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Colorado Plateau Drilling Project



Colorado Plateau Drilling ProjectThe Triassic Period (~252-202 Ma) witnessed the evolutionary appearance of modern terrestrial biota, the origin and rise to ecological dominance of dinosaurs, and dramatic climate changes on the continents. The complex of epicontinental basins in western Pangea, now exposed on the Colorado Plateau, preserves a rich low-paleolatitude biotic and paleoenvironmental terrestrial record from the Triassic. Despite a long and distinguished history of study of the Colorado Plateau region, particularly of the Chinle and Moenkopi formations, striking ambiguities in temporal duration and resolution, major uncertainties in global correlations, and significant doubts about paleolatitudinal position hamper incorporation of the huge amount of information from the region into larger tests of major competing climatic, biotic, and tectonic hypotheses of global importance for Earth system processes. The age-calibrated chronostratigraphy of the proposed Petrified Forest core will address major issues of early Mesozoic biotic and environmental change and will allow answers to, among others, critical questions: Were marine and continental biotic turnover events in the Late Triassic coupled? Was the largest faunal turnover event on land during the Late Triassic synchronous with the giant Manicouagan bolide impact? Do major marine biotic transitions in the Tethyian realm have continental counterparts? Does the Newark basin astronomically-calibrated time scale fit independent radioisotopic dates from the Chinle Formation? The project involves several co-PIs from international institutions; several from ICDP members. The proposed funding duration of 24 months will include drilling and the initial acquisition of basic stratigraphic, logging, magnetics, and geochronologic data for utilization by the scientific community.

(Figure ©: A, B: Anky-man, Wikipedia; C, D: Riggs et al., 2003)



North America, U.S.A., United States of America, Arizona



35.085671° N, 109.795739° W (Please scroll down to end of page for more information.)


Project Start and End
  • drilling started on November 7, 2013
  • drilling ended on December 7, 2013


Programs and Funding


Principal Investigators
  • John W. Geissmann, University of New Mexico, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Paul E. Olsen, Columbia University, The Earth Institute, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Geosciences
  • Jingeng Sha, Academia Sinica, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology
  • Roberto S. Molina-Garza, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Centro de Geociencias
  • Wolfram Michael Kürschner, University of Oslo, Institute of Geology
  • Gerhard H. Bachmann, University of Halle-Wittenberg, Institute for Earth Sciences


Cooperating Principal Investigators

No Co-PIs found for this project


Partners and Contractors



Chinle, Climate Change, CPCP, Geochronology, ICDP-2010/05, Magneto Stratigraphy, North America, Stratigraphy, Triassic


Current State





    Google Earth/Maps