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Research Projects at RSES Research Projects at RSES
Inside isotopic clocks: distribution of parent and daughter nuclides in geochronometer minerals
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri Ireland, Trevor
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Planetary studies, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Petrology, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB,
Knowing the distribution of U, Th and radiogenic Pb in chondrules and refractory inclusions is important for accurate interpretation of U-Pb isotopic dates. For example, the distribution of U between primary and secondary minerals can indicate whether the date corresponds to formation or to alteration of a chondrule or a Ca-Al-rich refractory inclusions (CAIs). In the case of dating equilibrated (i.e. metamorphosed) chondrites, we need to know the host mineral of U in order to apply correct diffusion parameters for estimating closure temperatures.


The student will explore and advance the sensitivity limits of modern secondary ionisation mass spectrometry, and will use this technique to measure U, Th and Pb concentrations and isotopic ratios in chondrules, CAIs and their components. Extremely low concentrations of U and Th in chondrites in a low parts per billion range, together with micron-scale heterogeneity of chondrules and CAIs makes this project analytically challenging.


The history of mixing nucleosynthetic components during formation of our Solar System
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri Ireland, Trevor
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Planetary studies, Petrology, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Physics, Laboratory, Analytical, Computational
Degree types: M.Sc, PhD, PhB,
All chemical elements heavier than lithium, that comprise the Earth and our Solar System, were produced by nuclear reactions in stars, and mixed during formation of the Solar System. It was once thought that that mixture once existed as a hot and almost homogeneous molecular cloud, and the minerals, planetesimals and planets formed during its cooling and gradual condensation and accretion. That concept was overthrown by discovery of refractory materials (Ca-Al-rich inclusions and hibonite grains) containing isotopic anomalies that are incompatible with condensation from homogeneous 'bulk solar' gas. Existence of presolar grains with extreme isotopic compositions for many elements, and small but systematic differences in isotopic compositions of Mo, Cr, Ni, Ba and other elements between Earth, Mars, and meteorites from various asteroids demonstrates heterogeneity of the Solar System at scales from micron-sized minerals to planets. The pattern of mixing, however, remains poorly understood. The student will explore the timing of mixing nucleosynthetic components and mechanisms of homogenisation by precise isotopic analysis of several elements containing isotopes produced in various stellar environments from selected meteorites, and by comparative modelling of mixing and mass-independent fractionation that can possibly mimic incomplete mixing. The main emphasis can be given to either an analytical or a modelling part, depending on the talents and skills of the student.
The Early Time: towards consistent time scale of the Solar System formation
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri Ireland, Trevor
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Planetary studies, Petrology, Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: M.Sc, PhD,
An interstellar molecular cloud transformed into our Solar System through condensation of mineral grains, accretion and growth of planetesimals and planets in a short period of a few million years. Understanding the nature of these events is impossible without their precise sequencing. The aim of this project is to determine the timing and duration of the key events of accretion and planetary growth with precision and accuracy hitherto unattainable.

The student will The student will analyse some of the best preserved meteorites and their components (minerals, chondrules, refractory inclusions) for U-Pb, 26Al-26Mg, 53Mn-53Cr and 182Hf-182W using high-precision and high-resolution analytical techniques: thermal ionisation and plasma ionisation mass spectrometry and SHRIMP ion microprobes. The project involves extensive laboratory development work in order to maximize precision, accuracy and sensitivity of isotopic methods.

Exploring potential and limitations of ultrahigh-precision U-Pb dating
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri Williams, Ian Rubatto, Daniela
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Planetary studies, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Petrology, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Geology, Physics, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: M.Sc, PhD,
The goal of this project is to enhance our ability to solve geological problems with more precise and accurate isotopic dating. Geochronology allows us to determine which of the geological events close in time occurred first, and thus to constrain their causal relations. With precision of dating of 0.1-0.2 million years, we can verify the links between mass extinctions and impact events or catastrophic volcanic eruptions, pinpoint geological processes responsible for formation of major ore deposits, and solve other important scientific and practical problems, which cannot be solved reliably with 20-50 times less precise microbeam techniques, currently adopted by the Australian geological community. The student who undertakes this project will comprehensively evaluate the accuracy (and various possible causes of inaccuracy) in U-Pb dating at the new level of precision, in order to establish a procedure for routine dating of Precambrian zircon and other minerals with precision and accuracy of ±0.1-0.2 Ma, or about 3-10 times better than before. This project is most suitable for a student who is interested in both the history of the Earth, and in solid state chemistry and physics.
Archaean granite-greenstone evolution
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri Campbell, Ian
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Economic and Structural Geology, Petrology, Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical, Fieldwork
Degree types: M.Sc, PhD,
The aims of the project are: (i) to determine the relationship between mafic and felsic volcanism, (ii) to test whether greenstones can be correlated across terrane boundaries, and (iii) to develop a model for the evolution of 2.7 Ga granite-greenstone terranes in the light of the new dates and geochemical data, and if possible, their relationship to gold mineralization.

The centrepiece of the project will be the production of the first ultra-high precision dates of zircons and baddeleyites extracted from Archaean greenstones of the Yilgarn craton, Western Australia. The expected precision is better than ± 0.5 Myr compared with ±5 Myr current available through SHRIMP. The speed at which the crust evolved we can be used to test hypothesis for evolution of granite-greenstone terranes.

The project will also involve Hf isotopes in zircon by LA-ICP-MS, oxygen isotope analysis of zircons by SHRIMP, Nd and Sr isotope analyses of rocks and minerals, and trace element analyses.

The project is funded by ARC and forms part of a larger Monash-ANU project.

The student will carry out ultra-high precision dating and isotopic analyses. This will require high level of laboratory aptitude, and sufficient knowledge of geochemistry for interpretation of geochronological and isotopic data. The project will also involve working in the field at several different mining camps in Western Australia, mainly with diamond drill core, so you will need to be a good observer.

Precise timing of ore formation
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri Campbell, Ian
Subject keywords: Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Geochronology (dating), Economic and Structural Geology, Petrology, Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD,
Precise knowledge of the age relationships between ore formation and related magmatism, metamorphism and fluid migration is necessary for understanding the conditions of ore formation. This project (co-supervised by Y. Amelin and I. Campbell, ANU, and V. Kamenetsky, Uni. Tasmania) is aimed at dating the giant Olympic Dam Cu-Au-REE-U deposit and its host rocks using modern high-precision geochronology. The age of the Olympic Dam deposit is currently known with precision of ca. ±10 million years, which is insufficient for resolving the ages of individual components in the Olympic Dam Breccia Complex. The student will date zircon and other uranium-bearing accessory minerals from the key rocks in the Olympic Dam Breccia Complex, with precision by 10-30 times higher than before, using high-precision U-Pb isotopic analyses. The project will involve developing better constrained models of formation of this unique deposit, using the determined isotopic ages.
Diffusion as a limiting factor in isotopic dating and tracing
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri ONeill, Hugh
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Planetary studies, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Petrology, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Laboratory, Analytical, Experimental
Degree types: M.Sc, PhD,
If a rock has been affected by thermal metamorphism, aqueous alteration or shock metamorphism some time after crystallization, it is likely that uranium and radiogenic lead accumulated since crystallization moved between the minerals, or at a larger scale, in that process. The date calculated from the radiogenic 207Pb/206Pb ratio assuming closed system evolution could yield an erroneous date. Knowing the nature of element mobility in the secondary process is important for accurate interpretation of isotopic dates. For example, if we try to apply diffusion formalism to a rock in which the isotopic systems were reset by mineral recrystallization, then we are likely to get a meaningless date.

