Graduate student Aaron Gewecke participated in the expedition by the International Ocean Discovery Program that confirmed the 'missing link' of continental breakup, the initial step of the plate tectonic cycle.
The organization’s study, based on drill cores of the South China Sea, was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Continental drift was hypothesized in 1915, and continental breakup has been a challenge for earth scientists to explain. Plate tectonics predicts that new volcanic crust formed by seafloor spreading fills the void that forms as the plates separate. This was challenged in the 1990s when North Atlantic studies showed formation of either anomalously thick volcanic crust or no volcanism for tens of millions of years.