A Puzzle Mat for Assembling Colombia’s Geologic Historical past – Eos


If in case you have ever assembled a big jigsaw puzzle, you know the way tough a activity it may be, particularly if the image you might be placing collectively is unclear or if items are lacking. The method turns into even more durable with out a desk or puzzle mat to show and help all of the items throughout the constructing course of.

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Earth’s deep historical past may be the largest puzzle geologists attempt to put collectively.

Earth’s deep historical past may be the largest puzzle geologists attempt to put collectively—and it’s not a simple job. Geologists use isotope geochronology, a technique that depends on the predictable decay of isotopes of radioactive components, to find out when a selected rock fashioned, and so they apply this info to ascertain the timing of previous geologic occasions. Nevertheless, remoted items of rock don’t inform the entire image of Earth’s historical past. Simply as each bit of a puzzle has a form and coloration sample matching the items round it, in geochronology, age-dated rocks should be matched with different rocks of comparable age and isotopic composition to inform the historical past of Earth clearly and precisely. It’s a lot simpler to make these matches when you might have an acceptable puzzle mat on which to reconstruct the geologic historical past.

Over the previous few years, a gaggle of early-career Colombian scientists from the Semillero de Geocronologia Uniandes (Geochronology Incubator on the College of the Andes) have collected all current items of geochronology details about Colombia’s rocky panorama to construct the Colombian Geochronological Database (CGD). This database serves as a mat for geochronologists concerned about becoming the geology of Colombia, which spans greater than 1.1 million sq. kilometers, into the puzzle that’s the geologic historical past of the northern Andes [Rodriguez-Corcho et al., 2021].

A Field of Unsorted Items

Colombia contains a mosaic of five major geographical regions: the Amazon, Andean, Caribbean, Orinoco, and Pacific. Though these areas share frequent organic and geographic options, they don’t essentially share the identical geologic historical past.

Fig. 1. The geological areas of Colombia and the encircling areas replicate their frequent tectonic historical past and rock formations. The boundaries of those areas differ from regional definitions based mostly on biodiversity, geographic, sociological, and different elements. Credit score: Rodriguez-Corcho et al. [2021], reprinted by permission of Taylor & Francis Ltd. Click on picture for bigger model.

Determine 1 exhibits a special format, delineated on the idea of distinct rocks: the results of completely different geological occasions that occurred (and are nonetheless happening) not solely on the floor but in addition within the crust and mantle. For instance, the jap and southeastern areas (Amazon and Orinoco geographical areas) include rocks from the Guiana craton, which extends to Venezuela and Brazil, and group collectively the oldest rocks (roughly 1 billion years outdated) in northern South America. The Western Cordillera area (Pacific geographical area) contains a collage of rocks, a few of them fashioned within the backside of the ocean, which crashed in opposition to the South American continent and had been elevated above sea stage by geological forces. When every of those occasions occurred and the way lengthy every lasted are big-picture questions that isotope geochronology can reply.

4 years in the past, undergraduates on the Semillero de Geocronologia Uniandes in Bogotá, Colombia, started investigating the standing of the geochronological analysis in Colombia, motivated by the query of how a lot is understood in regards to the ages of Colombia’s rocks. This group of scholars, most of whom graduated throughout the improvement of the mission however continued engaged on it, was led by professor Yamirka Rojas-Agramonte and was assisted by Colombian graduate college students at universities everywhere in the world.

The staff discovered that the present geochronological info had been beforehand compiled in revealed geochronological databases [Gómez-Tapias et al., 2015; Millward and Verdugo, 1981; Restrepo, 1983; Maya, 1992; Calvache, 1988]. Nonetheless, these databases had a number of limitations. First, they didn’t present clear insights on the regional geology and tectonics of Colombia and the northern Andes area by all geologic time. They weren’t all contained in a digital format, none of them had been accessible for simple public entry, and so they weren’t organized below a constant format (e.g., the areas of some samples had been described by colloquial names for companies or different landmarks that not existed). Additionally, not one of the databases had sufficient knowledge to assemble consultant statistical figures to be used in regional-scale geologic interpretations.

In different phrases, though these databases preserved the geochronological info of Colombia, they had been like packing containers of unsorted puzzle items. What was wanted was a useful resource by which items that match collectively—rocks of comparable ages—could possibly be stored in place, exhibiting the place many of the accessible info is concentrated and the place the gaps are.

The Want for a Puzzle Mat

The dearth of a standard framework by which to view Colombia’s geologic historical past motivated the creation of the Colombian Geochronological Database (CGD).

The dearth of a standard framework by which to view Colombia’s geologic historical past motivated the creation of the CGD. The CGD permits geochronologists to acknowledge vital occasions in Colombia’s geologic previous that will have regional and even international tectonic and geodynamic significance.

For instance, by offering a peer-reviewed timeline for main tectonic occasions recorded within the rocks of Colombia, the CGD permits geologists to know when plate tectonic processes alongside northwestern South America have resulted within the creation of recent crust (by processes like arc magmatism, crustal melting, and continental rifting), the preservation of outdated crust (by processes similar to continent-continent or arc-continent collision), or the destruction of crust. These are related questions for researchers finding out the evolution of mountains and lively tectonic processes.

