Geological Adventure in Morocco

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Professors Ikenne and Cousens at the Taghdout quartzites

Professors Ikenne and Cousens at the Taghdout quartzites

 

From May 3 -14, Dr. Brian Cousens and Dr. Richard Ernst traveled to Morocco to meet with research colleagues, do field work to prepare for a geological field course, and attend a scientific conference in Ifrane, the jewel of northern Morocco.

After meeting with their colleague, Dr. Moha Ikenne, at the Ibn Zohr University in Agadir, both visitors gave talks at the university for an audience of earth science undergraduate and graduate students.  The talks were on “Large Igneous Provinces” and “The Use of Radiogenic Isotopes in Tracing Mantle Sources of Igneous Rocks”.

Dr.’s Cousens and Ernst then left Agadir with Dr. Ikenne to visit key geological formations in central Morocco. The goal of the field work was to visit geological localities that will constitute the core of a Spring 2018 field course for 4th-year Carleton earth science students. Included were stops at the Bou Azzer, Zenaga and Imiter inliers (Proterozoic collisional belts) in the Anti-Atlas Mountains, the Ouarzazate suite of felsic ignimbrites and lava flows, Precambrian quartzites, a magnificent section of Lower Cambrian limestones with rare stromatolite beds, and lots of dolerite dykes. The Precambrian inliers include huge deposits of nickel, cobalt and silver. Ouarzazate is also the “Hollywood of Morocco”, with two operating movie companies. Movies such as “Gladiator”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Sniper”, “Blackhawk Down”, and “What A Girl Wants” were filmed in Morocco.  The geologists then crossed the High Atlas Mountains that includes excellent exposures of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, or CAMP for short, as well as lots of mineral and gem localities.

In Marrakech, the group grew to five with the addition of Dr.’s Nasrrddine Youbi (Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakech) and Said Balkacim (University Ibn Zohr, Agadir). The first stop was a superb exposure of CAMP basalts, full of fascinating features such as pillow basalts, columnar jointing, and interflow sediments. 

 

Hosts Professors Youbi and Ikenne

Hosts Professors Youbi and Ikenne 

 

All of the geological localities that we visited are planned to be revisited in April and May of 2018 by a group of Carleton 4th-year undergraduate students as part of ERTH 4807 Field Geology II.

The group then headed north to the town of Ifrane, in the Middle Atlas Mountains of northern Morocco.  All attended and presented at the biannual Magmatism, Metamorphism, and Associated Mineralization (3MA) conference in Ifrane. The conference included delegates from across Morocco and from Tunisia, Algeria, France and Mauritania. Cousens and Ernst were the only delegates from North America. They gave presentations with Moroccan co-authors on “The Geochronology and Geochemistry of Proterozoic Dyke Swarms Cutting the western Reguibat Shield, Morocco” and “LIPs and Glaciations”. The cultural highlight of the conference was the gala dinner, including a local Berber music and dance group that truly believed in group participation!  A geological highlight of the Ifrane area are Quaternary volcanic cones and lava flows that contain mantle xenoliths. The Ifrane area is home to the Atlas monkey that is commonly seen while driving through the region.

The hosts for this visit were Profs. Moha Ikenne and Nasrrddine Youbi, with whom Brian and Richard have been collaborating for several years.  These scientists will also be the guides for the ERTH 4807 field trip next spring, which will be a spectacular both in terms of geology and culture, and highly affordable for the students. We thank Dr.’s Ikenne, Youbi, and Balkacim for an unforgettable experience touring Morocco.

 

Kids from a nearby village were interested in what we were doing

Kids from a nearby village were interested in what we were doing

 

 With Professor Ikenne and students at Ibn Zohr University

Drs. Cousens and Ernst with Professor Ikenne and students at Ibn Zohr University