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How does plate tectonics work: From crystal-scale processes to mantle convection with self-consistent plates

Periodic Report Summary - CRYSTAL2PLATE (How does plate tectonics work: From crystal-scale processes to mantle convection with self-consistent plates)

CRYSTAL2PLATE is an EC-funded Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) coordinated by Dr Andréa Tommasi from Géosciences Montpellier (UM2), France. It is a coherent training and career development platform for early stage and experienced scientists in geodynamics, geochemistry, petrology, fluid mechanics and seismology composed by seven European academic institutions: the universities of Montpellier 2 (France) and Bristol (United Kingdom), Utrecht (the Netherlands), and Roma TRE (Italy), the ETH Zurich (Switzerland), the CNRS (France) and the CISC (Spain) and four associated industrial partners: Rockfield, Oxford Instruments, Schlumberger & Total.

CRYSTAL2PLATE objectives are to provide 10 early-stage researchers, which are engaged in PhD programs in the partner institutions, and 2 junior post-doctoral fellows an experience-based training through cross-disciplinary research projects that combine case studies in target areas with new developments in seismology, geochemistry, laboratory and numerical modelling of the mantle from the mm to the global scale. These multidisciplinary projects aim to answer a key question in earth sciences: How does plate tectonics work? From crystal scale processes to mantle convection with self-consistent plates.

CRYSTAL2PLATE started as planned on 1 April, 2009, but the web-based presentation of the network and publicity of the training positions were already effective from early March 2009. The kick-off meeting took place in May 2009 in Montpellier, France. By October 2009, a successful international recruitment process resulted in the hiring of nine highly qualified early stage researchers (ESRs) and one experienced researcher (ER). The two remaining positions were filled in March and September 2010. Gender balance of 58 % female is above the targeted level of 50 % female researchers in ITNs. Nine fellows hold European nationalities (British, French, German, and Italian), one comes from Russia, one from Australia and one from China. Declarations on the conformity were submitted to the European Commission for all 12 appointed researchers and a consortium agreement was signed.

In October 2009, the first annual CRYSTAL2PLATE workshop, which reunited all network members and 20 external participants, and the second supervisory board meeting were hosted in Montpellier. They were followed by a field trip to Lherz in the Pyrenees.

Three short courses: 'Processing seismic data using SAC', 'Textures and anisotropy', and 'Thermodynamics numerical modelling using PERPLEX', and a summer school on thermal convection in complex fluids were offered in 2010. These courses were followed by CRYSTAL2PLATE fellows and 78 external participants.

Assessment by the supervisory board in Orsay, France in September 2010 showed that all fellows had made important progress in their research projects and training. Notable successes to date, which have already been presented in major international conferences in Earth Sciences, include:
- follow-up of the evolution of dynamic topography with time in delamination experiments;
- simulation of supercontinent assembly and dispersion cycles in a three-dimensional (3D) spherical convection code;
- evidence for changes in olivine deformation and for melt segregation within the shear plane in peridotites deforming under sub-solidus conditions.
- data on evolution of deformation in a fossil LAB exhumed by continental thinning above a subduction.
- a parametric study of the role of shear heating-induced strain localisation on the subduction initiation.
- new data highlighting sharp vertical and lateral variations in seismic anisotropy in Sulawesi and Mediterranean subductions.
- implementation of melting laws and two-phase flow in a two-dimensional (2D) convection code. Integrating the effect of melting on the mantle rheology enhances thermo-mechanical erosion of the lithosphere above plumes.
- development of a new 3D visualization technique for fluid dynamics experiments.
- Rheological characterisation of a new analog material (Carbopol) that, like rocks, has a stress- and temperature-dependent rheological behaviour.
- New scaling laws for dynamics of free subduction.

The mid-term review meeting took place in Estepona, Spain on 17-18 January 2011: CRYSTAL2PLATE received an excellent review. It was immediately followed by the second annual CRYSTAL2PLATE workshop and a field trip to the neighbouring Ronda peridotite. Assessment of the fulfilment of the fellows' personal career development plans and of their satisfaction level further evidenced a good functioning of CRYSTAL2PLATE.

For complete details and regular updates visit our website:
The CRYSTAL2PLATE coordination team can be reached at