In the mountains of Idaho, Dr. Matthew McKay and Sourav Nandi from Missouri State University braved the cold in search of mountainous answers.
Two hundred million years ago, the edge of North America was in present-day Idaho. A series of islands collided with the continent, created mountains and added to North America.
“The entire states of Oregon and Washington were created through the collision of Japan-like islands to North America,” assistant professor of geology McKay said.
Nandi, a geology master’s student, is researching the process of continent construction for his thesis. Part of this research is figuring out how long it takes for the islands to be “glued” to the rest of North America.
Nandi is looking at the places where the islands collided with Idaho using a high-precision device to detect the small gravity changes in rocks to “peer into Earth’s crust and determine where major boundaries are observed,” McKay said. “Mountain belts are very thick and have roots that extend well below the surface.”
So far, Nandi has found faults that had not been previously accounted for. “The last geologists to work in this area in high detail were here working in the 1950s and 1960s,” McKay said. “We’ve learned so much since then, including major advances in plate tectonics. In the 1950s, we didn’t really understand that the plates moved around. Now, we can put what we see in the field into proper context.”
McKay worked in this area for his master’s as well. He is familiar with the geologic history of the area.
The Society of Economic Geologists awarded Nandi $2,100 for his research, “Geologic mapping and gravity investigation of an accretionary orogen in western Idaho: Oxbow-Cuprum shear zone and Salmon River suture zone.”
He used the funding for a four-wheel-drive vehicle rental and fuel. Nandi worked in a remote area, so he drove far distances on hard terrain to get to relatively close areas. The United States Geological Survey also funded this work.
McKay and Dr. Kevin Mickus, distinguished professor of geology, are Nandi’s academic advisers. Master’s student Mark Brown and undergraduate field assistants Derek Spurgeon, Ashley Gerik and Dalton Breeding aided Nandi in the field.
For more information, contact McKay at 417-836-5318.