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SG&T Division
Thank you to our sponsor:
GSA Structural Geology
& Tectonics Division

Field Forum

Structure and Neotectonic Evolution of Northern Owens Valley and the Volcanic Tableland, California

13–19 September 2009

David A. Ferrill
Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238-5166, USA,
Alan P. Morris
Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238-5166, USA,
Nancye H. Dawers
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118, USA,
Field excursions and discussions will be led by the conveners and the following individuals:

You are invited to express your interest to participate in a Field Forum that will explore one of the most active extensional–trans-tensional basins in the United States. Extensional deformation and basin development, mechanisms and rates of deformation, and the relationship between observable structural features and seismicity are key topics in structural geology and tectonics. Research into these topics has drawn geoscientists from numerous disciplines to northern Owens Valley and the Volcanic Tableland of eastern California. Superb exposure, rapid deformation, and the presence of the ~758,000 year old Bishop Tuff as a key marker horizon make this an ideal field laboratory for investigations into the structure and neotectonic evolution of an actively forming, continental trans-tensional basin. The past decade has seen a virtual explosion of this research, and lessons from northern Owens Valley have proven relevant to other extensional and trans-tensional systems around the world. We are organizing this five-day field forum to gather investigators from diverse disciplines to share results and explore the interrelationships between long-term deformation, geodetic measurements, seismicity, fault growth and interaction, and extensional and trans-tensional basin development in northern Owens Valley, California, USA.


The evolution of extensional basins, and the extensional and trans-tensional fault systems that bound them, are of increasing interest to many geoscientists. Seismic hazard assessment in areas of extensional and strike-slip faulting rely on both geologic and geodetic evaluations in determining patterns of fault activity, rates of displacement, and seismic recurrence. Understanding extensional fault systems is crucial for hydrocarbon exploration and production in diverse settings, including active basins and passive margins worldwide. Also, analysis of faulting is of great relevance to groundwater resource assessment and to radioactive waste disposal at various sites worldwide, including Yucca Mountain, Nevada, USA. Motivated by these needs and interests, as well as the quest for understanding the western Basin and Range, the Eastern California shear zone, and the Sierra Nevada, many researchers have focused their efforts on northern Owens Valley, the Volcanic Tableland, and the adjacent Sierra Nevada Range and White Mountains. Recent advances here include geodetic strain measurements across Owens Valley and the surrounding region, detailed mapping of earthquake ruptures and geomorphological investigations of active faults, assessment of displacement partitioning in the region, fault scaling studies and analyses of fault architecture in the Volcanic Tableland, detailed investigations of fault zone deformation mechanisms and permeability in volcanic tuffs, and analyses of recent seismicity.

This field forum will review these research results and build on these investigations by addressing several questions:

We anticipate that this field forum will consolidate recent research in Owens Valley; elevate the level of understanding of the structure and neotectonics of northern Owens Valley and the Eastern California shear zone, Walker Lane region; foster collaboration between researchers working in the area and related topics elsewhere; spark new ideas; and stimulate new investigations.


The field forum will meet in Bishop, California, USA, which is located within about a 30-minute drive to each of the field sites. Field transportation will be by full-size 4-wheel-drive sport utility vehicles. Occasional evening discussions, likely to run about two hours each, will be held — the first for introductions and overview presentations and the second for a poster session to allow participants to present field forum–related materials for group discussion. Evening discussion sessions will be held at the White Mountain Research Station, just east of Bishop.

Special Issue of Lithosphere

The editors of GSA’s new journal, Lithosphere, have indicated their support for a special issue focused on the field forum theme. Articles will be published electronically as they are completed and collected into a special issue after the field forum.

Expression of Interest

Due by 20 March 2009

You can inform the organizing committee of your interest by sending an e-mail to David Ferrill. When responding, please indicate your level of interest (definitely wish to participate, likely participant, possible participant). Please indicate your area of specialization, your affiliation, and whether you are a graduate student, as well as your interest in submitting a manuscript for Lithosphere. Space for the forum is limited to 35 to 40 participants and it is expected to fill up quickly.

Registration and fees are still to be determined (please check for updates). The registration fee will cover hotel lodging for six nights (13-19 September), meals, guidebook, and all transportation to and from the Reno/Tahoe International Airport. Airfare to Reno is not included. Deadline for payment of registration fee: 13 July 2009.

13 Sept. Welcoming reception and overview presentations.
14 Sept. Structural development in the Volcanic Tableland: Faults and fault system architecture, pyroclastic units, volcaniclastic sediments, fault scaling relationships.
15 Sept. Basin-scale structure of northern Owens Valley and Volcanic Tableland, including the Sierra Nevada frontal fault system, Coyote Warp relay ramp, Volcanic Tableland rollover, and the White Mountain fault.
16 Sept. Tectonic geomorphology: Drainage evolution and sedimentation on the Volcanic Tableland, range-front topographic development, alluvial fan sedimentation, and implications for fault slip rates.
17 Sept. Paleoseismology, geodesy, and seismicity: Basin-margin faulting, intrabasinal deformation and fault kinematics (including right-lateral slip transfer between the Owens Valley fault and the White Mountains fault, between the Big Pine and Bishop regions).
18 Sept. Late Cretaceous to present: Long-term tectonic evolution and rates and patterns of deformation.
19 Sept. Departure: Drive from Bishop to the Reno/Tahoe International Airport for departing flights.