R.E. Sheriff Lecture 2005 - University of Houston
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R.E. Sheriff Lecture 2005

R. E. Sheriff Lecture 2005

November 21, 2005

The lecture series is sponsored by the University of Houston Department of Geosciences and UH Geoscience Alumni Association in association with the Houston Geologic Society International Group.

Current president of the University of Houston Geoscience Alumni Association (UHGAA) will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Dr. John F. Casey, Department of Geosciences Chairman, will present an overview of current activities at UH. There will be posters and presentations on current thesis and dissertation research of UH graduate students. Volunteers from the professional geoscience community judge student posters.

Come and meet the next generation of geoscientists from the University of Houston.

The Robert E. Sheriff Lecture Series was initiated in 1999 by the UHGAA. For the past several years it has been co-sponsored by the International Explorationists Group of the Houston Geological Society.

The series honors Dr. Sheriff as an educator, scholar, and a proponent for the geosciences. Its mission is to bring some of the best known geologists and geophysicists in the world to the Houston community in order to share highly relevant ideas to exploration geology and geophysics and showcase geoscience activity at the University of Houston.

Martian River Deltas and the Origin of Life

Janok P. Bhattacharya

There remains significant debate as to whether there were persistent water flows, significant precipitation and standing water bodies during the early Noachian history of Mars. Recent Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) images of meandering channels associated with a Noachian-age, lacustrine delta within Holden NE Crater show evidence for persistent water flows.

The topmost layer shows clear evidence of meandering streams associated with four depositional lobes. The channels record a complex history of migration, avulsion and bifurcation, forming a distributive pattern with up to 5 orders of branching. Several channels show a distinct transition from initially straight, to highly sinuous followed by classic chute cutoffs.

Relatively smooth, and more brightly reflective layers deeper in the crater fill may represent more-flat lying lacustrine bottom sets, and could speculatively be evaporitic. The transition from smooth lower layers that lack channel belts, to straight channels to meandering channels suggest a progressive evolution of the sedimentary fill.

Our analysis of the surface features, as well as estimates of accumulation rates of the underlying 150 meters of strata within the crater fill, suggests that Holden NE Crater may have contained a lake that persisted for a few thousand to possibly as long as a few million years. This supports the hypothesis that early Mars was both warmer and wetter during the Noachian. In addition, these sediments represent a probable watery habitat that should be investigated for evidence of possible extinct Martian life.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Janok P. Bhattacharya is the Robert E. Sheriff Professor of Sequence Stratigraphy at the University of Houston. His research interests include deltaic sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy, the local control of structure on stratigraphy and reservoir architecture of clastic depositional systems. He received his B.Sc. in 1981 from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, and Ph.D. in 1989 from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Following a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council post-doc at the Alberta Geological Survey in Edmonton, Janok worked for the Bureau of Economic Geology at Austin, ARCO Research in Plano, Texas and the University of Texas at Dallas before joining UH. He is an AAPG SW Section Distinguished Educator, AAPG Distinguished Lecturer and was Technical Program Chair for the 2004 AAPG Annual meeting in Dallas. He has authored over 100 abstracts and 40 technical papers.