Professor of Marine Geophysics


The Researcher

John Sclater When I entered graduate school there was no overall theory explaining the tectonic structure of the Earth. Yet within less than ten years most of the major problems in this field had been resolved: many of them by scientists I had met in graduate school. I was fortunate to be involved right at the onset of such a major revolution in the Earth Science that was accomplished by the development of the theories of sea floor spreading and plate tectonics. These theories provided a framework for the quantitative studies of the tectonic features of the earth. They have led to a better understanding of the location of earthquakes as well as the major morphological features on the continents and oceans. The application of these theories to understanding the tectonic structure of the earth became the focus of my research. My major research interests have included establishing relations between heat flow and subsidence and the age of the ocean floor and examining the subsidence of continental basins and shelves. In addition I have worked on tectonic history of the Indian Ocean and analogue models of crustal deformation. Currently I am examining the structure of the very largest transform faults whose morphological development does not fit the simple geometrical requirements of plate tectonics. In addition, I am planning to restart a program of heat flow measurements in the Gulf of California.

The Educator

educator Inspired by a teacher in high school who took me on walks in the Fells of Lancashire, UK, I became interested in the Earth and its history. My teachers, mentors and colleagues enhanced this interest and inspired me to pursue a research career in the Earth Sciences. I get great satisfaction out of helping others to find their own calling in life. I have had the opportunity to teach at three major institutions. At SIO as a young researcher I supported and supervised graduate students. By joining the MIT Earth and Planetary Sciences Departments I became involved in teaching MIT undergraduates and graduate students in the MIT/Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint program in Oceanography. At the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin, I was the Associate Director as well as directly involved in the teaching and supervising of students in the Geology Department. Most of my teaching has involved transmitting the improved understanding we have of the Earth from my own research and that of others to both undergraduate and graduate students. More recently since returning to SIO and the University of California at San Diego my teaching has emphasized the use of recent research advances to help solve the environmental problems created by natural disasters and man-made effects. I take great satisfaction from having supervised or co-supervised the theses of more than 30 advanced students. In the winter quarter 2011 I will take over SIO10 'The Earth' a lower division undergraduate class for non Earth Science majors. In the spring quarter I will offer a graduate seminar course on 'Examining advances in the Earth Sciences: examples from the classic papers in Plate Tectonics'.

The Seagoing Scientist

seagoing scientist From my early childhood I have had a love of travel and of the experience of visiting far away places. I started participating in seagoing expeditions as part of my graduate studies at Cambridge University, UK. During these studies I participated in a three month expedition to the Northwest Indian Ocean, a two month trip to the central Indian Ocean and a two month expedition to the North Atlantic in the dead of winter. Working at sea on geological and geophysical problems around the world has given me abundant opportunities to satisfy my yearning for travel and adventure. In addition to my time at sea when at Cambridge I have participated in and at times led more than twenty legs of major deep sea expeditions. All told I have spent more than three years at sea on oceanographic expeditions. These have taken me from the North and South Pacific, to the Philippine Sea, to the North Atlantic and almost all the major basins of the Indian Ocean. Currently my major areas of study are the Southwest Indian Ridge due south of Africa and the Gulf of California.

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