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Arthur Holmes Meeting 2016 - The Wilson Cycle: Plate Tectonics and Structural Inheritance During Continental Deformation

23 - 25 May 2016
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Event type:
Conference, Field Trip
Organised by:
1. Geological Society Events, Geological Association of Canada, Tectonic Studies Group
The Geological Society (Burlington House)
Event status:

This meeting marked the fiftieth anniversary of Tuzo Wilson’s landmark paper asking “Did the Atlantic close and then re-open?”.

This paper was one of a series of papers he published which led to the “Wilson Cycle” concept in which the repeated opening and closing of ocean basins along old orogenic belts is a key process in the assembly and breakup of supercontinents. This implied that the processes of rifting and mountain building somehow pre-conditioned and weakened the lithosphere in these regions making them susceptible to strain localization during future deformation episodes.

It is now generally accepted that most geological architectures are controlled by interactions between plate motions, the horizontal mechanics of the lithosphere and pre-existing structures in the crust. However, our detailed understanding of the processes of structural inheritance is still very limited. This 3-day meeting brought together geophysicists, structural geologists, and modellers in order to re-assess the legacy of the Wilson Cycle concept and how our understanding inheritance in continental tectonics has evolved over the past 50 years.

Thematic sessions

  • The Wilson & Supercontinent cycles 
  • Record of the Wilson Cycle
  • Geodynamic Models and Tectonic Reconstructions
  • Basement Inheritance and Reactivation
  • Mantle Convection and Plate Movements
  • Inheritance and Rheology in Continental Tectonics
  • Tectonic Weakening and Localisation
  • Tectonic Inheritance on Passive Margins
  • Arctic
  • Tethys/Gondwana
  • Subduction in the Wilson Cycle
  • Understanding Supercontinent cycles

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Kevin Burke (University of Houston, USA)
  • Henry Halls (University of Toronto, Canada)
  • John Dewey (University College Oxford, UK)
  • Susanne Buiter (Geological Survey of Norway and University of Oslo, Norway)
  • Mike Daly (University of Oxford, UK)
  • Haakon Fossen (University of Bergen, Norway)
  • Shijie Zhong (University of Colorado, USA)
  • Andréa Tommasi (University of Montpellier, France)
  • Philip England (University of Oxford, UK)
  • Erik Lundin (Statoil Research Centre, Norway)
  • William Thomas (University of Kentucky and Geological Survey of Alabama, USA)
  • Myra Keep (The University of Western Australia, Australia)
  • Sergey Drachev (ArcGeoLink)
  • Celâl Şengör (Istanbul Technical University, Turkey)
  • Robert Hall (Royal Holloway University of London, UK)
  • Damien Nance (Ohio University, USA)

Field Trip

There was a four-day, post-conference field excursion to the Scottish NW Highlands to observe and discuss basement inheritance and reactivation processes in the field. This took place from Thursday, 26 to Sunday, 29 May 2016. 

Special Publication

A Geological Society special publication is planned containing papers linked to presentations at the meeting.


  • Woody Wilson (BP Exploration, UK)
  • Ken McCaffrey (Durham University, UK)
  • Tony Doré (Statoil (UK) Ltd, UK)
  • Greg Houseman (University of Leeds, UK)
  • Leigh (Wiki) Royden (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Event Partners

TSG logo        Geological Association of Canada       CTG logo

Event sponsors