Plate tectonics is well quantified kinematically and we have seen dramatic advances in our understanding of the governing dynamics over the recent years. However, the complexities of a thermo-chemically convecting mantle, including the continental cycles that result from fractionation, still present us with fascinating challenges, not least when trying to marry geodynamic models and geological data. This session consists of four blocks, including the Love Medal lecture by Mike Gurnis. All four will discuss both observational and modeling approaches designed to make headway on these problems. We will move from global-scale geodynamic models, to the more regional explorations of deep mantle-plate coupling, to a range of studies on surface topography and sealevel, and end with regional tectonic settings which put our understanding of the spatio-temporal evolution of vertical and horizontal deformation to the test.