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Tectonics Research and Applications for Emriver Models

Blog Post by Steve Grimmer, Artist Mechanic at LRRD

I’ve recently stumbled upon some fascinating blog posts by Philip S. Prince of the Virginia Division of Geology and Mineral Resources posted on Virginia Tech’s excellent GeoModels website for their Active Tectonics and Geomorphology Lab.  Dr. Prince is building models using colored sands in clear, plastic-sided boxes to illustrate and study tectonic processes. His models are based on the works of Dr. Jacques Malavieille from University of Montpellier in France.

These models are animated by a moving belt of sandpaper under the layers of sediment, causing the exact sorts of thrust faults, deformation sheets, and outcrops that one can observe in mountain ranges.  The videos of Dr. Prince’s and Dr. Malavieille’s models are very engaging, but it’s Dr. Prince’s article on the Mapenduma Anticline of West Papua New Guinea that really caught my attention. Dr. Prince does a great job of using his models along with satellite images from Google Earth to show how that geologic feature formed and is undergoing erosion. He even includes some pictures of a braided river system developing at the foot of the ‘MA’ due to poor management practices!

Video URL:

I’m putting a line on my to-do list here at Little River to try similar experiments with our color-coded media in our Emriver models. If it’s possible to move our model’s stratigraphy and subsequently erode it with water, we may have found some new applications for research.

Image from Google Earth

Image: Dr. Philip Prince at the Virginia Division of Geology and Mineral Resources