Research themes

Archaeological science

Archaeological science is concerned with the application of various scientific techniques to solve problems related to archaeology, human origins and cultural history.  Research includes the application of scientific dating methods, the analysis of artifact materials and skeletal material, studies of surface processes and reconstruction of past environments. The field is inherently interdisciplinary and includes collaborations with other researchers and groups in the School and elsewhere.

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Research Areas Atmospheric

Atmospheric composition

Every time the sun shines on a leaf, the wind blows over dry ground or a driver starts their car, the composition of the atmosphere (the gases and particles it contains) is changed. Every change affects the climate, the natural world, or human health. The study of atmospheric composition, then, lies at the intersection of meteorology, chemistry, biology and engineering and uses the tools of mathematics and statistics as well.

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Climate change & variability

Climate variations across Australia and the globe affect agriculture, human health, water resources and ecosystems. This research area is investigating climate variability and longer-term changes through analysis of observations and climate model simulations. It seeks to quantify the contributions to global and regional climate variations due to different factors, such as natural climate modes, increasing greenhouse gases or stratospheric ozone depletion.

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Research Areas Climate Variability

Computational and Applied Petrology

The Earth generates rocks continuously as a by-product of tectonic processes. The rock cycle not only forms the solid ground beneath our feet, but also controls chemical interaction between the Earth's interior and the atmosphere and biosphere. Petrology, the study of rocks, is one of the oldest disciplines within the Earth Sciences, but it remains key to our understanding of the planet. Our group develops and applies modern computational methods in this most traditional of fields.

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Computational Geodynamics

The computational geodynamics group studies a wide range of disciplines including planetary evolution, plate tectonics, geodynamics, seismology, active tectonics, geothermal energy and landscape evolution. Computational modelling adds the dimension of time to snapshots of information found in the geological record. It allows the quantitative study of deep-Earth and surficial processes occurring at different temporal and spatial scales.

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wind turbines against a setting sun

Data Assimilation, Ensemble Forecasting and Renewable Energy

Climate and weather computer models attempt to predict the evolution of the atmosphere/ocean filtered to the spatio-temporal resolution of the model. Such filtering is essential to make the predictions computationally affordable. Data Assimilation is the science of using models and observations of the atmosphere/land/ocean/ice/waves to estimate the actual evolution of the filtered atmospheric/oceanic state and the model error. Data assimilation provides the initial conditions for weather forecasts for a few hours to a few years ahead.

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Economic geology

Research in Economic Geology involves the study of earth materials (e.g. precious metals, base metals, gemstones, hydrocarbons) that have industrial and/or economic benefits. This field is multi-disciplinary and incorporates a range of study areas including petrology, mineralogy, geochemistry, geophysics, structural geology, tectonics and stratigraphy.

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Research Areas Economic

Environmental geochemistry

Geochemical conditions and processes at Earth's surface are an integral part of our environment, where man-made perturbations play an increasingly important role. We study physical-chemical conditions and processes to predict how these will change in a changing environment. Studies include the assessment of carbonate mineral stability under ocean acidification and the prediction of fluid–rock reactions in CO2 storage reservoirs.

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Geomicrobiology (and biogeochemistry) involves understanding the microbially mediated chemical reactions occurring at microscopic scales that can affect natural water quality. To achieve these aims, geomicrobiologists/biogeochemists draw from a range of techniques involving: molecular biology, spectroscopy, electron microscopy and isotope geochemistry.

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By listening to the Earth we can hear her speak to us. That is why geophysicists have their ears to the ground. Our 'ears' can include sensitive instruments like seismometers, which measure earthquakes and allow us to investigate stress in the crust, risk and changes caused by human activity, or gravity meters and magnetometers, measuring the fields around the Earth and allowing us to image its structure and potential for various earth resources.

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History of life and environments

Research in sedimentary geology can be used to identify past climate and vegetation history, paleo-environmental conditions and the evolution of the oceans and atmosphere. Our group’s work covers a range of disciplines including sedimentology, stratigraphy, palaeontology, paleo-botany, sedimentary geochemistry, and sediment-hosted ore deposits. We apply these techniques to unravel the evolution of sedimentary systems and links to biological evolution over the last 4 billion years of Earth’s history.

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Research Areas Basin

Isotope geochemistry

The ability to determine accurately the compositions of rocks, minerals, soils and waters is central to our understanding of the processes that have formed and continuously modify the planet. Armed with these tools, we address a wide range of fundamental questions from the migration of continents and the timing of events resulting in mountain-building and ore genesis, to the nature of climate change in the remote past.

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Meteorology & Cloud Processes

Meteorology is the study of the weather, the key processes, and its prediction. We study a range of topics in meteorology, including high-impact events like thunderstorms and fire weather, as well as intriguing phenomena like atmospheric gravity waves, turbulence, and atmospheric dynamics in general. We use theory, state-of-the-art observations, and high-performance computing to conduct a broad range of research in this area.

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Noble gas geochronology

Our research in the field of noble gas geochronology involves application of the 40Ar/39Ar dating method to determine the ages and cooling histories of a variety of rocks, including those associated with young volcanoes, ore deposits and metamorphic terranes. In addition, we investigate the noble gas and halogen geochemistry of fluids associated with ore deposit formation and the cycling of crustal fluids into mantle rocks via subduction zones.

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Palaeoclimatology is the study of the Earth's past climate on time scales that span the history of the Earth. Palaeoclimatologists use geological and biological indicators such as rocks, sediments, ice sheets, tree rings, corals, shells and microfossils to reconstruct past climate over decades to millennia. The results of this research help us to understand natural climate variability and the role of industrially-caused climate change.

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Tectonics & geodynamics

Exploring the link between the thermal, mechanical and topographic evolution of the continents, our work involves both field-based observations (structural geology, geomorphology) and numerical modelling. Applications include natural hazard assessment (earthquake, landslides) and novel resource utilisation (especially geothermal). We do fieldwork in a variety of places including East Timor, Antarctica, Madagascar, Bohemian Massif and Australia.

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Thermochronology & continental tectonics

Thermochronology applies temperature-sensitive radiometric dating methods to study the thermal histories of rocks in the low-temperature environments of the upper few kilometres of the continental crust. Techniques include Fission Track Analysis and (U-Th-Sm)/He methods applied to common accessory minerals such as apatite and zircon, which are typically enriched in the radiogenic parent isotopes of U and Th.

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Tropical meteorology & climate

The tropics are home to some of our most fascinating and intense storms, clouds and severe weather. Tropical Australia, together with our northern neighbours in the archipelago stretching from Sumatra to New Guinea, experiences extreme wet-season rainfall of up to 4 metres per year. Tropical cyclones, monsoon floods, squall lines extending hundreds of kilometres and spectacular thunderstorms are all fixtures of our tropical weather. We conduct leading research into the processes behind tropical storms and their two-way interaction with the background atmospheric state.

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