What is MARGINS?

Tobias Fischer taking ash samples

Tobias Fischer collecting volcanic ash in the Mariana Islands

Continental margins, where land and the oceans meet, are the Earth's principal locations for producing hydrocarbons like oil and metal resources. They're where earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic activity most often occur and they're also where most people live.

But despite the importance of margins, we still don't understand many of the mechanical, fluid, chemical and biological processes that shape them. Progress is hindered by the sheer scope of the area margins encompass, by the complexities of those processes and by the vast scales of time and space on which they take place.

To overcome these obstacles, the earth science community has identified the major questions of continental margins research. The MARGINS program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was launched in 1998 to promote research strategies that redirect traditional approaches to margin studies. In particular, the MARGINS Program focuses on the investigation of four fundamental initiatives; the Seismogenic Zone Experiment, the Subduction Factory, Rupturing Continental Lithosphere, and Sediment Dynamics and Strata Formation (Source to Sink).

4 MARGINS initiatives

These four initiatives are investigating processes affecting and associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, ocean formation, and sediment dispersal. Each initiative is associated with two focus sites selected by their scientific communities to address the complete range of field, experimental and theoretical studies, considering the spatial and temporal scales needed to address each initiative. A major concern of the MARGINS Program and NSF is outreach to and education of the public on the critical importance of this revolutionary research.