While Maine may not be a hotbed for tectonic activity today, the history embedded in its rocks makes it the perfect classroom for educating the next generation of geologists.

“The deformation that students are seeing in Maine now is similar to what’s happening in earth’s crust 10 or 20 kilometers deep in environments like Sumatra or [other parts of] Indonesia,” said Associate Professor of Geology Bill Sullivan, who specializes in structural geology and tectonics. Unlike Maine in the 21st century, Indonesia has a propensity for earthquakes.

Sullivan employs the rock layers at Pemaquid Point State Park on Maine’s coast as a lab for his course, Earth Structure and Tectonics, enabling students to explore the deformation of earth’s crust at tectonic plates. “We look at the physical and chemical mechanisms that enable rocks to deform,” said Sullivan. “The granitic rocks have been literally smooshed apart and broken and rotated, and that records different components of plate motion.”

In addition to providing insight into tectonic behavior, he said, the research gives students an understanding of their place in the universe. “It gives us a deeper appreciation of our environment and our world.”