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Regional geological syntheses consolidate disparate data sets into a coherent conceptual framework. As such, they are not merely summaries of existing data, but serve as vehicles towards the recognition of new relationships between data sets, the creation of new concepts concerning orogenesis, and understanding the region in a broader, global, context. They also provide requisite regional 'grounding', or context, for a multitude of more specialized studies. Regional syntheses are also milestones that mark what is known of the geology of an area at a given point in time and thus help to elucidate critical geological aspects of a region that yet require attention.
The Appalachian Orogen is one of the classic mountain ranges of our planet; it has served as the incubator for such global tectonic concepts as the geosynclinal theory, the application of plate tectonics to mountain belts, thin-skinned tectonics, and mid-crustal detachments beneath highly allochthonous crystalline crustal 'flakes'. The last comprehensive synthesis of the orogen is nearly forty years old; since that time, there has been considerable growth in the types of data that are used to assess an orogen, as well as a quantum leap in Appalachian geological data. Clearly, from the standpoint of scientific advancement, a new synthesis of Appalachian geology is needed. In addition, the constant utilization and citation of previous Appalachian syntheses even though they are sorely outdated, speaks for the need of such a new synthesis.
Consequently, we propose to compile and publish a geological synthesis of the entire Appalachian orogen under the joint authorship of Dr. James Hibbard (North Carolina State University) and Dr. Cees van Staal (Geological Survey of Canada), with the following objectives:
i) To integrate all available modern data sets in order to objectively and coherently characterize the geologic evolution of the major crustal blocks for the entire orogen. The integration of disparate data sets may well illuminate new relationships in the orogen.
ii) To create a balanced, comprehensive introduction to Appalachian geology such that professionals either unfamiliar with the orogen or familiar with only portions of the range can quickly gain an understanding of the fundamental evolution of the entire mountain belt. In this way, it can provide regional context and elucidation of individual data sets, such as those generated by geophysical or isotopic studies.
iii) To create a volume that can serve as a unifying text for either a 'capstone' undergraduate course or graduate course in Appalachian geology. The proposed volume is motivated, in part, by Hibbard s Appalachian geology course at North Carolina State University and the lack of a comprehensive text for this course.
The timing of such a project is particularly compelling, as it follows immediately on the heels of publication the Lithotectonic Map of the Appalachian Orogen (Hibbard et al., 2006). The proposed authors for the new synthesis volume, Hibbard and van Staal, were the main authors of that map; thus, at present, they are currently up to speed on the staggering volume of Appalachian literature. In addition, production of the proposed volume will be complete by the time the National Science Foundation-sponsored EarthScope transportable array ('Bigfoot') is anticipated to arrive in the Appalachian region, c. 2012. An up-to-date synthesis volume of Appalachian geology will be an invaluable resource for the interpretation of the large geophysical data sets to be generated by Bigfoot and for the EarthScope-affiliated 'GeoFrame' initiative (Tikoff et al., 2006).
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Dr. James Hibbard (North Carolina State University) and Dr. Cees van Staal (Geological Survey of Canada)
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