Short Name:

Integrated Evaluation of Mantle Xenoliths from the Fosdick Mountains, Antarctica

The PI proposes an investigation of mantle xenoliths entrained within a suite of ~1.4 Ma mafic volcanic centers in the Fosdick Mountains, Antarctica. These recently entrained mantle xenoliths offer a unique opportunity to characterize the West Antarctic lithospheric mantle that has been subject to active modification from Cretaceous to Present by plate-boundary processes, such as orthogonal to oblique plate convergence, intracontinental rifting, continental breakup, and Neogene volcanism. These volcanic centers derive from heterogeneous mantle sources and host a compositionally diverse suite of mantle xenoliths that have varied mineral assemblages and microstructures. The proposed research has two complementary goals: to assess structural and compositional heterogeneity within the upper mantle and the variability of intrinsic and extrinsic variables at a variety of lithospheric levels; and to use textural and compositional characterization of the xenolith suite to elucidate possible causes of heterogeneous seismic anisotropy within the Marie Byrd Land mantle lithosphere and inform competing hypotheses explaining the active volcanism, thermal anomaly, and slow seismic velocities beneath West Antarctica. Furthermore, characterization of samples of the mantle beneath West Antarctica provides a type of 'ground truth' in support of contemporary ANET/POLENET seismology research that seeks to determine mantle composition, temperature, and sources of seismic anisotropy. The PI is in his first-year as a tenure track faculty member at Boston College. A postdoctoral researcher will be trained in EBSD techniques, interdisciplinary polar research, and the mentoring of undergraduate investigators. Two Boston College undergraduates will participate in the research and a priority will be placed on selecting underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students. An existing sample suite assembled over more than 20 years of NSF sponsored field work, will be used. The PI will create a digital database for microstructural, textural, and xenolith data for rapid dissemination to the international Antarctic community.

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