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Collision Course

About 470 million years ago, a volcanic arc collided with the continent Laurentia in what is today Ireland. In August 2014, more than a dozen graduate students spent eight days in northwestern Ireland observing the basins and volcanic rocks that record this ancient docking process.

Leading the field trip was famed British geologist John Dewey, who completed his Ph.D. on geological structures in western Ireland in the late 1950s.

“Dewey took the then brand-new concept of plate tectonics out of the oceans and onto the continents in the late ’60s,” said Daniel Stockli, a professor and researcher in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences.

Stockli took the trip along with Mark Cloos and Whitney Behr, who jointly taught the Tectonic Problems spring graduate course. Cloos and Behr also are professors and researchers in the Department of Geological Sciences.

Ahead of the trip, Dewey came to UT-Austin in March 2014 to give guest lectures on the process of arc-continent collisions and the collision area in Ireland, a place where Stockli said certain fundamental concepts of plate tectonics were invented.

“It was a unique experience for us and the students to go somewhere with a pioneer of plate tectonics and look at an area that helped shape part of our field,” said Stockli.

Graduate students traveled to northwestern Ireland to observe an arc-continent collision site.