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Stanford Report, October 29, 1997

Sidebar to article on Asia's geology: 10/29/97

Stanford geologists were already known
in Asia

Stanford was already a familiar name to Mongolian and Chinese geologists when Professor Robert Coleman and the late dean of earth sciences Allan Cox first started field studies there a dozen years ago. Bailey Willis, one of the university's first professors and a famous figure in structural geology, conducted research in China in the early 1900s. In the early '80s the Chinese invited Cox to work with a task force of Chinese scientists investigating the country's resources in the post-Cultural Revolution era. And Coleman began working with geologists in the former Soviet Union well before the end of the Cold War.

Currently, Professor Elizabeth Miller leads a major National Science Foundation project in eastern Russia, to investigate the geology of Asia and North America where they connect across the Bering Strait. Associate Professor Simon Klemperer works in Tibet with a seismic imaging team, looking for evidence about how far the Indian continental plate pushes as it lifts the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau. Professors Juhn Liou and Gary Ernst and their students are working to unravel a mystery involving chunks of continental crust that have bobbed to the surface after plunging deeper into Earth's soft, hot mantle than scholars previously thought possible. Professors Stephan Graham and Michael Moldowan and Associate Professor Michael Moldowan also conduct research in eastern Asia.

Graham is an expert on sedimentary basins ­ the type of formation where oil often is found. His 10 field seasons in Mongolia and China have gained him and his students unprecedented access to data collected by the scientists of those countries. Until recently very little of that research was published in international scientific literature, in part because of the Asian and Soviet governments' concerns about sharing information that might reveal details about mineral and oil resources.

"In China, the Cultural Revolution was a time of looking inward," Graham said. "They missed out on some progress in science that way." Now, he said, that attitude is beginning to change as these governments begin to look for new ways to locate and exploit their oil reserves, and to welcome geologists and petroleum experts from abroad. It is significant that Stanford scholars and their students are being granted access to their Asian colleagues' data, Graham said: "It has to do with our time in residence in [these countries], and with our reputation for good quality work, and for honoring the agreements we make." SR