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Ancient Greece to help geologists study earthquakes in New Mexico

Greg Mack, professor of geological sciences at New Mexico State University, liked science from an early age. By the time he was a freshman in high school, he knew he wanted to specialize in a science that could be studied outdoors. His options were geology and wildlife biology; he chose to work with tectonic plates rather than Petri dishes.

ll be the sixth presenter in this spring semester's College of Arts and Sciences Colloquia. He will discuss "Crustal Extension and Historical Earthquakes in Central Greece" from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28, in Room 107 of the Science Hall on the NMSU campus.

Since 1999, at least four earthquakes in Greece measured at least 4.3 on the Richter scale. While most of these quakes rumbled and rattled the earth north of Athens, Mack and an international team are working in the opposite direction, near the Gulf of Corinth. They're mapping the faults to see which ones are active and trying to see how sediment is deposited in rift basins created by these faults since these basins are major sites for oil and gas.

The knowledge gained from these studies can be applied to New Mexico since the two best places to study active continental rifts are New Mexico, which has the Rio Grande Rift, and central Greece.

"Even though they're both continental rifts, there are some differences that help give geologists a more complete picture of continental rifting," Mack said, adding that he plans to explain these differences in his colloquium.

The study of earthquakes in Greece helps two different disciplines merge: the humanities and the sciences. Greece's long written history can be used to help study earthquakes since there are certain places where ancient temples are now submerged below sea level.

"We can use the age of those temples to get some idea of how rapidly the earth subsides," Mack said. "I will try to incorporate as much of the archaeology as I can to show how it helps us understand the geology. That makes Greece a special place to study."

The colloquia series will continue with:

- "Engine and Enigma: A Learner's Journey" - Kevin McIlvoy, Department of English, April 11, 2006

- "Saving the Ranch: Conservation Easements in New Mexico" - Jack Wright, Department of Geography, April 18, 2006

- "Mexican Descent Youth at the Crossroads of Sameness and Difference: A Mosaic of Youth Cultures and Border Identity" - Cynthia Bejarano, Department of Criminal Justice, April 25, 2006

Bob Nosbisch
March 20, 2006