SUBITOP Short courses

Four network-wide Short Courses are a key element of the SUBITOP training programme. These mandatory courses aim to expose all ESRs to a broad range of observation and modelling approaches, which can be used to explore the links between shallow and deep processes in subduction systems. Through these courses, the ESRs will develop a common basis from which they can work to understand all research projects in the Network, they will gain shared knowledge of the geological and geomorphological surface expressions of subduction and obtain first-hand experience of the numerical and physical modelling techniques which can be used to explore the evolution of subduction systems. The short-courses will involve field and laboratory activities, forging a coherent group of young researchers, and they will offer ample opportunity to address the logistic and safety aspects of the practical work, which is so important in the Earth Sciences. All but the first Short Course will be open to members of other ITNs, which will help SUBITOP ESRs to broaden their scientific perspectives and professional networks.


A key element of all Short Courses is the link to and from other ITNs. SUBITOP has engaged with the following networks to share Short Course events:


Short Course 1 - The Aegean: an introduction to back-arc extension

The Aegean results from back-arc extension driven by slab rollback in the Hellenic subduction system. From 45 to 15 Ma, extension was localised, accommodating the exhumation of high pressure metamorphic rocks and high temperature core complexes. Since 15 Ma, extension became distributed, forming sedimentary basins across the Aegean. This training trip will take place in Greece, in Autumn 2016, and examine the three main types of structures that resulted from Aegean ductile and brittle extension. Field observations will be used to discuss the mechanisms that accommodated, at crust and lithosphere scales, the progressive development of the Aegean back-arc domain and its relation with the Hellenic subduction rollback. The trip will have three components.

  1. (JP Brun, UR1 & D. Sokoutis, Universiteit Utrecht). The Southern Rhodope Core Complex contains geological units deformed and exhumed from mantle depth since 45 Ma, and segmented by Neogene extension. Training: Processes of ductile deformation at high temperature, foliation, stretching lineations, shear criteria, mylonitisation, crustal-scale detachment; normal faulting, block tilting, ramp-flat extensional systems.
  2. (JP Brun, UR1 & F. Gueydan, UM). The Cycladic Blueschists are rock units that were first deeply buried during subduction and then exhumed back to surface by extension, since 45 Ma. They record the intracrustal deformation record of subduction-related tectonic processes. Training: Identification of high-pressure metamorphic rocks, ductile deformation associated to exhumation, shear fabrics, detachment and décollement.
  3. (N. Hovius, GFZ & H. Sinclair, UEDIN) The Corinth Rift is a location of ongoing upper plate uplift, extension and sedimentary basin formation, where the interplay of tectonic, geomorphic and sedimentary processes can be observed and quantified.

Training: Use of geomorphic features, sedimentary records and geophysical data to constrain the topographic evolution of an area dominated by active and seismogenic normal faults. The course is reserved for SUBITOP participants to foster optimal dynamics within the Network.

SUBITOP Short Course 2 - Modelling Tectonics and Topography

This 7 day course, planned to be in Edinburgh, UK, in Spring 2017, aims to give students the training needed to understand: a) the principles behind numerical modelling of geophysical systems, b) the core computational skills needed to be productive in a small research team and c) a range of modelling techniques as applied to the mantle, lithosphere and surface topography.

The programme consist of:

  • days 1 & 2 (EPCC) – Bespoke ‘Software Carpentry’ course on lab skills for scientific computing - The Unix shell (and how to automate repetitive tasks); Python or R (and how to grow a programme in a modular, testable way); Git and GitHub (and how to track and share work efficiently); and SQL (and the difference between structured and unstructured data).
  • Day 3 (J. van Hunen, U. Durham) – Introduction to finite difference modelling and its application to understanding the role of the mantle and subduction in defining surface topography.
  • Day 4 (S. Willett, ETHZ; D. Garcia-Castellanos, CSIC) – Application of modelling approaches to the interaction between lithospheric and surface processes.
  • Day 5 (S. Mudd and M. Attal, UEDIN) – Modelling the topographic response to tectonics and reading tectonics from topography.
  • Day 6 & 7 (M. Attal, S. Mudd & H. Sinclair, UEDIN)
  • Field trip to the Scottish Highlands. The course will be open to 10 external participants.

SUBITOP Short Course 3 - Analogue Modelling of Tectonic Processes

This 5 day short course, taking place in Utrecht, NL, later this year, will introduce the students to the basics of analogue modelling of tectonic processes. Introductory lectures will provide a theoretical background on rheology and scaling, followed by hands on exercises during which the students will learn how to address scientific questions through building physical analogue models. In particular, the following topics will be addressed:

  • History of analogue modelling
  • Analogue materials, material properties and scaling
  • Model design: geometric and kinematic boundary conditions
  • Building brittle and brittle-ductile models for the study of convergent and extensional systems
  • Models with multiple detachments
  • Analysis and interpretation of modeling results
  • Potential application to natural examples.

The course will be open to only 5 external participants due constraints on laboratory space.

SUBITOP Short Course 4 - The Betics: Surface response to slab deformation

This one-week course in summer 2018, in Malaga, Spain, will focus on the Betics, offering participants a solid, quantitative background in lithosphere deformation, underpinned by the field geology of upper plate deformation recorded in the Alboran domain. A two-day theoretical and practical introduction to “Lithosphere strength and mechanics of tectonic systems”, will focus on:

  • Effects of thermal layering on lithosphere strength (analytical solution and 1D numerical modelling with SciLab software)
  • Relationship between microstructures and lithosphere strength (microscopy of deformation mechanisms), and quantitative estimation of the impact of these mechanisms at lithosphere scale
  • Relationship between lithosphere strength and mechanics of tectonic systems using analogue and numerical models.

Participants will use 2D numerical models to capture the role of brittle-ductile coupling and its consequences for lithosphere deformation. The last four days will be dedicated to field training on “Lithosphere deformation related to slab deformation at depth”. Modern techniques of field geology will be deployed to decipher deformation due to back-arc extension (lithosphere thinning, subcontinental mantle exhumation) and slab tearing, and to illustrate theories of lithosphere rheology. Aims are to carry out geological and structural mapping at various scales down to sub-meter scales and to combine the use of geological and geophysical data in tectonic analysis. In particular we will discuss the tectonic significance of tomographic images, receiver function and gravimetric data from the Betics. Industry partner Fugro Geoid will demonstrate GPS data acquisition. The course will be open to 15 external participants.