The CGD additionally aids in assessing the consequences of societal occasions on geological analysis. For instance, Colombia’s long-lasting, violent inner political battle between the federal government and guerilla forces has hindered entry to locations within the southern (Amazonia), western (Pacific), and jap (Llanos) areas of the nation, leading to knowledge gaps in these areas. The one method to acquire samples for geochronological research is to assemble them throughout fieldwork. The CGD allows scientists to visualise the place the battle has left these gaps and to plan future fieldwork to fill them. Though the inner battle persists (and has even worsened in sure areas amid the COVID-19 pandemic), with the signing of the 2016 peace settlement and now with the event of the CGD, the brand new era of geoscientists is optimistic in regards to the challenges and alternatives to come back.

An Instance of ICON Science

CGD is an instance of world and regional scientific collaboration fulfilling the values of ICON science. ICON, a time period coined in 2019 by the U.S. Division of Power, refers to efforts that combine processes throughout disciplines and scales (I), coordinate constant protocols to provide interoperable knowledge (C), overtly alternate knowledge (O), and community efforts in knowledge assortment (N).

The CGD staff plans to broaden its community and embrace knowledge from different Latin American nations.

The CGD was designed primarily by following the strategy utilized by Bruce Eglington in creating DateView, a user-friendly freeware geochronology database system that gives well-organized knowledge storage and straightforward retrieval [Eglington, 2004]. Undertaking members additionally developed a constant workflow to compile, filter, and interpret all geochronological knowledge associated to Colombia’s geology revealed between 1962 and 2021. This activity required the staff to evaluate every of the accessible knowledge units and analyze the sort and high quality of knowledge they contained, an effort led by Rojas-Agramonte and carried out by college students at completely different phases of their early careers with help from knowledgeable scientist mentors. In whole, this work amounted to reviewing 342 references, of which 283—together with peer-reviewed papers and bachelor’s, grasp’s, and doctoral theses—met the minimal standards to be included. References had been discarded in the event that they lacked geological info associated to the samples studied or if samples didn’t have the proper coordinates.

In August 2021, the CGD launched a public web page that includes an interactive map and different helpful instruments for knowledge accessibility (Determine 2). The location will probably be up to date routinely and can enable researchers to contribute by importing their geochronology knowledge. Behind the web site, there will probably be a staff of volunteer scientists and consultants in geochronology and Colombian geology who will evaluate and assess the standard of the contributions, utilizing the standards talked about above.

Fig. 2. The Colombian Geochronological Database web page options an interactive map and different knowledge accessibility instruments. Researchers can add their geochronology knowledge to the location, which will probably be up to date routinely. Click on picture for bigger model.

For the second, the database consists of knowledge from Colombia completely, however the CGD staff plans to broaden its community and embrace knowledge from different Latin American nations by coaching scientists from these nations to compile their knowledge within the CGD. To additional community and to extend the usefulness and accessibility of the information within the CGD, these knowledge will probably be uploaded into international knowledge units, such because the PANGAEA project.

With the creation of this Colombian geological puzzle mat, researchers can simply see their knowledge in a bigger context, and so they can see the place their efforts are most wanted to fill within the gaps. Moreover, seeing all accessible knowledge assembled in a single place could yield new insights into the massive image of Colombia’s geological historical past.


I thank Yamirka Rojas Agramonte, Andres Felipe Rodriguez-Corcho, Johana A. Barrera-Gonzalez, and Maria Paula Marroquin-Gomes for actively collaborating on the writing phases of this text. Sarah Bonilla-Correa, David Izquierdo-Camacho, Sofia M. Delgado-Balaguera, David Cartwright-Buitrago, Maria D. Muñoz-Granados, William G. Carantón-Mateus, Alejandro Corrales-García, Andrés F. Laverde-Martinez, Aura Cuervo-Gómez, Marco A. Rodriguez-Ruiz, Juan P. Marin-Jaramillo, Nicole Salazar-Cuellar, Laura C. Esquivel-Arenales, Maria E. Daroca, A. Sofía Carvajal, Ana M. Perea-Pescador, Juan D. Solano-Acosta, Sergio Diaz, Alejandro Guillen, German Bayona, Agustín Cardona-Molina, Bruce Eglington, and Camilo Montes assisted in assembling the Colombian Geochronological Database.


Calvache, M. L. (1988), Catálogo de las edades isotópicas del vulcanismo Neógeno–Cuaternario de Colombia. Sector sur. volcán Doña Juana hasta la frontera con Ecuador, Ingeominas informe interno, Ingeominas, Bogotá.

Eglington, B. (2004), DateView: A home windows geochronology database, Comput. Geosci., 30, 847–858, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cageo.2004.06.002.

Gómez-Tapias, J., et al. (2015), Compilando la geología de Colombia: Una visión a 2015, Publ. Geol. Espec. 33, Serv. Geol. Colomb., Bogotá.

Maya, M. (1992), Catálogo de dataciones isotópicas en Colombia, Bol. Geol. Ingeominas, 32, 1–3.

Millward, D., and G. Verdugo (1981), Catalogue of radiometric age dates in Colombia, March 1981: Informe Mision Geologica Britanica, Ingeominas, Bogotá.

Restrepo, J. J. (1983), Compilación de edades radiométricas de Colombia: Departamentos andinos hasta 1982, Bol. Cienc. Tierra, 78, 201–245.

Rodriguez-Corcho, A. F., et al. (2021), The Colombian geochronological database (CGD), Int. Geol. Rev., 29, 1–35, https://doi.org/10.1080/00206814.2021.1954556.

Creator Data

Carolina Ortiz-Guerrero ([email protected]), College of Florida, Gainesville

Quotation: Ortiz-Guerrero, C. (2022), A puzzle mat for assembling Colombia’s geologic historical past, Eos, 103, https://doi.org/10.1029/2022EO220190. Printed on 11 April 2022.
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