Fulbright Scholar and Professor of Geology John Ritter is no exception. This week, Ritter presented his work with co-author John Weber, professor of geology at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, to more than 6,000 geoscientists in attendance at the 117 th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Titled “Geomorphology and Quaternary Geology of the Northern Range, Trinidad: Recording Quaternary Subsidence and Uplift Associated with a Pull-Apart Basin,” the paper resulted from work indirectly related to Ritter’s Fulbright experience from January to June 2005 in Trinidad.
Ritter explained that the Northern Range formed as a result of a collision between the Caribbean and South American tectonic plates about 12 million years ago. Following this collision, the gulf between Trinidad and Venezuela (the Gulf of Paria) began to expand and continues to grow in width. As it does, the Northern Range, and northern Trinidad in general, is sinking.
“The work I am presenting at GSA is a look at how the uplift and subsequent sinking are reflected in the landscape,” Ritter said. “It is a function of landscape evolution over 12 million years and more specifically over the last two million years.”
Ritter has also prepared a proposal for continued study in Trinidad, which he has submitted to the American Chemical Society for support through the Petroleum Research Fund.
“It is a three-year project, if fully supported, with summer field experiences for up to three students,” Ritter said.
“The work associated with my Fulbright experience was focused on development in the Northern Range and the impact it has on landslides and floods associated with hurricanes or extreme rainfall events,” he said. “Not only has development increased the hazard potential, but it has put more people at risk as well.”
Ritter’s work in the Fulbright study is being reviewed for publication in the journal Sustainable Development. The manuscript is titled “Using GIS to Examine Options for Sustainable Mountain Development, Trinidad.”
A fluvial or stream geomorphologist, Ritter looks at how climate and tectonism control the evolution of stream systems – specifically alluvial fan systems.
“While my background has been in arid and semiarid alluvial fans, the work in Trinidad allows me to expand this into a humid tropical climate where there is a considerable orographic effect on rainfall and a significant tectonic (the uplift and subsidence) impact,” Ritter said.
- Phyllis Eberts
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