Italian geologists awarded the Capellini Medal to SMU Associate Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies James E. Quick (right) Sept. 6-8, 2010, in Pisa. The award recognizes the discovery of an enormous 280 million-year-old fossil supervolcano in the Italian Alps with its magmatic plumbing system exposed to an unprecedented depth of 25 kilometers. The discovery has sparked not only worldwide scientific interest but also a budding regional geotourism industry.
Quick and his colleagues at the University of Trieste – Silvano Sinigoi, Gabriella Peressini, Gabriella Dimarchi and Andrea Sbisa – discovered the unique fossil supervolcano in northern Italy’s picturesque Sesia Valley.
The Italian Geological Society, Italy’s oldest professional organization for geologists, awards the medal to foreign geoscientists for a significant contribution to Italian geology.
Quick, a professor in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College, is the second recipient of the award.
Supervolcanoes, also referred to as calderas, are enormous craters tens of kilometers in diameter produced by rare and massive explosive eruptions – among nature’s most violent events. Their eruptions are sparked by the explosive release of gas from molten rock, or magma, as it pushes its way to the Earth’s surface.
“There will be another supervolcano explosion. We don’t know where,” Quick says. “Sesia Valley could help us to predict the next event.”
The Capellini Medal is named for Giovanni Capellini, founder and five-time president of the Geological Society of Italy and strong advocate of international scientific exchange.
Written by Margaret Allen