Bowdoin Hosts International Geological Conference

Story posted April 29, 2005

By John Carpenter '05

Being able to look at a rock and identify minerals is a basic skill for all geologists. However, being able to look at a rock and identify what minerals used to be there, in what direction they grew, and how they have changed, is an entirely different trick. This kind of analysis is now possible, with the aid of Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) a new technique that allows scientists to look inside crystals.

Geologists from around the world met at Bowdoin's Druckenmiller Hall on April 6, 2005, to share data on EBSD during the annual Kibbe Science Symposium. The symposium, entitled "Microstructure Analysis Using Electron Backscatter Diffraction," featured a series of four lectures given by prominent geologists from around the world.

The speakers were Donna Whitney (University of Minnesota), who focused on observations of changes in minerals in mountain settings; David Prior (University of Liverpool), who works with a custom-built EBSD that allows him to watch crystals change as they are heated to temperatures over 1000C; Greg Hirth (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), whose research team is examining layering of rocks fresh from the earth's molten mantle; and Michael John Cheadle (University of Wyoming), speaking about the seismic properties of those same mantle-born rocks.

Rachel Beane, associate professor of geology and Symposium convener, demonstrated Bowdoin's own EBSD instrument, which is one of only a few in use at an undergraduate institution.

The symposium attracted attendees from the EBSD industry, as well as from Maine colleges and universities, and several from as far away as the University of Hawaii and the University of Liverpool.

Many of the attendees were EBSD users, who took the opportunity of a concluding roundtable discussion to explore problems facing the application of EBSD in geology and other fields. It was a rare occasion for direct conversation among some of the leading scientists in the field, who agreed to establish a formal online message board to augment future collaboration.

The Kibbe Science Symposium is supported by the Kibbe Science Lecture Fund, established in 1994 by Frank W. Kibbe '37, and his wife, Lucy K. Kibbe. The fund supports lectures by visiting scholars on topics that are on the cutting edge of astronomy and geology.

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