Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Atwater, Tanya M.
Location University of California, Santa Barbara
Primary Field Geology
Secondary Field Geophysics
 Election Citation
Atwater's analysis of ocean-floor magnetic anomalies revealed 180 million years of plate motions in the Pacific and the interaction between various oceanic plates and North America. She was the first to interpret the evolution of a large-scale continental geologic structure, the San Andreas fault, as directly resulting from plate motions.
 Research Interests
I work in geophysics and geology, driven by a passion for maps and landforms, exploring many aspects of the theory of platetectonics. At sea, I work with various groups on ships and in the submersible Alvin, characterizing the details of sea floor spreading centers (the lines along which all the ocean floors were created). I also contribute to the global oceanic data set and, using it, quantitatively describe the past motions of the world's plates. On the land, I have concentrated on the tectonic evolution of western North America. During the last 100 million years, this continental edge was first a major subduction zone and then changed, gradually, to the plate-shear boundary of the San Andreas fault. I study this geometric evolution, integrating and comparing the global plate motion record with the regional continental geologic records. The emerging relationships reveal the origins of many major geologic features (e.g., Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, Death Valley, Cascade volcanoes, California Coast Ranges). A vital part of my research effort concerns communication and education at all levels. I am embarked upon several projects experimenting with ways to use the power of electronic multi-media to enhance geologic visualization, understanding, and caring.

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