Questions from Springwater Environmental K-8 School’s 7th and 8th Graders

Why did you feel you wanted to do this as a job? What got you interested in seismometers/ the work that you do?   I have been interested in the ocean and marine biology since middle school in Florida. Sometimes however, you need to enter a field of study through a side door. I collaborate with geologists who study plate tectonics to communicate their research to schools and the general public.

How many years have you been a part of the Cascade Initiative?  This is my fourth year working with the Cascade Initiative.

What do you enjoy most about your job? Least? Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on?   I most enjoy working with graduate students doing research and going to sea. Writing grants and reports are a necessary evil. But twice I have had the opportunity to travel to Antarctica to help deploy and recover hydrophones to listen for earthquakes and whales.

What is the largest and oldest tectonic plate?
Finding the largest, oldest tectonic plate is a very tricky question! The reason this question is so tricky is that plates move slowly over time, breaking up into smaller plates or growing into larger ones. There can be very big plates that are very old, but because they may be completely subducted- we have very little or no way of knowing these plates ever existed! However the oldest tectonic plate that we can still observe is likely a small piece of the North American plate, located in Canada. What scientists have observed in parts of Canada are many small and very old (Pre-Cambrian) micro-plates. Over time these plates accrete together into the larger plate that we see today.
There are a few larger tectonic plates that we can observe today- such as the Eurasian and Pacific plates. The Eurasian plate spans across most of Asia and Europe. The Pacific plate spans almost all of the Pacific Ocean. However, there are many traces of past plates that have almost fully subducted, that could have been bigger- we just don’t have a good way to reconstruct their sizes yet. -Amy

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