Field season to the Eclogite Zone in the Tauern Window

Authored by Leif Tokle.

The last 9+ months have been chaotic and very ‘brave new world’-esque for everyone. Fieldwork for many (including our group) was canceled due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, Zoe Braden, Whitney Behr, and myself were able to make the short trip to Austria and spend seven days in the field studying high pressure rocks in the Tauern Window. We were lucky to get our field season in because at the time of writing this blog, Austria is now on Switzerland’s quarantine list.

Location and geologic map of the Tauern Window. Figure made by WM Behr, modified from Schmidt et al. (2013).

Our field work took place in the Tauern Window, which is a unique area in western Austria and northeastern Italy, representing the largest region of high-pressure rocks in the eastern half of the Alpine orogeny. Our fieldwork and future studies focus on the Eclogite Zone, in the south-central region of the Tauern Window. The Eclogite Zone is a relatively small unit within the Tauern Window with folded eclogites and metasedimentary rocks at the surface. The rocks within this unit were exhumed from ~80 km depth from the subduction zone interface. The purpose of our field work is to study the rheological heterogeneity between the more viscous eclogites and the less viscous metasedimentary rocks, as well as investigate the role of sediments on the rheology of the subduction zone interface.

One of our favorite photos showing the different styles of folding in the eclogites.

Like many members of our group who work in the field, I had the opportunity to use a drone to create high resolution maps of select portions of the field site. To illustrate why the drone is so useful, I made a figure comparing the drone imagery with the satellite imagery from Google Earth Pro. In the drone imagery, individual rocks and even our water bottles are visible! Using the drone imagery, we were able to collect and create structural maps of the area while still in the field.

a) DJI Mavic Pro drone. b) Comparison between the drone imagery and Google Earth Pro imagery.

A lot of the memories I hold from this field season were from the Eisseehütte, which is the hut we stayed at during our field work. Some of the hut highlights consisted of morning yodelling to getting on the local radio station, to everyone staring at us with our table full of electronics. The people are amazing, and the food was delicious (even the veggie options!!). I highly recommend their homemade schnapps!

The Eisseehütte getting swallowed up by clouds.

For me (a lab rat), this was my first field work experience. There is a lot to do now that we are back with our structural field data and collected samples, but I am excited to get back out into the field next summer!!

The EZ team

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