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Plateau Map
Figure 1: Map of the Colorado Plateau (white line) and adjacent areas: left, shaded digital elevation map; right, generalized geological map showing Permian and Triassic and Jurassic strata (from Olsen et al., Scientific Drilling, 2008). Core areas are: PF, Petrified Forest, Arizona; RP, Rock Point, Utah; SG, St. George, Utah; WT, Wards Terrace, Arizona; SRS, San Rafael Swell, Utah.

Why The Triassic-Jurassic and Why the Colorado Plateau

Early Mesozoic epicontinental basins of western North America contain a spectacular record of the climatic and tectonic development of northwestern Pangea as well as what is arguably the world’s richest and most-studied Triassic-Jurassic continental biota. The Colorado Plateau and its environs (above - Figure 1) expose the textbook example of these layered sedimentary records (Figure 2). Intensely studied since the mid-19th century, the basins, their strata, and their fossils have stimulated hypotheses on the development of the Early Mesozoic world as reflected in the international literature. But despite this long history of research, the lack of numerical time calibration, the presence of major uncertainties in global correlations, and an absence of entire suites of environmental proxies still loom large and prevent integration of this immense environmental repository into a useful global picture. Practically insurmountable obstacles to outcrop sampling require a scientific drilling experiment to recover key early Mesozoic sedimentary sections that will transform our understanding of the Early Mesozoic world. To bring our insight into this critical time in Earth history to a new level, we developed the concept of the Colorado Plateau Coring Project (CPCP), an effort to recover core spanning the early Mesozoic (Triassic-Jurassic) section of the Colorado Plateau and adjacent areas. The original basis for this was outlined at the 1999 ICDP-and NSF funded International Workshop for a Climatic, Biotic, and Tectonic, Pole-to-Pole Coring Transect of Triassic-Jurassic Pangea [( (Olsen et al., 1999), section “Western Equatorial Pangea” (].