The student will study the distribution of U and Pb isotopes in a variety of rocks, minerals and meteorites, and search for characteristic geochemical and isotopic patterns predicted by diffusion formalism. He or she will also inspect the existing set of experimental data for diffusion of parent and daughter elements in the minerals used in isotopic dating, and plan and perform experiments necessary to obtain the missing data.

What the Earth is made of?
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri ONeill, Hugh Ireland, Trevor
Subject keywords: Planetary studies, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Petrology, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical, Computational
Degree types: M.Sc, PhD, PhB,
The 176Lu-176Hf isotopic system is an invaluable tool for studying early differentiation in the Earth and other planets. The initial condition of this isotopic system in the Earth, a pre-requisite for its accurate use, remains elusive, despite the growing amount of Lu-Hf data on early Solar System materials. The Lu/Hf ratio, and ratios of other refractory elements, directly measured in chondrites, may not represent the bulk terrestrial and Solar System values, because of chondrite heterogeneity (within a meteorite and between the classes of chondrites), and possible impact erosion or early volcanism. These complications will be addressed in this project.


The student will study the Lu-Hf isotopic system, and U-Pb and Sm-Nd as necessary, in the least metamorphosed chondrites and in chondritic matrices using plasma ionisation mass spectrometry, and explore the correlation between Lu/Hf and the ratios of other refractory lithophile elements in various classes of chondrites and in Solar photosphere. This project will also involve the first direct measurements of the initial 176Hf/177Hf of the Solar System in minerals with low Lu/Hf ratio (such as ilmenite and zircon) from old, well preserved meteorites.

Dating the Permian-Triassic extinction event in Australia
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri
Subject keywords: Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Geochronology (dating), Economic and Structural Geology, Palaeontology, Geochemistry, Geology, Biogeosciences, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB,
The Permian - Triassic (Palaeozoic - Mesozoic) boundary marks the greatest mass extinction in the history of the Earth's biosphere, which is sometimes referred to as Great Dying. Correlation of the Permian - Triassic (P - T) boundary in Australia and Gondwana with global and northern hemisphere marine boundary sequences and the formal GSSP section is limited by the paucity of marine index fossils. Interpretation of non - biostratigraphic proxies for the P - T boundary in Australia is also difficult. In this project, the student (co-supervised by Ian Metcalfe, University of New England, and Bob Nicoll, Geoscience Australia), will perform time calibration of the P - T boundary by U-Pb analysis of zircons from volcanic rocks bracketing the boundary, using the modern high-precision analytical techniques and the methods of zircon treatment that eliminate the influence of inheritance and Pb loss, such as mechanical and chemical abrasion.
Early Earth: the zircon tale continues.
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Planetary studies, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Petrology, Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB,
Zircon is a unique, although not exactly perfect, chronometer mineral and "time capsule" that preserves information about the earliest history of the Earth. The set of tools for extracting this information includes U-Pb dating, Lu-Hf isotopic tracing, trace element concentrations, oxygen isotope composition, Ti concentrations thermometry, and imaging of the internal grain structure. Veracity of this information, however, deteriorates, if the grain is internally heterogeneous, and various isotopic and chemical analyses sample domains of different age, origin, and degree of alteration. The goal of this project is developing methodology for extracting comprehensive and accurate information about the origin of the zircon's host rock while circumventing the effects of heterogeneity. The student will use a combination of ion microprobe techniques, imaging, and precise isotopic analysis of U, Pb and other elements separated from zircon grain fragments, to refine the ways of getting a comprehensive genetic information from zircon. This methodology will be applied to the earliest terrestrial zircons, and, after optimisation, to other important detrital zircon populations throughout the Earth's history.
How old are the planets?
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Supervisor:Amelin, Yuri
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Planetary studies, Petrology, Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: M.Sc, PhD, PhB,
The geological history of differentiated asteroids - small "terrestrial planets", is recorded in achondrites - eucrites, angrites, ureilites, and in iron and stony-iron meteorites. Achondrites are igneous rocks of basaltic or ultramafic composition from asteroids that underwent melting and subsequent magma differentiation and crystallisation. The purpose of this project is to determine precise timing of formation of achondrite parent asteroids using isotopic systems that record fractionation between volatile and refractory elements (e.g., initial Sr isotopic composition). The student will study early geological history of asteroids: magmatism, thermal and impact-induced metamorphism, using U-Pb, 26Al-26Mg and 53Mn-53Cr isotope chronometers and a selection of high-precision and high-resolution mass spectrometry techniques. Precise and consistent dates obtained using a variety of isotopic chronometers on the best preserved meteorites will serve as the reference points for building a consistent time scale of our Solar System.
Cosmic Collisions on the Moon
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Supervisor:Bennett, Victoria Norman, Marc
Subject keywords: Planetary studies, Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, Internships
Samples of moon rocks and regolith collected during the Apollo Missions as well as the lunar meteorites discovered on Earth allow us to study the origin and geology of the Moon directly. The most striking lunar features, clearly visible in the night sky are the large mare basins that formed when a rogue population of asteroids struck the Moon about 3.9 billion yars ago. We are using the chemistry of lunar impact melt rocks, in particular the concentrations of the highly siderophile platinum-group elements, to determine the types of asteroids that created these large (300-2500 km diameter) impact basins. This in turn will tell us about the types of planetesimals traversing the inner solar system at that time, and likely hit the Earth as well. This is largely a laboratory based project (no field work planned right now) and requires a person who wants to learn leading-edge chemical techniques, is a good observer with excellent attention to detail, and thinks big picture. This is just one of many potential projects working on lunar samples. Contact us for more information.
Archean continent formation and evolution
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Supervisor:Bennett, Victoria
Subject keywords: Planetary studies, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Petrology, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical, Fieldwork
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, Internships, Summer Scholar Projects
This work focuses on the study of the oldest, most complete rock sequences from Southwest Greenland, which range in age from 3.6 to 3.9 Ga and contain a range of lithologies. We are using these rocks to determine the age and origin of the oldest continents, the early planetary processes that many have affected the Earth and the types of early life environments that may have existed, providing a range of potential research topics depending on the interests of the student. We combine a variety of approaches to study the ancient rock record including petrology, geochemistry and field observations. A wide range of analytical techniques are used including laser ICP-MS, ion-probe (SHRIMP), and electron microprobe and as well as some innovative isotopic techniques developed in-house. Projects range from totally laboratory based to those with a combination of laboratory and fieldwork and from the more petrologically oriented to those that are largely geochemistry based. Contact me for more information.

