UNC Professor’s Research Investigates Timing of Supercontinent Breakup

UNC professor Graham Baird

UNC Geology professor Graham Baird during a 2008 trip to Sweden's Tarfala glaciers.

A University of Northern Colorado assistant professor of Geology is conducting research on the northern extension of the Appalachian Mountains to support evidence that some of the rocks in this region may be older than previously thought.

Graham Baird has been studying the Caledonides mountain range in Sweden since 2003. The range was connected to the Appalachians as part of the supercontinent Pangea 300 million years ago. Baird's research aims to pinpoint when Rodinia, the supercontinent that existed prior to Pangea, broke apart.

In an effort to better understand how mountain belts are formed through plate tectonic collisions, his research is focused on determining the age of the rocks in this area.

Baird, along with Sean Figg, a graduate student, conducted more research in Sweden this past summer. Some of the rocks in this area were thought to have been approximately 608 million years old. Baird's research in the Caledonides suggests that these rocks may be more than 642 million years old. Age is determined by analyzing minerals in rocks to determine the lead-to-uranium ratio—the higher the ratio, the older the rock.

Baird will be among the estimated 6,000 scientists to present research at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting Oct. 9-12 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Baird will be joined by Steven Anderson, who will also present at the meeting. The UNC Professor of Earth Sciences and director of the Mathematics and Science Teaching Institute will speak about fostering on and off campus partnerships that he's learned from a 17-year career mentoring undergraduate students and involving them in research.

Questions concerning Baird's research can be sent to graham.baird@unco.edu