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Pioneer in Marine Geophysics Honored

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Poster with maps and images of the fault bearing her name is presented to Elizabeth (Betty) Bunce
Presentation: Poster with maps and images of the fault bearing her name is presented to Elizabeth (Betty) Bunce. Clockwise from left: Betty Bunce, Dave Du Bois, Hartley Hoskins, Dicky Allison, and Uri ten Brink. Photograph by Dann Blackwood.
At more than 8 km (5 mi) deep, the Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean. The trench is located about 130 km (80 mi) north of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and has been the subject of research by Earth scientists during the past 50 years.

Some of the early systematic studies of this challenging environment were conducted by Elizabeth (Betty) Bunce, a pioneer in marine geophysics and a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) until her retirement in 1980. Recent technological advances enable scientists to map the shape of the sea floor at these great depths by using the multibeam-bathymetry technique, which produces detailed morphology and a reflectivity image along a swath several miles wide on either side of the ship's track. The swaths are then "mosaicked," or merged together, to produce a topographic map of the sea floor and detailed shaded-relief and reflectivity images, which are akin to slanted aerial photographs on land.

Recent exploration of the trench funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Office of Ocean Exploration was conducted by a team from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of New Hampshire (UNH). This joint effort has produced for the first time a high-resolution (150-m [500-ft] pixel size) map of part of the floor of the Puerto Rico Trench. The part mapped, a quarter of the total trench area, is about the size of New Jersey.

One of the big discoveries from this mapping effort is a large active tectonic fault system at the bottom of the trench, where the Atlantic and Caribbean tectonic plates slide past each other. This fault system is several hundred miles long, and its activity has produced escarpments and depressions that are several hundreds of feet tall and deep, respectively. The new fault system was named the Bunce Fault, in honor of Dr. Bunce.

Betty Bunce reads a summary of recent models for the formation of the Puerto Rico Trench
Betty Bunce reads a summary of recent models for the formation of the Puerto Rico Trench. Uri ten Brink is on the left side of the photograph, and Hartley Hoskins on the right. Photograph by Dann Blackwood.
A colorful poster with maps and images of the fault bearing her name was presented to Dr. Bunce in a small ceremony on January 15 by the leader of the mapping team, Uri ten Brink. Uri is a research scientist with the USGS in Woods Hole and an Adjunct Scientist at WHOI.

The ceremony took place at Dr. Bunce's current residence at the Heritage Assisted Living Community in Falmouth, MA. Also present were Hartley Hoskins, Dave Du Bois, and Dicky Allison of WHOI and Dann Blackwood of the USGS. The ever sharp and vivacious Dr. Bunce shared some of her seagoing stories and her opinion of some of her old colleagues, to the delight of the small crowd. She expressed a keen interest in the present state of knowledge and read a summary of recent models for the formation of this deep trench.

Continued mapping of the entire trench area, stretching from north of the Dominican Republic to the Lesser Antilles, is planned for February and March of this year, after which a complete map of the sea floor will be presented to Dr. Bunce.

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS, University of New Hampshire, and NOAA Cooperate in Exploring the Puerto Rico Trench
November 2002
OBS Recovery off Puerto Rico
July 2000
Puerto Rico OBS Study
June 2000

Related Web Sites
Woods Hole Field Center
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Woods Hole, MA
Office of Ocean Exploration
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping / Joint Hydrographic Center
University of New Hampshire / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

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Competitive Edge of Invasive Species

Lake Mead Work Continues

Outreach Dolphin Rescue

London Interns Tour St. Pete

Congressional Briefing on Gas Hydrates

Volcanic Ash and Aviation Safety

Science Mentoring

Meetings Coastal Vulnerability

Lidar Data and Technology

International Deep-Sea Corals Workshop

Northeastern Coastal Ecosystems and Resources Workshop

Awards Shinn Wins 2002 Shoemaker Distinguished Achievement Award

Coastal and Marine Scientists Win 2002 Shoemaker Product Excellence Awards

Behrendt and Poag Elected AAAS Fellows

Normark Awarded Keen Medal

Staff & Center News A Tribute to Joe Newell

Marine Geophysics Pioneer Honored

Celebrating Careers of Five Retirees

Manheim Lectures on Trends in Scientific and Technological Innovation

Publications San Francisco Bay Earthquake Hazards

Effectivenes of Marine Reserves in Central California

Human Influence on Diatom Productivity and Sedimentation in Chesapeake Bay

Feb. / Mar. Publications List

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