Report on the “Future Directions in Tectonics” Workshop

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, May 20-22, 2016


This NSF-sponsored workshop assembled ~ 90 Earth scientists to discuss a broad range of topics, including: (1) identifying grand challenges and opportunities for significant advances in the field of Tectonics; (2) defining and prioritizing the resources, technologies, partnerships, and infrastructure our community needs to make scientific progress; and (3) developing a vision to build and strengthen our community, including finding new ways to maximize the educational and societal benefits of our work and to communicate and enhance our impact.  The overarching goal of the workshop was to begin a community-wide conversation on these issues that will continue in public forums throughout the year.  The results will be captured in a report that communicates the goals, needs, and relevance of Tectonics research to funding agencies, other scientists, and non-specialist audiences.

The Process

The Workshop Organizing Committee (Basil Tikoff and Laurel Goodwin, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Yvette Kuiper, Colorado School of Mines) obtained the funding (NSF-EAR-1542001), designated the Writing Committee chairs (Kate Huntington, University of Washington; Keith Klepeis, University of Vermont) and handled logistics in Madison. The Workshop Planning Committee, composed of volunteers and individuals recruited to represent the diversity of the Tectonics community (Rick Allmendinger, Cornell University; Marin Clark, University of Michigan; Eric Cowgill, University of California-Davis; Becky Dorsey, University of Oregon; Kevin Mahan, University of Colorado; Jim Spotila, Virginia Tech) managed participant application and selection, and worked with the Writing Chairs and Organizing Committee to design and lead the workshop. Workshop participants represented a broad range of disciplines, institutions, backgrounds and career stages; a full list of participants is available on the workshop website (link provided below). The workshop was structured around five breakout sessions, which led to very exciting, animated discussions and numerous ideas to move our community forward. Short papers (also posted on the website) solicited from each participant and presented as brief pop-ups at the start of the workshop also helped shape the discussions. Themes that emerged from the discussions are forming the basis for the Tectonics report.

Full Participant List

Getting Involved

Broad input from the SG&T community is critical to the success of this endeavor, from defining our vision for the report to realizing that vision in the decades to come. Major themes and ideas that emerged from workshop discussions have been synthesized—please stay tuned for regular updates and for opportunities to contribute your ideas. You are also invited to:

1) subscribe to the workshop listserv by emailing or clicking the link in the top menu

2) visit our website:

3) Leave a comment/take the survey (see link to survey page above).

Town Halls at GSA and AGU (2016) will solicit input from the community. The target date for the report is May, 2017. We encourage you to be part of this opportunity to shape our future!


We thank the NSF for sponsoring the workshop and David Fountain and Stephen Harlan for their insights.  We thank the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison for hosting the event and Randy Williams for excellent support.