August 25, 2015 / in Blog / by – Pankaj Khanna

May 17th through 31st, Rice University Department of Earth Science traveled to Turkey for a geology field trip. The trip was led by Professor Andre Droxler and Jerry Dickens from Rice along with local experts, Professor Aral Okay (Istanbul Technical University), Professor Celal Sengor (Istanbul Technical University), and Professor Erdin Bozkurt (Middle Eastern Technical University). These geologists explained the beautifully complex geologic history of the region to a very diverse and international group of Rice students ranging from undergrad level to PhD students and originating from the U.S., China, India, Nigeria and Turkey.

The extraordinary geological history of Turkey can be imagined simply as the accretion of several smaller islands or continental fragments forming this unusually complex landmass. Studies in the past 30 years have led to the identification of three major tectonostratigraphic units: the Pontides, the Anatolides-Taurides and the Arabian Platform.  This trip explored the western part of Turkey, which is primarily comprised of the first two tectonostratigraphic units.


Geological Map of Istanbul Zone, Turkey, Photo by: Jeffrey Piccirillo

The Rice group prepared well in advance, learning first about the complex and exciting Turkish geology, and second, about Turkey’s rich and diverse culture. Before the trip, each student worked on two different papers, one geological and one cultural.  The papers were combined into a field guide which was used extensively during the trip.

Upon arriving at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport on the 18th of May, it was clear that only a few people outside the airport spoke English. The Rice group was prepared for this and therefore used Rice student and Turkish native, Nur, as their mouth and ears for the entire trip. Driving along the Sea of Maramara from the airport they reached Galata district, on the European side of Istanbul, where their hotel was located. The hotel was just north of the Golden Horn and about 2-3 blocks west from the world famous Bosphorus. Within walking distance are a few other world famous tourist destinations such as Hagia Sophia and the grand bazaar of Istanbul.

The first morning, 19th May, the group was full of excitement, ready to explore the mysteries of Turkish Geology. Professor Aral Okay and a PhD student from ITU led the trip to some Paleozoic rock outcrops. Several outcrops were visited, including the Ordovician Kurtkoy Formation—low grade metamorphosed lacustrine sedimentary rocks; the Silurian Yayalar Formation—shelf deposits including siltstones and sandstones, and marine shales; the Silurian Dolayoba Formation—reefal limestones; the Devonian Denizlikoyu  Formation—nodular limestones; and the Carboniferous Trakya Formation—silicic sediments with phosphate nodules. Another interesting aspect of the day was visiting a small village for lunch, as most of the field areas were located far from the cities. The group was always excited to try the kababs and the bread with the local specialties. Later that evening, the group visited the Geology Department at ITU, where Professor Celal Sengor introduced the Rice group to the Geology of Turkey and the major tectonostratigraphic units which would be visited in the next few days. The dinner was the second highlight of the day after the amazing rocks. The hilltop restaurant had an open outdoor seating with a view of the Bosphorus and the bridge connecting the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side.  It was the perfect dinner to end the first day. On top of that, the delicious Turkish food made the day worth remembering.

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19th May: Paleozoic Rocks of Turkey, Photo by: Gary Linkevich 

The second day of the field trip, 20th May, began with a visit to Izmit, where the Rice group stopped by a drainage channel to analyze the offset from the 1999 earthquake which occurred along the North Anatolian Fault Zone. The Rice group continued travelling east from Izmit to visit metasedimentary rocks in the intra-Pontide suture zone, a marble debris flow and folded serpentinite followed by travelling south-west from Adilye towards Bursa and visited Istanbul crystalline basement and a Late Cretaceous sedimentary mélange. On the third day, 21st May, the group visited both the upper and lower Karakaya complex outcrops, as well as a Jurassic limestone quarry before returning back for the night to Bursa. The next day, 22nd May, the Rice group travelled south from Bursa to visit Early Oligocene (30 Ma) volcanic ashes, Late Cretaceous serpentinized harzburgite, a Cretaceous peridotite massif, and Orhaneli granodiorite. Tavsanli was the final destination of the day, after which Prof. Aral Okay departed.


Pankaj Khanna and Nur Koyuncu examining the Late Cretaceous serpentinite, Photo by: Jeffrey Piccirillo

This marks the end of the first half of the trip. Stay tuned to know what happened next on the trip!!

Google Map Credit: Hehe Jiang and Gary Linkevich

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