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Overview

The Earth is an amazing place. It offers a unique natural laboratory that covers space and time.

We are a multidisciplinary science that applies chemistry, physics, biology and mathematical tools to understand earth processes, decipher its past and predict its future.

We work to monitor changes in the Earth’s environment and suggest solutions to issues including major global issues.

Real graduate

"I was fortunate enough to have a very, very engaging and passionate lecturer, and I think really it was his ability to connect with students that really drew me towards it in the first instance. I found that having that passion from the lecturer really facilitated learning."

Katrina Bourke

Research

Our research focuses on the dynamics and timescales of earth processes, and material and energy exchanges within our planet.

Our work is important for ensuring global sustainability and is influenced by real-world considerations like

  • the need to manage a wide range of natural resources
  • increasing impacts from environmental damage
  • change and threats to human development from geologic hazards.

Areas of specific focus in our research include:

  • earth materials characterisation with specialisation in geochemistry, geochronology and geomechanics
  • marine geology
  • plate techtonics and crustal evolution
  • energy and mineral resources.

View our student topics

Partnerships

Our researchers collaborate on projects in specialised research groups and facilities across disciplines and institutions:

Industry and community

Universities and institutes

Ask us about becoming a partner

Petrology

Travel to Gayndah, Noosa, and around south east Queensland to learn how to describe, classify and determine the origins of igneous rocks.

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Sedimentary Geology and Stratigraphy

Learn about sedimentology and stratigraphy on location in Eden, coastal New South Wales.

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Deforming Earth: Fundamentals of Structural Geology

This unit provides the essential tools for field geologists, geotechnical engineers and rock physicists, with hands-on field experience in Eden, New South Wales.

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Geological Field Methods

Head to Arkaroola in South Australia to develop field mapping and stratigraphy skills, and explore deformed terranes, structural and metamorphic geology.

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Projects

Category 1 funded research projects

The evolution of generalism: why so many polyphagous fruit flies

Project Leader

Professor Anthony Clarke

Dates

2018-2020

Project summary

This project aims to understand why flies that cause maggoty fruit have so frequently evolved the generalist feeding habitat, and to test specific hypotheses to explain the high frequency of generalism in Bactrocera.

Outcomes will significantly advance understanding of the evolution of generalism, and so greatly advance herbivory theory. As Bactrocera are also globally significant horticultural pests, the project will provide under-pinning science for pest management.

Geomolecular dating with biologically relaxed clocks, and mammal evolution

Project Leader

Dr Matthew Phillips

Dates

2015-2017

Project summary

This project aims to use DNA, fossils and biological cues to synergistically model evolutionary rate changes. Molecular dates allow direct comparison of evolutionary and ecological patterns and processes across the tree of life. However, current models struggle to identify the location and magnitude of molecular clock rate changes on phylogenies, often resulting in wildly inaccurate dates.

Expected outcomes include improved dating accuracy, and a novel statistical framework for morphological data, which allows fossils to be more accurately merged into the tree of life. In turn, the project aims to resolve intense debate on the origins of marsupial and placental mammals, and to trace the responses of these two groups to past environmental changes.

Generic delimitations in Rottboelliinae (Andropogoneae, Panicoideae, Poaceae) based on molecular and morphological data

Project Leader

Dr Tanya Scharaschkin

Dates

2014-2017

Project summary

This project will provide a reliable framework for classifying a group of widespread but understudied grasses, including some rare and threaten species. The number of genera and species in the subtribe Rottboelliinae is uncertain. Analysis of DNA sequences from multiple regions will inform the taxonomic revision of ~11 genera and 98 species. Diagnostically important characters will be identified for the creation of reliable identification keys.

This research will train a new agrostologist and enhance our understanding of the biodiversity of mesic to savannah grasslands. It will provide clarity to decision-making processes regarding conservation and management of rare and threaten species.

Understanding equine incretins: a novel approach to laminitis prevention

Project Leader

Dr Melody de Laat

Dates

2014-2016

Project summary

Laminitis is a crippling foot disease in horses which incurs significant economic and social costs. Recent studies have shown that persistently high insulin concentrations can trigger laminitis, and that high insulin levels are caused by the excessive release of hormones called incretins.

This project aims to determine the role of incretins and their receptors in causing abnormal equine insulin secretion. The distribution of equine incretin receptors will be described for the first time, and the consequences of incretin receptor binding will be characterised. Understanding equine incretin biology may lead to novel therapies for laminitis.

Gastrointestinal hormones: linking insulin dysregulation and laminitis

Interdisciplinary/inter-institution project
Project Leader
Dates

2018-2020

Project summary

This project aims to identify the earliest pathogenic factors of disease by investigating two key hormones, ghrelin and GLP-2, and whether a specific genetic mutation underlies insulin dysregulation.

Using innovative approaches the project will enable the identification of at-risk animals and pinpoint novel treatment strategies. In the long term improved disease treatment and prevention will reduce the suffering associated with painful and often lethal co-morbidities.

