OSU professor finds fault in Himalayans

Tuesday, December 4th 2007, 11:17 am
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

Elizabeth Catlos never dreamed she would go on expeditions to the Himalayan Mountains when she was a student. But now, as an associate professor with Oklahoma State University, Catlos is helping shape an entire region around these majestic mountains.

On an expedition to collect, study and date rocks in the Himalayans, Catlos made an amazing discovery. A fault line thought to be dead for the last 20 million years turned out to be active.

"We were down there in the trenches of this fault, banging stuff out of the hill, with leeches on us; trying to get the right samples," said Catlos. "We found extremely young mineral ages and you could not explain it by any other means except to say that the fault was active."

The finding still rattles the geologist community a decade later, but her colleagues are behind her.

"She is very intelligent and produces good work," said Ibrahim Cemen, a Catlos' colleague, "and she is a very talented geologist."

The fault line is dangerous because families near the Alpine-Himalayan Mountain range are continuing to build their houses around the fault line. The Indian government is so concerned with the finding that they have been funding part of Catlos' research into this lengthy mountain range. Catlos is working to educate the people of the region to keep them all safe.

"When we go there, the people are using the building materials around them to make their homes," she said. "We see children there who live very close to this fault."

Catlos says these families are victims of their environment. There are rocks coming down the mountains frequently, creating treacherous roads winding around the Turkish countryside.

"If they're going to build a dam here, if they're going to build a road here, they need to know something about the geology of their area," said the young scientist. "And if I can help them or work with geologists in that country who will help them, then I think it's important".

Originally aired 11-01-07