Skip to main content
Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI breakfast lecture explores the creation of oceanic volcanoes

Media Contact:

Narragansett, R.I. -- March 16, 2004 – The Earth is a dynamic planet that has been constantly changing for billions of years. Some of these changes are due to events that occur miles below the Earth’s surface, where intensely hot magma makes its way to the surface through volcanic eruptions or material from the Earth’s mantle fills in ridges that are spreading at the bottom of the ocean.

The public is invited to attend a lecture on "Mantle Plumes and the Creation of Oceanic Volcanoes" on Tuesday, March 23, at 9 a.m. in the Coastal Institute Auditorium on the URI Bay Campus in Narragansett. The lecture is part of a series featuring the research of URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) students. The speaker will be geological oceanography Master’s candidate Amber Harris of Narragansett.

Wherever new crust is created, there are significant thermal and chemical inputs from the Earth’s interior to the oceans and atmosphere. Normal oceanic crust is created at mid-ocean ridges where plates are spreading apart and mantle material is rising up to fill the void. Another important mode of crustal production on the seafloor occurs above "hotspots" where ocean islands or chains of ocean islands are created. Production of ocean islands is generally attributed to hot, buoyant upwellings in the mantle, called mantle plumes. The study of upwellings, at ridges and through mantle plumes, provides scientists with insights into the inner workings of the Earth to help us better understand the social implications of the Earth’s dynamic behavior. As an example, the shear volume of material attributed to one large mantle plume is enough to cover the entire area of United States under a little over 3 miles of rock!

Harris’s talk will begin by providing a basic background, assuming no previous geologic knowledge, and continue on to recent, hotly debated issues concerning mantle plumes.

Originally from Burton, Michigan, Harris received a B.S. in applied geophysics from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. Her research interests include numerical modeling of Earth's mantle, specifically the effect of transition zones on the upward movement of mantle plumes. She is working on her Master’s in oceanography under the guidance of geophysical oceanographer Dr. Chris Kincaid.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Coffee and muffins will be served. For more information, call Friends of Oceanography at (401) 874-6642.

Friends of Oceanography is a community-based membership organization established in 1986 to support the educational and public programs of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. Friends provides financial support of fellowships for GSO students, and other research, education, and outreach activities. The organization also helps sponsor a variety of special events such as oceanography lecture series, open houses at the Bay Campus, The JASON Project, and the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.