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Earth scientists from around the world will gather June 27 in Oak Ridge to explore how the deepest structures of the Earth’s crust affect the surface geology of the planet and how the crust of today formed over the course of four billion years.

The University of Tennessee Science Alliance and the International Basement Tectonics Association are jointly sponsoring the four-day conference, which is expected to bring about 100 scientists from 12 countries to the Pollard Technical Conference Center in Oak Ridge.

“What should come out of this conference is a better understanding of the way continents are put together and the relationships between continental and ocean crusts and the mantle that lies under them,” said Dr. Robert D. Hatcher Jr. “The more we know, the better we can understand how mineral deposits and oil and gas form.”

Hatcher, a UT distinguished scientist and professor in tectonics and structural geology, is a primary planner and host of the event. The central issue of the conference will be whether the processes that formed the early crust are different from the processes at work today, Hatcher said.

“When the early crust was formed, the planet was much hotter than it is today,” he said. “Crust-forming processes may have been different because of the greater amount of heat available. The compositions of the atmosphere and oceans were different, and many of today’s most abundant rock types were not very common on the Earth four billion years ago.”

A day-long field trip to examine East Tennessee geology is planned. At the end of the conference, Hatcher and several other geologists will lead a five-day field trip from Knoxville to Columbia, S.C., to allow scientists to examine the kinds of crust that formed in the Appalachians some 500 to 270 million years ago.

Other sponsors of the conference, the group’s 17th since 1974, are the Geological Society of America, the American Geological Institute, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, with partial financial support from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey.