"The Trans-Amazon Drilling Project"

Paul A. Baker (Duke) & Sherilyn C. Fritz (University of Nebraska—Lincoln)
Friday, March 2, 2018 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm

The Amazon/Andes of tropical South America is a key region on Earth, and its rainforests host over half of all terrestrial plant species. The forests and their biota have evolved together with the physical landscape, closely linking processes in the Earth's interior with surface climate and landscapes, ecosystems, and biodiversity.

The proposed Trans-Amazon Drilling Project will address fundamental questions about the geologic and biotic evolution of the Amazon, focusing on (1) how Cenozoic climate and geologic history, including uplift of the Andes and development of the Amazon fluvial system, influenced the origins of the Amazon rainforest and its incomparable biodiversity; and (2) the origin of the Amazonian “Pentecaua” diabase sills, one of Earth’s largest intrusive complexes, and the impacts of this intrusion on the atmospheric gas composition and mass extinction at the Triassic/Jurassic boundary. These goals require long sedimentary records, which, in most of the Amazon region, can only be obtained by drilling.

We propose ICDP drilling of the entire Cenozoic sequence and where they occur, the underlying CAMP mafic sill/sediment comples in five continental sites in four different ancient sedimentary basins that are aligned along the modern Amazon River and that transect the entire near-equatorial Amazon region of Brazil, from the Andean foreland to the Atlantic Ocean. This transect, coupled with proposed IODP sites on the Amazon continental margin, will span 40˚W to 73˚W, thus encircling nearly 10% of Earth’s equatorial circumference. We believe that this work will provide transformative understanding of Amazonian geological and biotic evolution that addresses important and long-standing questions about the linkages between the geophysical environment and its biotic history.

About the Speakers

Paul A. Baker, Professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences

I am interested in how the physical environment (mountains, climate, river, etc) has evolved through time and how that history has affected the biogeographic origins of tropical biota. I am also interested in how the DNA of extant organisms encodes this environmental history and how we can use genetic sequencing to reconstruct environmental history. Ultimately, I am interested in the biotic and geologic history of the neotropical forest.

Sherilyn Fritz, George Holmes Professor Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and Biological Sciences

My interests lie at the interface of geological, ecological, and atmospheric sciences and focus specifically on the interaction of lakes with the atmosphere and the land surface, both in contemporary times and during the Quaternary. I specialize in the application of diatom analysis to questions of environmental change, although my current projects complement diatom-based reconstructions with geochemical and geomorphic approaches. My research also combines studies of lacustrine stratigraphic records with descriptive and experimental studies of modern lakes as models for interpretation of fossil sequences. My current research projects focus on long-term hydrologic variability in tropical South America and in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions of North America.

About the Series

The Graduate Lecture Series [GLS] is a weekly lecture featuring EAPS Professors geared towards EAPS Graduate Students, Researchers and Postdocs. Lectures usually take place on Fridays from 4:30-5:30 pm in 54-915 unless otherwise noted (term-time only). For more information please contact: Allison Provaire, provaire@mit.edu.