Modern and ancient mantle chemistry
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Supervisor:Bennett, Victoria
Subject keywords: Planetary studies, Volcanoes, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Petrology, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, Internships, Summer Scholar Projects
The mantle is a significant part of the total Earth system comprising the vast bulk of the silicate rock fraction of our planet and forming the deep roots of the continents. The chemistry of the mantle has changed throughout geologic time, initially as result of early planetary formation more than 4.5 billion years ago and then throughout geologic history by the extraction of continental crust and the recycling of material in subduction zones. Using new isotopic and chemical methods applied to the study of mantle rocks and minerals ranging in age from more than 3.8 billion years, to just months old, we can track the changing composition revealing ancient and modern global events. From this work we are beginning to unravel the complex chemical linkages between the deep Earth and crustal environments.
There are a number of student projects available as part of this research, most of them based on the direct study of mantle rocks using leading edge analytical methods with three examples listed here. One project is investigating the petrology and geochemistry of our recently discovered ancient mantle samples (3.8 billion year old rocks from southwest Greenland) and related basalts to determine processes of planetary differentiation on the early Earth. A second project (so-supervised with Dr. Honda) is to measure the nitrogen isotopic composition of mantle rocks through time to investigate atmosphere evolution and mantle-crust linkages. A third project (jointly with Dr. Norman) is using the petrology and chemistry of peridotite xenoliths (upper mantle rocks) carried to the surface in modern Hawaiian plume basalts to reveal deep Earth chemistry.
The emphasis of the various projects can be tailored to the background and interests of the student, but all will involve a significant laboratory component using a range of analytical techniques, including leading edge isotopic approaches. We can break the research into suitable size projects for interns, honours, masters and PhD work. This research will appeal to students who want to use the details preserved in the record to look at global questions in Earth evolution and are willing to become experts in some aspects of geochemistry. Contact me for more information or other possible projects, or if you have some ideas of your own to discuss as possible projects.


Fluid flow and mineralisation in intrusion-related ore systems
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Supervisor:Cox, Stephen
Subject keywords: Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Rock Mechanics/Fluids, Economic and Structural Geology, Geology, Laboratory, Analytical, Fieldwork
Degree types: PhD
Vein-hosted mineralisation within and around intrusive complexes provides a major resource for Cu and Au, as well as other commodities such as Sn, W, and Mo. The evolution of fluid pathways, and the geometry and distribution of mineralisation in vein systems formed in intrusion-related hydrothermal systems, are governed by interactions between stress and fluid pressure states, and by the orientation of stress fields during and after magma emplacement. Rapid advances in understanding the dynamics of modern magmatic systems, and especially coupling between magma migration, stress states, seismicity and fluid flow, have provided a new basis on which to explore hydrothermal ore genesis in intrusion-related environments. This new project is funded as part of the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits and is being conducted in collaboration with researchers within CODES at the University of Tasmania. The project aims to:

(1) Document geometries and styles of vein systems and their overprinting relationships around several different styles of mineralised intrusive complexes.
(2) Within the framework of our developing understanding of the highly dynamic stress and fluid pressure regimes in contemporary, active magmatic systems, explore how stress states, stress field orientations and fluid pressures evolve during the development of intrusion-related hydrothermal systems.
(3) Investigate how hydrothermal fluid compositions changed within the evolving fracture-controlled flow system through the application of fluid inclusion and isotopic microanalytical techniques.
(4) Explore the implications of these results for understanding the evolution of fracture-controlled hydrothermal fluid pathways and reactions, and determine impacts on the distribution of economic mineralisation in intrusion-related hydrothermal systems.
Physical modelling of lava flows
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Supervisor:Kerr, Ross Griffiths, Ross
Subject keywords: Volcanoes,Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Ocean dynamics/fluid dynamics,Physics,Laboratory,Experimental,
Degree types: Honours,PhD,
Lava flows contribute to the surface morphology of large areas of the earth, both on continents and on the seafloor, and other planets. They are also sites for the formation of nickel and platinum ore deposits. They may also be used to make inferences about past volcanic activity.
Staff in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics have been studying the dynamics of lava flows through laboratory fluid dynamics analog modelling and theoretical descriptions. This has proven a powerful approach and has shown that the morphology of lava flows is closely controlled by both the eruption rate and surface cooling. Many different types of lava flows can now be seen as members of a sequence of dynamical regimes. The work has involved some of the first ever studies of cooling and solidifying gravity currents.
There are many outstanding questions concerning both melting of underlying rock, solidification of the flow, and mechanisms controlling the cooling of large channel flows. The work may involve interaction with volcanologists from the USA. Contact: Dr Ross Kerr, Professor Ross Griffiths.
Causes of interleaving intrusions between ocean fronts
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Supervisor:Griffiths, Ross Hughes, Graham
Subject keywords: Ocean dynamics/fluid dynamics, Mathematical Geophysics, Physics, Geophysics, Laboratory, Experimental
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc
Where waters of different temperature (T) and salinity (S) lie close to each other in the oceans, there is frequently a region of relatively large lateral T and S gradients (a front). Mixing between the two masses of water is found to involve horizontal finger-like intrusions, often with many interleaved intrusions in a vertical stack. Thermohaline convection is a favoured driving mechanism for these intrusions, but the role of low-frequency internal inertia-gravity waves is unclear. The project will involve laboratory experiments designed to explore the possibility that waves may produce the intrusions and to examine the interactions of internal waves and thermohaline convection.

Energetics of turbulent mixing in real fluids
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Supervisor:Griffiths, Ross Hughes, Graham
Subject keywords: Sea level change/Climate change, Ocean dynamics/fluid dynamics, Mathematical Geophysics, Physics, Geophysics, Laboratory, Experimental
Degree types: Honours, PhD, PhB, Internships
Turbulent mixing in a density stratification is believed to play an essential role in governing the rate of deep overturning circulation in the oceans, and is a common process in many oceanographic and environmental setting. However, the rate of irreversible mixing achieved for a given rate of energy supply to turbulence is poorly understood, as much of the energy is dissipated. In recent work we have developed a better understanding of mixing in a simple fluid. However, real mixing also involves transfer of energy to and from internal chemical potential energy. Through buoyancy this influences the mechanical energy of the flow. There is an opportunity for a PhD student with a physics, mathematics or chemistry background to carry out novel experiments with turbulence in a stratified flow including significant nonlinear mixing effects and to examine the energetics in a more general case.




Dynamics of rotating convection and the ocean overturning circulation
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Supervisor:Griffiths, Ross
Subject keywords: Ocean dynamics/fluid dynamics, Mathematical Geophysics, Physics, Geophysics, Laboratory, Computational, Experimental
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc,
The factors influencing the global deep circulation of oceans are still hotly debated. Even the dominant driving forces are not agreed upon. Yet the circulation and the transport of heat represents an important part of the climate system. At ANU we are examining the fundamentals dynamics of the circulation, using laboratory experiments and computational models to provide tests for theory and to gain new insights into the processes involved. There is an opportunity for a PhD student with a physics or mathematics background to carry out laboratory fluid dynamics experiments and computational work modelling overturning thermal convection in a rotating rectangular basin forced by a horizontal temperature surface temperature gradient. A rich variety of phenomena occur in this system and there is scope to include further complexities.

