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Field Forum

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

13–19 September 2009 • Bishop, California, USA

David A. Ferrill and 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 Forum Participants
click for larger image
Guleed Ali (15), Callan Bentley (7), Kim Bishop (11), Douglas Burbank (17), Nancye Dawers (3), David Ferrill (24), Kurt Frankel (8), Douglas Goff (13), Wes Hildreth (14), Simon Kattenhorn (19), Eric Kirby (5), Jeff Lee (9), Peter Lovely (12), Lisa Majkowski (18), Margaret Mangan (10), Alan Morris (2), Thomas Neely (21), Fred Phillips (23), Robert Phinney (20), Jeffrey Schaffer (1), Gregor Schoenborn (6), Dave Stockton (22), Markos Tranos (16), John Weber (4)

This GSA Field Forum was held in Bishop, California, and the surrounding regions of northern Owens Valley, USA, on 13–19 September 2009. Owens Valley is one of the most tectonically active transtensional basins in the United States. Superb exposure, rapid deformation, and the presence of the ca. 758,000 year old Bishop Tuff as a key marker horizon make this an ideal area for investigating the structure and neotectonic evolution of an actively forming, continental transtensional basin. Moreover, the distributed nature of faulting, particularly in the exposure of Bishop Tuff, known as the Volcanic Tableland, makes this an ideal natural laboratory for studies of fault growth, scaling, interaction, and linkage. The past two decades have seen a virtual explosion of this research, and lessons from northern Owens Valley have proven relevant to other evolving fault populations around the world.

We organized this Field Forum to gather investigators from diverse disciplines to share results and explore the relationships between long-term deformation, geodetic measurements, seismicity, fault growth and interaction, geochronology, and extensional and transtensional basin development. Our goals for the field forum were to (1) consolidate recent research in northern Owens Valley, (2) elevate the level of understanding of the structure and neotectonics of northern Owens Valley and the Eastern California shear zone–Walker Lane region, (3) foster collaboration between researchers working in the area and elsewhere, and (4) spark new ideas and stimulate new investigations.

The overall approach of the forum was to begin in an area where fundamental processes of fault evolution are easily elucidated. Therefore, we chose to focus first on the extensional faulting across the Volcanic Tableland, where displacement distributions along faults are well preserved. General concepts of fault growth, interaction, and linkage provided the underlying framework for discussion of large evolving fault systems.

The first and last days of the week were reserved for travel to and from eastern California. Thus, a total of 5 full days were spent in the field.

The general itinerary for the Field Forum is summarized as follows:

The Field Forum benefited from having a diverse group of participants, which included researchers from academia, industry, and federal agencies. Students, both graduate and undergraduate, played an active role and contributed greatly. In addition to the discussions held in the field, many of the participants shared results of their research via evening poster sessions and short talks. The exchange of ideas and the recognition of the different perspectives of the geomorphologists, volcanologists, geochronologists, geophysicists, and structural geologists attending the forum were particularly instructive. The overarching goals of the Field Forum were achieved, and several specific remaining issues were identified for further study.

A special issue of the GSA journal Lithosphere titled "Structure and Neotectonic Evolution of Northern Owens Valley and the Volcanic Tableland, California" is in preparation. The special issue is being developed following a new model whereby accepted articles are published in regular journal issues as they are completed. The papers are designated as special issue papers when they are published and will be assembled into an online special issue.


The University of California White Mountain Research Station provided a venue for evening discussions and presentations.