Arctic REU Greenland

Architecture of Earthquakes in the Deep Crust: International Arctic Expedition Science for Undergraduates

Focus: Structural geology, geologic mapping, earthquake geology

Location: Sisimiut, Greenland

On-Site Field Research: July 12 to August 13, 2021

Application Deadline: February 7, 2021

Note: If the pandemic prohibits international travel, alternative virtual or campus-based research activities are planned.


This NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) is focused on developing skills in geologic mapping and field work in Precambrian rocks. Our work will integrate structural geology, metamorphic geology, and earthquake geodynamics in a remote, international setting.

The research goal is to better understand how earthquake ruptures propagate through bedrock in the deeper reaches of Earth's crust. To accomplish this, the REU students will map the distribution of pseudotachylyte – thin black veins that formed by frictional melting along faults during earthquakes. The faults are preserved in Archean, high-grade metamorphic rocks, and were probably active during early Proterozoic time at a depth of 10–15 km. They were later exhumed and uplifted to Earth's surface and are now well exposed in coastal outcrops in western Greenland.

REU Directors

Dr. Joseph L. Allen, Concord University (Athens, WV)

Dr. Colin A. Shaw, Montana State University (Bozeman, MT)

Graduate Assistant:

Aislin Reynolds , Ph.D. candidate, Montana State University (Bozeman, MT)

Photos: Students measuring the orientation of a reverse fault lined with pseudotachlyte and offsetting a pegmatite dike. Below: Field work on the Ikertôq Fjord by student-skippered zodiac in 2015.

Student Support and Logistics

Support includes a $4000 stipend with up to $1000 additional funding for field and camping gear, a passport, and an iPad for geologic mapping. All travel, meals, and lodging are provided.

The expedition will depart from New York for Sisimiut, Greenland, via Kangerlusuaq (travel to NY also provided). We will camp 5 days/week on a remote island and spend 2 days/week in dormitory-style housing in Sisimiut from mid-July to mid-August. While camping, tents, meals, cooking gear, and water filtration pumps will be provided.


April-May 2021: 6-week online course covering field safety, international travel, science goals, professional and career mentoring, and an overview of Greenlandic culture.

July 12 to August 13, 2021: Field work based in Sisimuit, Greenland.

September-October 2021: 6-week online meetings for research poster preparation; additional career and graduate school mentoring.

Late Fall or Spring 2021 or 2022: Presentation of your research results at a geologic conference (funding provided).

Am I Qualified?

Applicants should be undergraduates who preferably will have completed a course in mineralogy, petrology, or Earth materials. Coursework in structural geology and/or field geology or field methods is useful. NSF requires REU participants to be US citizens or permanent residents.

Participants should have a planned date of graduation no earlier than December, 2021. Because of the late start time in July, students completing a geology field camp early in the summer may be able to attend this REU.

We encourage applications from first-generation college students and members of under-represented groups.

Photographs of pseudotachylyte generated by frictional melting during earthquake slip. The pseudotachylyte appears as black glassy veins incorporating fragmented clasts of the host gneiss that survived melting. REU participants will conduct field work and mapping on these unusual rocks to better understand how earthquake ruptures behave in the deep crust. Top/left photo shows an example of a pair of veins between the orange notebook and pen. These formed during a single earthquake rupture and can be mapped for 10s of meters along strike.