Mass variations estimated from GRACE
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Supervisor:Tregoning, Paul
Subject keywords: Geodesy/GPS, Mathematical Geophysics, Physics, Geophysics, Computational
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB,
The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) space gravity mission provides a means of estimating changes in mass on the Earth, including hydrological processes, oceanic variations and melting of polar ice sheets. The raw measurements are actually changes in the distance (accurate to 1/10 of the width of a human hair) between two satellites orbiting at 450 km altitude and separated by ~200 km. To achieve this, we must first compute the orbit of the two satellites, taking into account gravitational effects of the Sun, Moon, ocean tides, atmospheric variations to then be able to identify the signal of the temporal changes in the Earth's gravity field. The figure shows the accumulation of mass( i.e. water) on the east coast of Australia during the 2011 January floods as estimated by GRACE.

The student will be involved in developing software and background models to derive more accurate estimates of the Earth's gravity field. They will then use the estimates to study geophysical processes on Earth.

Monitoring groundwater changes in Australia
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Supervisor:Tregoning, Paul
Subject keywords: Sea level change/Climate change, Geodesy/GPS, Mathematical Geophysics, Geophysics, Computational GRC
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhB
Water is a critical resource for Australia. We can't begin to manage properly what we don't monitor; therefore, monitoring the changes in water resources at local- and basin-scales is becoming increasingly important. The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite gravity mission enables the possibility to measure basin-scale mass changes at monthly intervals, yet such capability is not being exploited to monitor Australia\'s water systems. Considerable research is required to determine the accuracy of the technique in the Australian environment where drainage basins are relatively small. This would involve the analysis and comparison of different international GRACE solutions and simulations for the Australian region to assess the achievable accuracy. The student would conduct an interesting scientific study that should lead to unique results pertinent to water resources in the Australian region.
Climate Change and the Melting of Polar Ice Caps
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Supervisor:Tregoning, Paul
Subject keywords: Geodesy/GPS,Sea level change/Climate change,Mathematical Geophysics,Physics,Computational,Fieldwork, GRC,
Degree types: PhD,
Global warming is causing increased melting in polar regions. How do we know this? Because we can measure changes in mass balance (or the amount of ice that has melted) using space-geodetic techniques that detect variations in the Earth's gravity field and changes in ice height.
How fast are Antarctica and Greenland melting and how is such melting contributing to rising sea level?
There is the opportunity to study all aspects of the effects and ramifications of climate change, from measuring sea level variations using satellite altimetry and tide gauges, measuring with GPS the rebound of the Earth's crust caused by the melting of past ice sheets, monitoring mass balance changes through GRACE observations of gravity changes and/or assimilating all these observations to develop new models of past and present ice sheets for Greenland, Antarctica and North America. This exciting area of research has direct implications for understanding the present-day effects of climate change.
Sensing water vapour in the atmosphere using GPS
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Supervisor:Tregoning, Paul
Subject keywords: Geodesy/GPS,Sea level change/Climate change,Climate Dynamics,Physics,Geophysics,Computational,Analytical,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,PhD,PhB,
Signals transmitted from satellites orbiting the Earth are delayed as they pass through the troposphere of the Earth. This is measurable by GPS and so it is possible to measure how much water vapour is actually in the atmosphere using GPS. This is a new area of research that will involve the student learning about high-accuracy GPS analysis and modelling of the atmospheric effects. The map to the right shows the precipitable water vapour over the USA as estimated from GPS observations. Assimilating this information into weather forecasting and climate studies has not yet been attempted in Australia.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

Combining Very Long Baseline Interferometry and GPS in Australia
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Supervisor:Tregoning, Paul
Subject keywords: Geodesy/GPS,Mathematical Geophysics,Physics,Computational,Fieldwork,GRC,
Degree types: PhD,
Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) involves observing radio sources with astronomy telescopes, from which very accurate estimates of distances between telescopes and estimates of Earth rotation can be made. Recently, a software program was developed at Swinburne University (Victoria) to correlate astronomic VLBI observations - which is a very significant improvement over convential correlation and provides Australian researchers with considerable independence. This PhD program will involve continuing the development of the software correlator so that it can be applied to geodetic VLBI observations as well. Once this can be done, exciting new opportunities will become available - such as observing GPS satellites using VLBI instruments, analysing for the first time the data from the new VLBI installations in Western Australia and the Northern Territory (to be commissioned in 2008). The student will be involved in developing and enhancing software, analysing VLBI data and integrating the VLBI observations to GPS satellites into existing geodetic software packages. The student will be supervised jointly by Steven Tingay (Swinburn) and Paul Tregoning (ANU).

We don't know yet what new results such research is going to uncover ...... come and find out!

Tectonic deformation of Papua New Guinea
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Supervisor:Tregoning, Paul
Subject keywords: Geodesy/GPS,Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults,Mathematical Geophysics,Geophysics,Computational,Analytical,Fieldwork,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,PhD,PhB,
Papua New Guinea is one of the most active tectonic regions of the world, with every possible type of plate boundary, dozens of active faults and several major earthquakes occurring every year. Measurement of ground movement from GPS observationscan tell us about deformation, strain caused by locked faults etc. Estimating earthquake locations can identify faults and explain the observed deformations. There are numerous research projects available using earthquakes and/or geodetic data to study how the Earth moves in Papua New Guinea.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

Seismic wave propagation in heterogeneous media
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Supervisor:Rawlinson, Nicholas
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Mathematical Geophysics, Physics, Analytical, Computational
Degree types: Summer Scholar Projects,
Numerical techniques for simulating the propagation of seismic waves through the Earth underpin many areas of modern seismology, including seismic imaging techniques, earthquake location and studies of the Earth\'s core. In this project, the student will investigate advanced techniques for tracking the evolution of seismic waves in heterogeneous media, and look at issues such as multi-pathing, the accurate calculation of amplitudes, and finite frequency effects such as scattering. This project will suit students with a maths or physics background, and an interest in writing practical computer codes.
The student will Seismic wave propagation in heterogeneous media

Seismic attenuation tomography of Victoria
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Supervisor:Rawlinson, Nicholas
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Geophysics, Analytical, Computational
Degree types: , Summer Scholar Projects
Seismic tomography exploits information from many criss-crossing seismic waves that travel through Earth in
order to construct detailed images of its internal structure. In principal, it shares many similarities with medical CT scans, in which the internal density distribution of the human body is imaged using x-rays. In this project, seismic attenuation (the loss of elastic wave energy to internal friction) images will be constructed for the upper mantle beneath Victoria using data from several large array deployments. The Newer Volcanic provinces in Victoria are notable for their very recent hot-spot related eruptions of mafic lava, and this study has the potential to yield important information about the current state of the magmatic plumbing system beneath this region.


Non-linear seismic tomography
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Supervisor:Rawlinson, Nicholas
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Tomography,Mathematical Geophysics,Computational,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,
Seismic tomography is widely used to image 2-D and 3-D Earth structure at a variety of scales. In principle, it is similar to medical tomography (CT scan), in that it uses the constraints imposed by a multitude of crossing paths to construct an image. However, instead of using X-rays, seismic waves from artificial (e.g. explosions) or natural (e.g. earthquakes) sources are used. In addition to the challenges of achieving good path coverage in the Earth, a further complication is that seismic tomography, unlike its medical counterpart, is a non-linear problem. This is because path trajectory varies in response to changes in seismic wavespeed. Conventional seismic tomography schemes either assume that the problem is linear, or can be solved using iterative non-linear methods; neither assumption is valid in strongly heterogeneous media.

