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The National Science Foundation has awarded an International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program to provide four weeks of geological field-based research and training experiences across Slovakia for undergraduate and graduate students. These students investigated geological processes that occurred in Slovakia due to the closure of branches of ancient ocean basins. Because of its extensive exposure of ocean suture zones and crustal fragments, Slovakia is an ideal location to study how continents grow.

(A) Deep Time Map™ produced by Colorado Plateau Geosystems, Inc showing the paleogeography of the Alpine Fold and Thrust belt ~50 Ma. The locations of Slovakia and Turkey are indicated. (B) Geologic map of the same region outlining major tectonic components of the belt (Woudloper, 2009). (C) Another Deep Time Map™ showing the North American plate and the location of Texas ca. 50 Ma.

In this program, students partnered with Slovak researchers to explore a multidisciplinary range of geological concepts discussed in their courses. Prior to COVID, students visited field areas across Slovakia to develop a regional-scale perspective. Each region that was visited has a central hypothesis in the form of a geodynamic model developed by or with the involvement of former IRES students that will be tested.

Although we cannot visit Slovakia due to COVID concerns, funding is available for undergraduate students to work on previously collected rocks throughout the summer of 2021. We are actively seeking undergraduate researchers interested in this paid summer opportunity to be hosted on the campus of UT Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. The research is geared towards students learning more about

  • geochemistry and petrology
  • economic geology
  • structural geology
  • tectonics
  • igneous and metamorphic rocks, and
  • ore deposits.

The program is restricted to undergraduates at any stage in their academic career who are underrepresented in geosciences, broadly defined, who want to increase their knowledge of these topics and become trained on laboratory equipment commonly used by geoscientists in a variety of fields.

The IRES experience allowed me to network internationally and gave me fieldwork training in an international setting. I also gained familiarity with the process of grant-writing and reporting. Brent trained me on ArcMaps and gave us a hands-on crash course in the collection and application of spatial data. The international nature of the project also allowed me to broaden my cultural understanding and practice a new language. –Zoe Yin, 2015-2016 NSF-IRES participant

This IRES program has societal value, as paleogeographic reconstructions like the one in the image are often to identify critical economic resources that formed during specific times in Earth’s history and assess geologic hazards that result due to reactivation of older faults or mass movement of rocks. For example, during the Late Cretaceous, Texas was a region of sediment deposition that will have implications for future oil and gas resources, while Slovakia was undergoing arc-arc collision and metamorphism. In this program, students will apply geochemical methods, lending greater insight into the history and mechanics of the assembly of the country.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1460050

Contact Information

PI: Dr. Elizabeth Catlos
Email: or
Office: JGB 3.320B

coPI: Dr. J. Richard Kyle
Office: JGB 3.316D

coPI: Dr. Brent Elliott
Director of Surface Mining and Reclamation Division at Railroad Commission of Texas

The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Geological Sciences
2275 Speedway Stop C9000
Austin, TX 78712-1722

Work: +1 512 471 4762
Fax: +1 512 471 9425
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Site Last Modified: April 9, 2021