Geology Master's Student Wins Outstanding Student Paper Award at AGU Meeting

Geology Master’s Student Wins Outstanding Student Paper Award at AGU Meeting
Poster Covered Study of Western Pacific Subduction Zone Igneous Rocks

AGU Fall Meeting

AGU 2013 Abstracts Deadline

The deadline for abstracts for the 2013 Fall AGU Meeting in San Francisco is August 6, 2013. More than 24,000 geoscientists are expected to attend. In 2012, UH geoscientists presented 50 oral and poster presentations at the meeting. See overview
Matthew Loocke, a second-year M.S. student and research assistant in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, won an Outstanding Student Paper Award at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting held in San Francisco in December.

Eleven student poster awards in the Tectonophysics category were given to 3-5 percent of the student presentations judged. Loocke’s winning poster presentation was judged on overall preparation and the clear, concise presentation of his work compared with other student presenters in his section.

Loocke’s poster, entitled "Contrasting MORB-Boninite Reaction Trends in Izu-Bonin-Marianas Forearc Mantle," presented a portion of the work he did for his master’s thesis titled “Arc Foundations and the. Initiation of Subduction in the Izu-Bonin Forearc.”

The poster detailed his analyses of rocks dredged from the seafloor of the Izu-Bonin Forearc, a region of oceanic crust located on the inner wall of the Izu-Bonin-Marianas (IBM) Trench in the Western Pacific. Professor Jonathan Snow, his University of Houston thesis advisor, recovered the rocks during a dredging expedition to the region in 2007.

The goal of his master’s study, reported on in this poster, was to study the geochemical variations and relationships of lower crustal igneous rocks from the IBM forearc. To do this, he used the EAS department’s electron microprobe and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer.

Very little is known regarding the composition and structure of the lower crust in intra-oceanic arcs and the processes of subduction zone initiation except for what has been gleaned from geophysical and modeling studies and from the deep sea drilling of forearc serpentine sea mounts in the early 1990s.

Matthew Loocke
Matthew Loocke after cutting open a seafloor igneous rock during the YK11-08 Shinkai 6500 diving cruise in October 2011.
Loocke’s observations reveal the presence of two distinct compositional groups of rocks suggesting the creation of mid-ocean ridge-like crust at subduction initiation which was later overprinted by melt transport conduits related to transitional and arc-typical melts.

At the annual fall meeting, the AGU awarded 121 Outstanding Student Paper Awards to promote, reward and recognize undergraduate, Master’s and Ph.D. students for quality research in the earth and atmospheric sciences. Receipt of the awards is considered a great honor for young, early-career scientists. More than 20,000 geoscientists from around the world participated in the fall AGU meeting, one of the largest annual geosciences meetings.

As a result of his several years of research with Professor Snow as a UH undergraduate and master’s student, this meeting was Loocke’s 12th oral or poster presentation at a national or international scientific conference.

Loocke also worked with Snow on a senior honors thesis covering electron microprobe analyses of plagioclase peridotites from the Godzilla Megamullion back-arc oceanic core complex titled “Temporal Variations of Melt Stagnation in a Back-Arc Lithospheric Section: Systematics of Plagioclase Impregnation in Mantle Rocks from the Godzilla Megamullion.” Another research projects involved a petrological study of the Dhofar 910 lunar meteorite.

Loocke, who is from Katy, Texas, graduated with his M.S. in geology in May and is continuing his research over the summer as a research staff scientist within the department. In September, he will move to Cardiff University in Cardiff, Wales, to begin a Ph.D. research project titled “The Role of the Axial Melt Lens in the Accretion of Fast-Spreading Oceanic Crust.” His advisors at Cardiff will be Professors Johan Lissenberg and Christopher MacLeod.

This project will combine a petrological and geochemical study of gabbroic rocks from the East Pacific Rise melt lens with detailed mapping, drilling and geochemical analysis of the melt lens in the Oman Ophiolite.

Although he grew up with a strong love of geology, Loocke came to UH as a freshman business major in 2007. He changed his major to geology in 2008 after taking the honors introduction to geology course taught by his future mentor and advisor, Professor Jonathan Snow. Under the advisory of Snow, he participated in two research expeditions with Japanese scientists using the Shinkai 6500 submersible to the Godzilla Megamullion in the western Pacific Ocean.