Lecture: Unravelling the mysteries on the eastern Himalaya

Speaker: Catherine Mottram, Department of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems, The Open University

Entry Fee

Members: Free

Visitors: £5.00

Date and Time

19:30 -


Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN

Lecture Description

The collision of India and Asia, which began around 50 Ma, resulted in the formation of some of the largest and most dramatic mountains in the world: the Himalayas. Geologists have long been drawn to the soaring heights of these mountains, in order to understand the processes of continental collision and mountain building. There are several structures in the Himalayas which have been fundamental in facilitating the deformation caused by the collision of the two continents. The Main Central Thrust (MCT) is one of these key tectonic structures which spans over 2500 km along the length of these majestic mountains.

This talk focuses on the Sikkim region of NE India, where the location and nature of movement on the MCT has long been in dispute. A new combined approach uses traditional field techniques and isotope geochemistry to present new information on the location of the MCT in Sikkim. Whereas in the past, locating the MCT has been somewhat of a game of ‘Where’s Wally’, this new approach has redefined the MCT in Sikkim. This has allowed for accurate estimates of rates of movement on this structure to be calculated. This study presents some of the first quantitative results of the rates of deformation on the MCT and provides significant incite into the mountain building processes and helps to unravel some of the mysteries of the eastern Himalaya.

Catherine Mottram

Catherine gained a BSc hons. Degree in Geosciences from the University of St Andrews in 2010, during which time she developed a love of metamorphic geology and spent 6 weeks mapping metamorphic rocks in a bog in Connemara, Ireland which confirmed that she was ‘enthusiastic’ enough about geology to do a PhD. She started her PhD at the Open University in September 2010 and is a NERC funded PhD student, supervised by Prof. Nigel Harris (OU) and Prof. Randy Parrish (BGS) amongst others.

Her research uses a variety of geological techniques, including metamorphic petrology, structural geology, geochronology and isotope geochemistry to investigate mountain building processes. Her PhD focuses on Sikkim, a region of NE India in order to investigate processes of crustal extrusion in the eastern Himalaya.

She has braved monsoonal India, leeches, yaks, many curries and Himalayan roads to bring back over 200Kg rocks which she is currently analysing in the lab.

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