REU Site: Investigating the structure and origin of the Bushveld Complex, South Africa, using complementary geochemical and geophysical studies

Project: Research project

Project Details


The over-arching goal of this Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site is to promote participation of undergraduate students, particularly under-represented minorities, in an international, multi-disciplinary, geosciences research project. A cohort of 6-8 undergraduates will travel to South Africa each summer to participate in a field study of the Bushveld Igneous Complex. Under the supervision of faculty from the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Witwatersrand, students will collect geophysical data and rock samples during the three-week field campaign. The raw data and samples will be brought back to Penn State for processing and analysis. Principles of Earth Science Literacy will be reinforced throughout the orientation, field work, analysis, and synthesis stages of the 10-week REU Site program. The impact of the program on the students' attitudes toward pursuing a career in the geosciences or another STEM field will be assessed through a series of surveys administered before, during, and after participating in the summer program.

The Bushveld Complex (~2.06 Ga) is one of the largest intrusive mafic igneous bodies found in the continental crust, yet its origin and structure at depth are poorly understood. The scientific goal of this project is to determine the total volumetric and areal extent of the Bushveld Complex (BC). The BC is believed to be at least 500,000 cubic kilometers in size, and may be as large as 1,000,000 cubic kilometers, putting it on par with the largest igneous complexes in the world. The study of Large Igneous Provinces (LIPS) provides important insight into how the Earth's crust was formed, how continental landmasses are stabilized and broken apart, and perhaps into the cause of certain mass extinction events in geologic history. Over the three years of the REU Site, data will be collected and interpreted by participating students in order to better delineate the continuity (or lack thereof) between the central part of the BC and a number of outlying igneous intrusions. The data to be collected will include seismic and gravity measurements, as well as major element, trace element, and isotope ratio data for mineral separates and whole rocks.

This award was supported with co-funding from the Office of International and Integrative Activities.

Effective start/end date4/15/153/31/19


  • National Science Foundation: $456,686.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.