The aim of this project is to compare the results of iterative non-linear and fully non-linear tomography for a variety of datasets. A recently developed scheme known as the Fast Marching Method or FMM will be used to solve the forward problem of data prediction; gradient based inversion schemes will be used to solve the iterative non-linear problem; and the Neighbourhood algorithm will be used to solve the fully non-linear problem. Possible lines of investigation include: at what level of model complexity do the iterative schemes break down; does the fully non-linear scheme always produce superior results; at what point does the fully non-linear scheme become computationally impractical; how do the schemes differ in their ability to assess solution non-uniqueness? The requirements for undertaking this project include familiarity with UNIX/Linux, some programming experience, and a background in physics, mathematics or geophysics.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

Adaptive non-linear inversion of seismic data for Earth structure
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Supervisor:Sambridge, Malcolm
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Tomography,Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults,Mathematical Geophysics,Physics,Geophysics,Computational,Analytical,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,
In recent times, tomographic imaging techniques have enabled seismologists to produce detailed three-dimensional maps of Earth structure from large seismic datasets. Traditional methods of seismic tomography often rely on iterative non-linear inversion schemes and represent structure by a regular grid of parameters. However, iterative inversion schemes may converge to local minima and regular parameterizations are inconsistent with non-uniform distributions of data. The aim of this project is to introduce a suite of new computational tools to seismic tomography in order to overcome these problems. The important requirement of defining a continuous medium from an irregular distribution of nodes placed only where they are required by the data can be satisfied using natural neighbour interpolation. We envisage the use of a fully non-linear search technique to solve the inverse problem, e.g. the locally developed neighbourhood algorithm. Finally, the forward problem of calculating model predictions can be rapidly solved using grid-based wavefront tracking schemes such as the fast marching method. The use of direct search methods in seismic tomography is computationally expensive, but the project will have ready access to a powerful 128-node supercomputer. A background in computational mathematics is recommended.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

Imaging the Earth's interior structure with seismic tomography
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Supervisor:Sambridge, Malcolm
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Tomography,Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults,Mathematical Geophysics,Physics,Geophysics,Computational,Analytical,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,PhD,PhB,
The last 20 years has seen a huge impact from seismic imaging studies across many areas of geophysics. The figure opposite shows results from 3-D tomography for lateral variations in the Earth's bulk sound speed, carried out by members of the seismology group at RSES.

Projects are available in both developing and applying seismic inversion techniques across regional and global scales. These studies often involve large travel time or waveform data bases and require the use of sophistical data analysis techniques, computational mathematics, and advanced visualization tools. Projects are scaled to fit the degree type being undertaken by the student. Appropriate backgrounds include Physics, Mathematics, Geophysics, Computer Science or any degree with a substantial component of these fields.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

Wave propagation and wavefront tracking in complex media
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Supervisor:Sambridge, Malcolm
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Tomography,Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Mathematical Geophysics,Physics,Geophysics,Laboratory,Computational,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,PhD,PhB,
The computational simulation of seismic waves through a complex Earth model is a major focus of seismology research. These calculations have application across many distance scales from that of exploration geophysics to whole earth seismic structure (see below). The current forefront is solving the elastic wave equation in complex 3-D geometries. The figure opposite shows the results of ray tracing calculations for wavefronts through a complex 2-D structure. A new challenge in geophysics is to perform inversion of complete seismic waveforms for earth structure and source characterization over regional and global scales.
Projects are available in various aspects of theoretical seismology, including methods for wave propagation and inversion. Current interests are in the development to new approaches to wavefield simulation, and multi-phase wavefront tracking in 3-D. Projects are scaled to fit the appropriate degree being undertaken by the student. A background in Physics, mathematics, geophysics, computational science or engineering would be needed to undertake a project in this area.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

Computational methods for nonlinear inverse problems
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Supervisor:Sambridge, Malcolm
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Tomography,Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Mathematical Geophysics,Physics,Geophysics,Computational,Analytical,
Degree types: Honours,PhD,
All of our observations that constrain the Earth's interior structure are made at the surface. Hence there is always an `inverse problem' in making use of indirect observations to perform inferences about the Earth at depth. Inverse problems occur in many areas of the Physical sciences, and it is the subject of on going research of how best to solve them. In Geophysics many inverse problems are nonlinear, for example using seismic waveforms or travel times of waves to constrain the structure at depth. Recent research in the seismology group has led to a new fully nonlinear approach to certain types of inverse problem. The figure opposite shows some results. Each point represents an earth model colour code by fit to data. The cross shows the model with best data fit. Projects are available in the study of nonlinear inverse problems and methods for their solution. Questions include: How do we best parametrize an inverse problem ? How do efficiently search large dimensional parameter spaces ? How do we handle severe nonlinearity ? Projects are likely to involve a combination of mathematics, advanced computation, and physics applied to a particular geophysical inverse problem. For more information on parameter search look here.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

Next Gen Tin: A new look at tin metallogeny in eastern Australia
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Supervisor:Norman, Marc
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Economic and Structural Geology, Petrology, Geochemistry, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: PhD, Summer Scholar Projects,
Global shortages in the supply of tin have seen renewed interest in Australian deposits. This project aims to improve our understanding of the timing and origins of eastern Australian tin deposits by measuring the ages and geochemical characteristics of the primary tin mineral cassiterite from key localities in New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania. We aim to apply a new and innovative approach through the application of U-Pb geochronology, oxygen isotope fluid tracing, and trace element fingerprinting of cassiterite, and assess the fertility of hydrothermal and magmatic tin systems for a range of new technology commodities, including tantalum, niobium, indium and rare earth elements.

Support for this project is available through the NSW Department of Industry and Investment, in collaboration with Dr. Phil Blevin.
The student will characterise the petrology of cassiterite occurrences and measure the geochemical and isotopic compositions to understand the ages and origins of these deposits.

Photographer: David Barnes (DTIRIS)


Meteorite impacts and volcanic fire-fountains on the Moon
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Supervisor:Norman, Marc
Subject keywords: Planetary studies,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Analytical,
Degree types: PhD,
Lunar soils carry a remarkable record of volcanic eruptions and meteorite impacts that occurred on the Moon over the past four billion years. These events can be studied by analysing small fragments of volcanic and impact glass found in the lunar soils. For this project you will measure 39Ar-40Ar ages and chemical compositions of individual glass beads from lunar regolith collected at each of the six Apollo landing sites. This will allow us to distinguish volcanic from impact events and evaluate the efficiency of sediment transport on the Moon. This project will position you well to participate in the upcoming decade of international space exploration and resource utilisation on the Moon and Mars. The project will suit someone with an interest in planetary science, a good knowledge of basic geochemistry, and a steady hand. The image shows a picture of moon rock 67016. It is an impact breccia that was collected at the Apollo 16 landing site. Contact Marc.Norman@anu.edu.au for further information.
Xenon in early Earth
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Supervisor:Honda, Masahiko Bennett, Victoria
Subject keywords: Planetary studies, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Geochemistry, Analytical
Degree types: PhD,
This challenging project attempts to characterise noble gas, including xenon, compositions in early Earth by studying Archean sedimentary rocks. In conjunction with radiogenic isotopes, this study will constrain processes and mechanisms responsible for early differentiation of the Earth, including its atmosphere.
The student will be involved with isotopic analysis of noble gases in Archean sedimentary rocks by utilising a state-of-the-art noble gas analytical facility at ANU, including a new generation multi-collector noble gas mass spectrometer, Helix-MC.
Nitrogen in the Earth’s mantle
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Supervisor:Honda, Masahiko Bennett, Victoria
Subject keywords: Planetary studies, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Geochemistry, Experimental
Degree types: PhD,
Volatiles in the Earth’s mantle provide unique information on the Earth. This project will undertake combined studies of nitrogen and noble gases in material derived from the mantle. The study will address fundamental issues concerning the early evolution of planets, and the chemical structure of Solar System.
The student will be involved with simultaneous isotopic analysis of nitrogen and noble gases in mantle-derived material by utilising a state-of-the-art noble gas analytical facility at ANU.
Diamonds are forever
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Supervisor:Honda, Masahiko
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults,Geochronology (dating),Planetary studies,Chemistry,Geochemistry,Geology,Laboratory,Analytical,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,PhD,
Diamonds represent pressure bombs from the deep Earth. Mineral inclusions reflect the composition of crustal materials as well as material of deep mantle origin. As such they sample a regime unavailable to us otherwise. Samples of the deep mantle allow reconstruction of Earth's original composition and in comparison to surface rocks indicates processes involved in the evolving Earth. The noble gas composition of the mantle determined in this way has indicated a solar component still extant on Earth.

