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Our research is organised into three broad themes:

Earth Surface Processes and Hazards

Research in this theme addresses the processes that form and modify the Earth’s surface, and that transport material and energy to and across the surface. Many of these processes are hazardous, and we collaborate with practitioners and stakeholders to support management and mitigation of these hazards.

Recent research across the theme has revealed new insights into earthquake rupture and propagation, addressed drivers of volcanic eruptions, and consequences of exposure to eruption products and identified the structure and emplacement mechanisms of gravity currents.

Upcoming research projects will develop new technologies to interrogate and characterise turbidity currents and pyroclastic density currents, will investigate mobilisation of magma from crustal reservoirs, and will constrain emplacement of lava flows, mitigating hazards in Hawaii and elsewhere.

Earth Surface Processes and Hazards research within the Department of Earth Sciences includes

  • Volcanology and volcanic hazards
  • Health impacts of geo-materials
  • Submarine landslides
  • Remote sensing of landslide and earthquake ground-movements from Satellite Radar (InSAR)
  • Laboratory investigations of rock mechanics and environmental fluid dynamics
  • Tectonics - interactions of deformation, climate and sedimentation in tectonically active regions.

Climate, Environment and Resources

Research in this theme investigates the causes and consequences of changes to Earth environments across the full range of geological time and finds solutions to environmental and resource-related issues of industrial and societal importance, including decarbonisation, energy security, air pollution, and de-risking extractive industries.

Recent research has used stalagmite and isotope records to uncover the causes of environmental change over months, millennia, and millions of years. The consequences of environmental change have been assessed in deep time, via the fossil record, to modern environments, via analysis of chemical cycling. Resource-related research has addressed decarbonisation of energy and sustainable resource extraction.

Upcoming research projects will find sustainable local solutions to metal pollution remediation in Indonesia, will probe the Cambrian explosion, will work with extractive industries to improve understanding of hydrocarbon reservoirs, will investigate carbon sequestration in sandstone reservoirs, and will analyse factors affecting childhood exposures to urban particulates. 

Climate, environmental and resources research within the Department of Earth Sciences includes

  • Reconstructing Holocene tropical cyclone activity
  • Sedimentological and geochemical tracers of past deep-sea circulation exploring the effects of climate on the ancient oceans
  • Estimating how land management may affect terrestrial carbon reservoirs in the future
  • Strategic and rare earth elements through waste industrial spoil extraction
  • Understanding helium and rare earth element distribution in the subsurface
  • Modelling speciation in palaeoenvironments
  • Geothermal energy from old coal mines

Physics and Chemistry of Earth and Planetary Processes

Research within this theme explores the fundamental geophysical and geochemical processes that have shaped the Earth and other rocky planets, from Earth formation to the present day, and on length scales ranging from crystal-scale to whole-mantle processes.

Recent research across this theme has explored the causes and consequences of tectonic processes through field studies, petrology, geochemistry, and numerical modelling. The structure and dynamics of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle has been imaged using cutting-edge geophysical techniques. Magmatic processes on Earth and other bodies have been constrained through geochemical analysis in our world-leading laboratories. Physical processes on the surface of Mars, and the interior of stars have been modelled numerically.

Upcoming research projects will investigate the stability of cratons, quantify the rheology of geo-materials at high temperature and pressure, investigate distribution and cycling of oxygen in the mantle, and explore the link between climate and tectonics in Australia.

Physics and Chemistry of Earth and Planetary Processes research within the Department of Earth Sciences includes

  • Reconstruction of geochemical and physical processes in the early Earth
  • Numerical modelling of lithospheric and mantle dynamics
  • Marine deployments of networks of ocean bottom seismometers to research the dynamics of rifting-to-spreading at the ocean-continent transition along the Atlantic margin
  • Geophysical imaging of crustal structures
  • Geochemical investigation of mantle and crustal processes
  • Physical properties and processes in geo-materials