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USGS Scientists Attend MARGINS "Source To Sink" Workshop

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Picturesque Lake Quinault, nestled in the state of Washington's Olympic National Park, was the venue for the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored MARGINS workshop entitled "Source to Sink" held from September 27-October 1,1999. The MARGINS program is an ambitious and exciting NSF initiative that seeks to understand the complex interplay of processes that govern continental-margin evolution. Included within the MARGINS program is a sedimentology/stratigraphy/geomorphology component that promises to generate new breakthroughs in our understanding of coupled land-ocean systems.

The "Source to Sink" workshop brought together a diverse assortment of researchers, from hillslope geomorphologists to marine geologists, to create a science plan for the MARGINS Sedimentology and Stratigraphy community. MARGINS steering committee members Chuck Nittrouer (University of Washington) and Neal Driscoll (WHOI), who did a superb job of managing a spirited group of about 80 scientists, chaired the workshop. The Coastal and Marine Program was well represented by individuals from all three field centers: Terry Edgar, Courtney Harris, Bill Normark, Andrea Ogston, Chris Sherwood, and Chris Sommerfield.

Days one and two were devoted to keynote presentations representing a wide range of terrestrial and marine geoscience disciplines. These presentations educated participants on the "state of our science" and focused on whole-system, process-oriented research. Sediment production, transport processes, storage, landform/seascape evolution, and stratigraphy were discussed in the context of glaciated landscapes, river flood plains, carbonate platforms, and siliciclastic margins, among others. The depth and breadth of the presentations were impressive as the latest trends in field observational, laboratory, and numerical-modeling studies were covered.

In addition to the keynote speakers, all participants were provided an opportunity to voice their ideas through 2-minute presentations (25 in all) which generated lively dialog and exchange that continued after hours.

Days three and four included plenary and breakout sessions to discuss scientific details to formulate a conceptual plan and identify criteria for study sites to be funded through the MARGINS program. There was a consensus that ideal sites for field research would be active systems (in the processes, not tectonic sense) in which headwater, alluvial, and marine processes and products could be investigated systematically. Investigating such areas in this context will require an interdisciplinary team of researchers, and a regional approach to studying the components of the system.

Workshop participants proposed seven areas located in the U.S. and abroad as potential sites. Two study locations will be selected early next year after a community review process.

So, what is unique about the MARGINS Sedimentology and Stratigraphy? As outlined in the "Source to Sink" planning document, the focus is on understanding the links within entire sediment-dispersal systems, at multiple temporal and spatial scales, from turbulence to tectonics and from sedimentary fabric to sequence stratigraphy and basin analysis. Steering committee representatives stressed that only those scientific objectives that can be advanced through the collective benefit of a large coordinated and focused study will be considered fundable through the MARGINS initiative.

The new MARGINS research, however, will not displace traditional funding opportunities available through NSF core programs. In an effort to improve the quality and competitiveness of MARGINS proposals, steering committee members proposed organizing cross-disciplinary educational seminars to be held next year. This strategy would provide an excellent opportunity for investigators to better identify research topics in which links among terrestrial-marine systems are needed and where substantive advances can be made.

Presently, drafts of the conceptual plan created at the workshop, field-site criteria, and descriptions of potential study locations are being prepared and will be posted on the MARGINS Web site by the end of October. A Town Meeting open to all will be held at the AGU meeting in December to present the results of the "Source to Sink" workshop and to gather input from the community. For more information on MARGINS and the Sedimentology and Stratigraphy program, visit the MARGINS Web site.

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