A capable student will undertake innovative noble gas analyses of well-characterised diamond samples, including gem-stones, donated by De Beers. This information will be used to reconcile the radically different views on the structure of the Earth's mantle and to constrain the temporal/spatial evolution of the Earth's mantle and atmosphere.

The Indian Ocean Dipole, Australasian drought, and the great-earthquake cycle: Long-term perspectives for improved prediction
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Supervisor:Gagan, Mike Ayliffe, Linda
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults,Geochronology (dating),Biogeosciences,Sea level change/Climate change,Ocean dynamics/fluid dynamics,Climate Dynamics,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,
The Indian Ocean Dipole is now recognised as a climate system of international importance because of its effect on rainfall in Indonesia, Australia, Asia, and East Africa. Resolving the debate about how the Dipole and ENSO climate systems interact, and how they respond to different background climates, is essential for understanding the nature of drought in southern Australasia. Would you like to work with an international team to build on advances made at RSES in the microanalysis of stable-isotopes and trace elements in recently discovered corals from the Mentawai Islands, Sumatra, in western Indonesia? Corals from the Mentawai Islands are well located to quantify the range of IOD variability during times when Earth's climate was different from the present day. You will also have the special opportunity to answer a pressing question in the collective mind of Australasian society, how often do great-earthquakes occur and where will one strike next? The nature of great compound earthquakes, such the Boxing Day 2004 / Easter Monday 2005 event in Sumatra, is poorly understood, largely because the regularity of catastrophic earthquakes in space and time remains unanswered. This facet of the project will develop geochemical tracers in corals to reconstruct the recurrence intervals of great submarine earthquakes and tsunamis in Australasia. You will join an experienced international team from Australia (ANU, AIMS, CSIRO), Indonesia (LIPI), and the USA (Caltech, U. Wisconsin) who have complementary skills in geochemistry, geochronology, palaeoclimatology, ocean-atmosphere dynamics, palaeoclimate modelling, and palaeoseismology. The ideal candidate will enjoy fieldwork on the coral reefs of Indonesia (mapping, surveying, coral drilling, water sampling) and the development / application of innovative laboratory techniques. Contact Dr Mike Gagan (Michael.Gagan@anu.edu.au) and Dr Linda Ayliffe (Linda.Ayliffe@anu.edu.au) for further information.
Southern Ocean nutrients and their links to climate change: insights from the elemental and isotope signature of diatoms
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Supervisor:Ellwood, Michael
Subject keywords: Marine Science, Environmental Geoscience, Biogeochemistry, Chemistry, Laboratory, Fieldwork
Degree types: PhD, Summer Scholar Projects
Diatoms are an important primary producer group and currently account for 40% of global primary production. The sequestration of carbon into the deep ocean by diatoms makes them key players in the modulation of atmospheric CO2 levels and global climate. There is growing evidence from both laboratory and field experiments to show that zinc is actively involved in modulating the uptake of CO2 in marine diatoms via the enzyme carbonic anhydrase. The overarching objective of this project is too to reconcile our evolving understanding of the role zinc plays in controlling diatom production in Southern Ocean waters, and how this relates to their ability to sequester and export CO2 from surface waters.

Specific objectives:
1. Investigate the factors that influence zinc acquisition and use by diatoms and how this manifests through to pCO2 uptake, organic matter formation and frustule building;

2. Determine the role iron limitation has on the cycling of zinc and silicon in the Southern Ocean surface waters and how this relates to the global distribution these two elements via mode and intermediate water export to low latitudes;

3. Constrain the poorly understood importance of the cadmium in the Southern Ocean, its relevance to diatoms production when zinc and iron concentrations are low, and how it relates to pCO2 uptake, organic matter formation and carbon export to the deep ocean.

Project funds are available. If you are interested in the project please contact michael.ellwood@anu.edu.au

Copper and its influence on marine phytoplankton growth
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Supervisor:Ellwood, Michael
Subject keywords: Sea level change/Climate change, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Laboratory, Analytical, Fieldwork, Experimental
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, Internships
Primary production determines the energy entering the base of marine food-chain and the carrying capacity of marine ecosystems. Every organism on our planet needs micronutrients such as iron, zinc, copper, manganese nickel and cobalt for enzymatic functions. Copper is a perplexing element as it has 'Jekyll and Hyde' characteristics at low and high concentrations. At low concentrations copper is beneficial to phytoplankton growth, while at high concentrations copper is toxic. Central to controlling its multiple personalities are the different chemical forms (speciation) in which copper exists. To probe the regulatory role copper has on primary production, a three-pronged approach will be used. Specifically, chemical speciation and isotope measurements of copper will be made on: (i) coastal and open-ocean waters; (ii) naturally-occurring biota; and (iii) cultured phytoplankton. This is a multidisciplinary project integrating marine chemistry and biology, and includes a strong fieldwork component. Students would be involved in collecting samples, growing phytoplankton, making chemical speciation measurements and the communication of the work.
Understanding links between metals, metal speciation and phytoplankton growth in the ocean
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Supervisor:Ellwood, Michael
Subject keywords: Biogeosciences, Chemistry, Geochemistry, Laboratory, Analytical, Fieldwork
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB, Internships, Summer Scholar Projects
Understanding the processes that enable marine phytoplankton to acquire trace metals are fundamental to discerning primary production in the global ocean. There is compelling evidence to demonstrate that phytoplankton in major regions of the world ocean are limited by the availability of certain trace elements, notably iron. While much attention has been focused on iron, it is becoming evident that other trace elements, chiefly cobalt, zinc and cadmium, also play fundamental roles regulating phytoplankton growth. Recent work in our laboratory has focused on understanding the links between the chemical speciation of these metals and phytoplankton growth. This is multidisciplinary work integrating marine chemistry and biology, and includes a strong fieldwork component. Students involved in the work would help in the collection of samples, making the chemical speciation measurements and the communication of the work. Contact: Michael Ellwood
Monsoon extremes and catastrophic volcanic eruptions: Quantifying impacts on the early human history of southern Australasia
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Supervisor:Ayliffe, Linda Gagan, Mike
Subject keywords: Volcanoes,Geochronology (dating),Biogeosciences,Sea level change/Climate change,Climate Dynamics,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,
The recent discovery of the dwarf hominin Homo floresiensis (the 'Hobbit') on the island of Flores in southeastern Indonesia revealed the surprising diversity of early humans in Australasia. How they survived in apparent isolation for tens of millennia, and the cause of their recent extinction, are topics of great debate. The surprisingly recent extinction of the Hobbit is particularly intriguing. This project is designed to answer a key question, could abrupt climate changes, unprecedented environmental shifts, or catastrophic volcanic eruptions have played a role in human dispersal, and extinction, in southern Australasia? Recent advances in geochronology and the microanalysis of stable-isotope ratios and elemental concentrations in carbonate cave formations (speleothems) have opened a new era in tropical palaeoclimatology and global change research. Your PhD research will focus on the important task of reconstructing the history of monsoon rainfall extremes, environmental shifts, and catastrophic volcanic eruptions over the past 150,000 years using speleothems from western Flores. During a caving expedition to Flores in August 2006, our team discovered material suitable for this research near the Hobbit occupation site. A major expedition is scheduled for 2007 to collect speleothems from these, and neighbouring sites.