Interdisciplinary and inter-institution projects

Some of the other projects we are contributing to with other disciplines and institutions are:

  • Geomorphological development of coral reefs, southern Great Barrier Reef: an integrated record of Holocene palaeoecology and palaeoclimate from cores, 2012-2015
  • Australian membership of the International Ocean Discovery Program
  • Decision intelligence: determining pest natal origins (Plant Biosecurity CRC)
  • Timing and duration of extension, magmatic and mineralization events in the southern part of the Sierra Madre Occidental: an integrated U-Pb, Ar-Ar and fission track study (237745, CONACyT, Mexico); in collaboration with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
  • Oligo-Miocene magmatism of the southern part of the Sierra Madre Occidental and Comondú Group (Mexico): terminal phase of subduction or initiation of rifting of the Gulf of California? in collaboration with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

View our student topics

Australian Research Council (ARC) funded projects

The missing link in the Tasmanides: evaluating tectonic evolution and resource exploration potential of the southern Thomson Fold belt

Research team
  • Associate Professor Scott Bryan
  • William Collins (UON)
  • Gideon Rosenbaum (UQ)
  • Alistair Hack (UON)
  • Charles Verdel (UQ)
  • Rosemary Hegarty (Geological Survey of NSW)
  • David Purdy (Geological Survey of QLD)
Dates

2017-2019


Project description

Understanding the Thomson Orogen, which straddles the NSW-Qld border, is critical for developing geodynamic models for the evolution of eastern Australia, and assessing resource potential. However, it lies under the Great Artesian Basin.

This project focusses on groundtruthing geophysical acquisition studies using drillcore from a targeted drilling program, designed to maximise the available tectono-stratigraphic information. The outcome will be a 3-D geological map of the region, which can be interrogated for mineral exploration targeting, and from which 4D evolutionary geodynamic models of eastern Australian can be integrated.

The role of pressure waves on the mechanics of earthquakes and faulting

Research team
  • Dr Christoph Schrank
  • Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb (UNSW)
  • Dr Emmanouil Veveakis
  • Dr Thomas Poulet (UNSW)
  • Dr Benjamin Marks (US)
  • Dr Sotirios Alevizos (UNSW)
Dates

2017-2019


Project description

Pressure waves on the mechanics of earthquakes and faulting. This project aims to decipher the physics of faulting and earthquakes from damage zones around seismogenic faults. It will examine a mechanism for instability in solids: volumetric collapse due to a dissipative pressure wave. This pressure wave may control damage-zone geometry and relate to earthquake stress and rock material properties.

The project will research the instability through theoretical, laboratory and field studies. Anticipated outcomes include advances in earthquake and fault prediction, tools to determine the stress state and material properties of Earth’s crust, and knowledge of a class of solid instabilities.

Slope and deep marine sedimentation: IODP Expedition 359: Maldives Monsoon & Indian Peninsula Paleoc

Research team

Dr Craig Sloss is collaborating with 15 investigators across multiple universities.

Dates

2017-2019


Project description

This proposal is for a 5-year membership of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), the world’s largest collaborative research program in Earth and ocean sciences addressing intensively reviewed, international priorities. The Program conducts seagoing coring expeditions and monitoring of instrumented boreholes to study the history and current activity of the Earth, recorded in sediments and rocks below the seafloor.

The program’s aims include understanding past global environments on multiple time scales, the deep biosphere, plate tectonics, occurrence and distribution of resources, and generation of hazards. Several multinational expeditions are scheduled and planned in our marine jurisdiction and within the Australasian region.

Finite strain with large rotations: a new hybrid numerical-experimental approach

Research team
  • Dr Christoph Schrank
  • Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb (UNSW)
  • Associate Professor Dr Ali Karrech (UWA)
  • Dr David Boutelier (UON)
Dates

2014-2016


Project summary

Deformation up to large strains and rotations is important in rocks, metals, polymers, and biomaterials. Computational mechanics is a standard tool for modelling such deformations. However, in earth sciences, mechanical theories use small-strain formulations or large-strain approaches with classical  stress rates. Classical stress rates can lead to incorrect stored energies.

This project proposes to test a new large-strain theory tailored to rocks experimentally, and to apply it to a pivotal geological problem: shear zone formation. The project will advance our fundamental understanding of the mechanics and energetics of rock deformation and provide a novel tool for the
modelling of large deformations.

Resolving the influence of intraplate orogenesis on continental margin tectonics

Project leader

Associate Professor Scott Bryan

Dates

2013-2015


Project summary

Novel, multi-dating of continental sedimentary rocks will be undertaken to examine the effects of a high sediment flux from an enigmatic, major mountain-building event on a distant continental margin. This will expand our understanding of the range of tectonic influences between continental interiors and margins and onshore resource potential.

Environmental stress indicators in coral skeletons

Project leader

Dr Luke Nothdurft

Dates

2010-2015


Project summary

Coral reefs are critical for Australia's tourism and fisheries industries, cultural heritage and international conservation responsibilities. The proposed research will test and document two newly identified stress indicators in corals, one of which will allow stress to be documented by visual inspection on living reef flats.

Both new techniques will allow documentation of historical records of stress events, thus improving understanding of reef dynamics through intervals of climate change, and importantly, they also may help detect 'early warning signs' of poor health in living reef corals. Thus, the research will inform
both palaeoclimate studies and current reef management strategies.

Our topics

Are you looking to study at a higher or more detailed level? We are currently looking for students to research topics at a variety of study levels, including PhD, Masters, Honours or the Vacation Research Experience Scheme (VRES).

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Our experts

We host an expert team of researchers and teaching staff, including Head of School and discipline leaders. Our discipline brings together a diverse team of experts who deliver world-class education and achieve breakthroughs in research.

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Events

17 Nov 2018

FIRST® LEGO® LEAGUE 2018

The 2018/19 FIRST LEGO League Season, INTO ORBITSM has launched!

2 Nov 2018

100 years of Anzac

Experience an interactive digital exhibition to learn about our First World War journey to the front, soldier repatriation and return home through stories of events and the historical places.

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