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Apply by
6 Jan. 2013


Penrose Conference Announcement

Linkages and Feedbacks in Orogenic Processes—A Conference Honoring the Career of Robert D. Hatcher Jr.

30 March–4 April 2014 • Asheville, North Carolina, USA


Ryan Thigpen
Western Hemisphere Exploration Team, BP America, Houston, Texas, USA,
Christopher Bailey
Dept. of Geology, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA,
Harold Stowell
Dept. of Geological Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA,
Richard Law
Dept. of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA,
Funding for Students

We invite student applications for conference support. Funding awards will be based on the following criteria:

  1. students must be enrolled in a U.S. university,
  2. students must be in good academic standing — this will be evaluated from GPA (for 1st year students) and recommendations from advisors,
  3. preference will be given to those students who commit to presenting results of their research,
  4. preference will be given to students who plan a career in education and/or university-level research, and
  5. students must be actively pursuing research in an area such that conference is likely to be a direct benefit to the student’s research and scholarship.

Send an email expressing interest to Ryan Thigpen and Harold Stowell. The conveners acknowledge the financial support of the National Science Foundation, BP America, and the Geological Society of America

overlook at Camp Harrison
Late winter view from the overlook at Camp Harrison looking west to the Blue Ridge.  Grandfather Mountain, the high, snow-covered, jagged mountain in the distant left, along with Hawksbill, and Table Rock can be seen from the overlook on a clear day.  Photo courtesy Arthur Merschat.

This Penrose Conference will provide a forum to synthesize our understanding of orogenic systems, with specific emphasis placed on the consistent integration of multiple datasets that characterize process linkages and reconciliation of theoretical-numerical versus field-derived models. In collisional orogens, fundamental processes are inexorably linked, and as such, they exert higher-order controls on one another. For example, in many orogens, fault kinematics control the redistribution of heat-producing material and drive advection, which in turn sets up the thermal structure of the orogen. Thermal structure controls lithospheric rheology, which determines the nature and distribution of deformation and strain localization. The structural architecture governs fault kinematics, which act in conjunction with climate to focus erosional and exhumation processes. Therefore, explicit characterization of these links and their associated feedbacks are critical for understanding the evolution of orogenic systems.

Over the last decade, numerical and theoretical models of collisional systems have become increasingly complex, allowing explicit coupling of fundamental processes such as kinematics, mechanics, and thermal evolution at the whole orogen scale. At the same time, significant advancements have been made in the analysis of large multidisciplinary datasets and consequently, the solution space of enigmatic geologic problems has continued to shrink. To some degree, however, the progress achieved by this work is linked to our ability to reconcile what we observe in the field with model predictions, specifically with respect to the feedbacks between processes. We see this as an emerging knowledge gap, and will be using this conference to bring together a critical mass of multidisciplinary researchers in order to address these questions.

This meeting will provide a forum for integration of fundamental orogenic process linkages and feedbacks at a variety of length and time scales. As such, we have organized six technical sessions representing four major process groups: (1) rheology and lithospheric strength; (2) thermal evolution and metamorphism; (3) kinematics, deformation, and strain localization; and (4) erosion, exhumation, and climate. Additionally, we will have two topical sessions focused on process rates and field integration/reconciliation of models. Each topical session will include talks and poster sessions. Presentations on studies that specifically address process linkage, including those that include numerical modeling of orogenesis or integrated field studies, are strongly encouraged.

Linville Gorge
Linville Gorge. Photo by Ryan Thigpen.

This six-day meeting will start with an icebreaker in Asheville, North Carolina, USA, on the evening of Saturday, 29 March, and will be a balance of three days of field excursions and three days of talks and poster presentations. A two-day field trip that transects the southern Appalachian Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, and Inner Piedmont will commence at 8 a.m. on Sunday, 30 March. This area represents the primary study locale of Bob Hatcher’s seminal career. Emphasis will be placed on examining the different structural styles, thermal effects, strain localization, and kinematics of multiple Paleozoic orogenies. The two-day excursion will start at the conference headquarters in Asheville and return on the following day, with an overnight stop in the Boone–Blowing Rock area. Another single-day mid-meeting field trip will examine the multiply reactivated Brevard fault zone and the extensive deformation and metamorphism in the Neoacadian core of the southern Appalachians. The meeting will finish before lunch on Friday, 4 April.


The registration fee is estimated at US$900–US$1,100 and will cover the cost of the meeting, lodging (double occupancy), field trips, and most meals from 30 Mar.–4 Apr., including the conference dinner. Lunch will be provided each day on the field trips and during the meeting. Not covered is travel to and from Asheville, North Carolina, USA.


Application deadline: January 6, 2014
Registration deadline: February 4, 2014

The conference will be limited to 80 participants, and each participant will have to commit to attending the full six days of the conference. To apply, please contact the conveners at with a letter of intent that includes a brief statement of interests, the relevance of your recent work to the themes of the conference, the subject of your proposed presentation, and contact information. Interested graduate students and early career faculty are strongly encouraged to apply. Once you have been selected to participate, you will be sent registration information.