You will join an experienced international team from Australia (ANU, U. Queensland, U. Newcastle), Indonesia (LIPI), and the USA (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) who have complementary skills in geochemistry, geochronology, palaeoclimatology, palaeoclimate modelling, and speleology. The ideal candidate will enjoy fieldwork in the karst limestone terranes of western Flores (mapping, surveying, speleothem drilling / collecting, water sampling) and the development / application of innovative laboratory techniques. Contact Dr Linda Ayliffe (Linda.Ayliffe@anu.edu.au) and Dr Mike Gagan (Michael.Gagan@anu.edu.au) for further information.

Calibration of thermo-barometers for deeply subducted rocks
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Supervisor:Hermann, Joerg Rubatto, Daniela ONeill, Hugh
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Petrology,Geochronology (dating),Geochemistry,Geology,Experimental,Analytical,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,
The finding of metamorphic coesite and microdiamonds in gneisses completely changed the ideas of geologists concerning subduction of continental crust. These minerals provide evidence that crustal rocks were subducted up to 130 km depth and later exhumed to Earth's surface. Because of the scarcity of experimental data for felsic crustal rocks in diamond-facies conditions, up to now proof of diamond-facies metamorphism is restricted to rocks actually containing microdiamonds. In the proposed project new thermobarometers for crustal ultra-high pressure (UHP) rocks will be tested and developed using the main UHP mineral assemblage garnet-phengite-kyanite-clinopyroxene-coesite-rutile-zircon-apatite. The project includes experimental petrology, detail chemical characterisation of experiments and natural rocks and thermodynamic analysis.
Monitoring high grade metamorphic processes with accessory phases
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Supervisor:Hermann, Joerg Rubatto, Daniela ONeill, Hugh
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Petrology,Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults,Geochronology (dating),Geochemistry,Geology,Laboratory,Experimental,Analytical,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,
In this project we propose an interdisciplinary approach to develop new and innovative tools for high-resolution investigation of partial melting and high-grade metamorphism. These tools are based on recent findings that trace elements, due to their slower diffusion, are the most retentive record of metamorphic processes. The stability of accessory phases, which are commonly the major hosts of trace elements, will be studied in natural rocks and experiments, particularly to investigate the potential of such phases to buffer trace element contents of partial melts. The project includes experimental petrology, detail chemical characterisation of experiments and natural rocks and analysis of trace element partitioning.
Finding the oldest molecular fossils of cyanobacteria
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Supervisor:Brocks, Jochen
Subject keywords: Palaeontology, Marine Science, Environmental Geoscience, Biogeochemistry, Biogeosciences, Laboratory, Analytical, Experimental
Degree types: PhB, Summer Scholar Projects, 80 hour Special Projects
Background: 1.64 billion years ago, a strange and toxic sea existed to the north of Australia. It hosted an ecosystem that was fundamentally different from anything observed in modern oceans. The sea harbored a broth of purple and green sulfur bacteria, while higher forms of life, such as eukaryotic algae, could not survive. We know this ecosystem because the now lithified sediments that formed at the bottom of the sea contain traces of molecular fossils (biomarkers). They are the oldest biological molecules on Earth!

Goal: In this project you will search these rocks for the first and oldest biomarker evidence for oxygen producing cyanobacteria.

Project: You will look for a new type of molecular fossil that has never been observed before. This involves growing cyanobacteria in large flasks, extracting an unusual, deep-yellow coloured bacterial pigment that can then be used as a search image to explore the 1.64 billion year old rocks.

Where: The cultivation of cyanobacteria will be done with Warwick Hillier and Gabriel James at the Research School of Biology, and the molecular fossils will be analyzed with Jochen Brocks at the Research School of Earth Sciences.

If this works, you will have a major paper as an undergrad!

BIOGEOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR FOSSIS
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Supervisor:Brocks, Jochen
Subject keywords: Biogeosciences,Sea level change/Climate change,Molecular fossils,Chemistry,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Analytical,Fieldwork,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,PhD,PhB,Internships,
To find clues to major events of the past, the Biogeochemistry Group at ANU studies molecular fossils of biological lipids (biomarkers) that can be preserved in sediments and sedimentary rocks. Using biomarkers, we study extremely ancient and strange ecosystems such as sulphidic oceans that once existed to the north of Australia billions of years ago, or modern environments such as salt lakes in Australia's outback. We elucidate environmental cataclysms that caused major mass extinctions, fluctuations of geochemical cycles that may have triggered the first emergence of complex life, and human induced environmental catastrophes such as the salinization of lakes and the pollution of estuaries. If you are looking for a project that combines aspects of geology, chemistry, biology and environmental sciences, and you are interested in topics such as the origin and early evolution of life, climate change, organic chemistry, microbiology or environmental genomics, then you can join one of our current projects or bring your own ideas to the group.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

MOLECULAR FOSSILS AND TOXIC ANCIENT OCEANS
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Supervisor:Brocks, Jochen
Subject keywords: Biogeosciences,Sea level change/Climate change,Molecular fossils,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Analytical,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,
Today, Earth's oceans are teaming with life, and even deep marine trenches contain enough oxygen to support complex organisms. However, oceans in Earth's distant past were fundamentally different. In the first half of Earth history, 4.5 to 1.8 billion years ago, the world's oceans were almost entirely devoid of oxygen. Astonishingly, for the following one billion years, the state of the oceans remains mysterious. Did the deep oceans become oxygen-rich, in parallel with the Earth's atmosphere, or did they remain anoxic and additionally become sulphidic and toxic? If the world oceans really were anoxic and sulphidic in Earth's middle age, then our understanding of more than 20% of the planet's history would radically change. It would alter our views of global geochemical cycles and may explain why higher forms of life appeared late in Earth history.
In this PhD project, you will elucidate the existence of sulfidic oceans using biomarker molecules extracted from 2.5 to 0.6 billion-years-old sedimentary rocks from Australia, North America and Asia. Biomarkers are the fossil remains of biological molecules. They yield information about the ecology and environment of ancient microbial organisms that lived 1,000 million years before the first animals appeared on Earth. This will be an exciting multidisciplinary project if you have studied geology, chemistry or biology and are interested in evolution and Earth history. It includes geochemical laboratory work and field studies at locations in the world where the oldest biomarkers may be discovered.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

