth’s earliest continents—an integrated investigation of the growth and modification of western Australia’s Pilbara Craton
Federal Award ID Number:2020057
DUNS ID:161202122
Parent DUNS ID:041188822
Program:Petrology and Geochemistry
Program Officer:
  • Jennifer Wade
  • (703) 292-4739

Awardee Location

Street:21 North Park Street
Awardee Cong. District:02

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Wisconsin-Madison
Street:1215 W Dayton St
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

The formation of Earth’s earliest continents is topic of significant interest in the Earth Sciences. A major issue is that rocks preserved from Earth’s earliest history are rare; there are few rocks from the first billion years of Earth’s history, and no intact rocks at all remaining from the first 500 million years. Geologists must use a very fragmental record to determine when first continental crust formed, what was it composition, and how much of it existed. This grant will support geologists to study the Earth’s oldest, unmodified fragment of a tectonic plate – the Pilbara terrane of West Australia – to address these issues. The approach is to first determine the age of the rocks through the formation of minerals, such as zircons, that act a radioactive clocks (geochronology). Once the age is known, the chemistry of the rocks can determine if they were derived from an earlier crust or extracted directly from the Earth’s mantle (geochemistry). The patterns and fabrics of these rocks (structural geology), when integrated with geochemistry and geochronology, will determine how and when the rocks were added to the crust to create these early continents. The major outcome of this work will be a better understanding of the history of the Earth’s earliest crust and the processes that formed it. The work includes student training, mentorship and support for a junior scientist (post-doctoral fellow), and international collaboration. Additionally, work with a cognitive scientist will help students envision geological processes over large time scales. The proposal will allow technique development of sophisticated geochemical and geochronologic analyses and their use in the WSU isotope laboratory by national and international visitors. This proposal seeks to address the fundamental processes of crustal formation, modification, and stabilization by examining granitic complexes—the Mt Edgar and Corunna Downs—and associated surpracrustal rocks of the 3.5 – 2.8 Ga East Pilbara terrane of West Australia, through an integrated geochronological, geochemical, and structural study. The East Pilbara terrane is one of the best-preserved examples of Paleo- to Mesoarchean crust on Earth, displaying the classic dome-and-keel pattern in which granitic complexes (domes) are surrounded by steeply dipping volcanic and volcaniclastic supracrustal lithostratigraphy (keels). Two central, interlinking questions guide our research: 1) What were the mechanisms and timing of emplacement of the granitic complexes; and 2) What were the mantle and crustal source regions for the rocks of the East Pilbara terrane. To investigate these questions, our work will focus on: 1) The geochemistry and structure of the compositionally and deformationally heterogeneous granitic dome complexes; 2) The timing, metamorphic conditions, and structure in the deformed regions of the supracrustal lithostratigraphy (“greenstone keels”); and 3) The geochemistry of the metavolcanic rocks in the supracrustal lithostratigraphy and the grantic domes, in regions of minimal deformation, to address the mantle and crustal source regions. This integrated geochemical and structural approach will provide information on first-order tectonic processes that resulted in the formation, modification, and stabilization of one of Earth’s earliest cratons and, therefore, provide important insights into the formation and preservation on some of the earliest continental crust on Earth. This project is supported by both the Petrology & Geochemistry and Tectonics programs. 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.

For specific questions or comments about this information including the NSF Project Outcomes Report, contact us.