Building Northern Gondwana
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Supervisor:Williams, Ian
Subject keywords: Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Geochronology (dating), Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Geology, Laboratory, Fieldwork
Degree types: PhD,
Travel to Portugal and join a group of geoscientists from Portugal and Spain and Australia who are exploring the geological history of Northern Gondwana. Field and lab work will explore the origin of the basement rocks of the Iberian Peninsula, and examine the structural, sedimentological and magmatic record of this segment of Northern Gondwana.
The student will work with the RSES SHRIMP team, using some of the most advanced microanalytical instrumentation in the world. The SHRIMP results will help to solve the puzzle of how Northern Gondwana evolved and where the pieces of the continental jigsaw might have originated during the Pre-Mesozoic. For further information contact Dr. Ian Williams (email: Ian.Williams@anu.edu.au Phone 02 6125 5164).

Dislocation mobility and damping in single-crystal MgO
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Supervisor:Jackson, Ian Fitzgerald, John
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Rock Mechanics/Fluids, Physics, Geophysics, Computational
Degree types: PhD,
In an exciting proposal currently under development we plan to model the energetics of dislocation migration in crystals, and to measure the impact of such stress-induced dislocation migration on viscoelastic behaviour through mechanical testing in torsional forced oscillation. The project will focus on MgO - on account of its structural simplicity and ready availability as large single crystals. The project will involve a mixture of computer modelling (ab initio/ atomistic simulation of dislocations through international collaboration with Andrew Walker (University College, London) and Patrick Cordier (University of Lille, France), experimental deformation by dislocation creep, characterisation of defect microstructures by electron microscopy, and the development of improved techniques for mechanical testing though low-amplitude torsional oscillation (Jackson & Fitz Gerald). There is scope for student involvement in both the computer simulation and experimental rock physics aspects of the project.
Bulk dissipation in partially molten peridotite
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Supervisor:Jackson, Ian Fitzgerald, John
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Rock Mechanics/Fluids, Physics, Geophysics, Experimental
Degree types: Honours, PhD,
The emerging capability of our ANU Rock Physics laboratory for the testing of cylindrical rock specimens in both flexural and torsional oscillation provides an exciting opportunity to study the partial relaxation of the bulk modulus (incompressibility) associated with phase transformations that involve a volume change. In partially molten upper-mantle materials the small melt fraction is typically accommodated within a network of interconnected grain-edge tubes of triangular cross-section as shown in the picture. The student would be involved in the preparation of suitable synthetic rock specimens and their mechanical testing with flexural oscillation methods in search of the modulus relaxation and dissipation associated with reversible stress-induced melting/crystallisation in such partially molten material. The findings will help with the interpretation of seismological compressional wave speed/attenuation models for the Earths upper mantle. The project involves international collaboration with Prof. Uli Faul of Boston University.

Laboratory studies of the seismic signature of fluids in the Earth's crust
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Supervisor:Jackson, Ian Fitzgerald, John
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Rock Mechanics/Fluids, Physics, Geophysics, Experimental
Degree types: Honours, PhD, PhB,
Fluids are expected to profoundly modify the seismic properties of the cracked rocks of the Earths upper crust but so far there are few relevant laboratory measurements. With funding from the Australian Research Council we are developing novel experimental techniques to build a better laboratory-based understanding of the seismic properties of fluid-saturated crustal rocks. The outcome will be an improved capacity to monitor the presence of fluids in diverse situations ranging from geothermal power generation and waste disposal to upper-crustal fault zones. This project involves international collaboration with the research group led by Professor Douglas Schmitt at the University of Alberta (Canada). There are exciting opportunities for the participation of students in (i) establishing procedures for measurement of seismic properties through low-frequency forced flexural oscillation of cylindrical rock specimens; (ii) undertaking exploratory measurements in torsional and flexural oscillation of suitable cracked media (pictured) with fluid saturants of contrasting viscosity; and (iii) performing complementary measurements with high-frequency ultrasonic and low-frequency forced-oscillation methods.
The role of water in upper-mantle seismic-wave attenuation: a laboratory study
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Supervisor:Jackson, Ian Fitzgerald, John
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Rock Mechanics/Fluids, Physics, Geophysics, Experimental
Degree types: Honours, PhD, PhB,
Unique equipment for low-frequency laboratory measurement of seismic wave speeds and attenuation has recently provided new insights into the frequency, temperature and grainsize sensitivity of seismic wave speeds and attenuation in fine-grained synthetic specimens of the dominant upper-mantle mineral olivine. The possible role of crystal defects known as dislocations, generated by prior/ongoing deformation, in seismic-wave attenuation was the focus of the recently completed Ph. D. project of Robert Farla. The next exciting frontier is the possible enhancement of such non-elastic effects by small amounts of water accommodated as defects within the olivine crystal structure. This work, being undertaken in collaboration with Professors Uli Faul of Boston University (BU) and Shun Karato of Yale University, provides opportunities for students to work at both ANU and overseas at BU or Yale on the preparation, characterisation and mechanical testing of such materials and the development of strategies for modelling and seismological application of the results.
Synthetic sandstones from sintered glass beads
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Supervisor:Jackson, Ian
Subject keywords: Rock Mechanics/Fluids, Geophysics, Laboratory
Degree types: Summer Scholar Projects, PhB, Honours
Fluids are expected to profoundly modify the seismic properties of the cracked rocks of the Earth's upper crust but so far there are few relevant laboratory measurements. With funding from the Australian Research Council we are developing novel experimental techniques to build a better laboratory-based understanding of the seismic properties of fluid-saturated crustal rocks. The outcome will be an improved capacity to monitor the presence of fluids in diverse situations ranging from geothermal power generation and waste disposal to upper-crustal fault zones. Synthetic 'sandstones' with distinctive microstructures have been prepared by sintering close-packed spherical glass beads of uniform diameter - a procedure previously employed by collaborator Professor Douglas Schmitt of the University of Alberta. The temperature and duration of sintering can be varied to achieve a wide range of porosity, consisting at sufficiently low porosity, of isolated pores. Such microstructures can be modified by thermal cycling to introduce cracks that typically connect otherwise isolated pores, thereby providing an interconnected network in three dimensions. Such simple, permeable, microstructures are expected to be useful in understanding how the seismic properties of porous/cracked rocks are affected by fluid saturation. The project aims to use laboratory forced-oscillation methods to explore the seismic properties of such synthetic rocks saturated with fluids of appropriate viscosity.
Computer modelling of physical properties of minerals under extreme conditions
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Supervisor:Jackson, Ian Kennett, Brian
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Physics, Geophysics, Computational
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhB,
A new approach for the internally consistent modelling of the equation-of state and elastic properties of minerals under the extreme pressure-temperature conditions promises to revolutionise the interpretation of seismological models for the Earths interior. The new method has recently been bench-tested on a diverse range of experimental data for magnesium oxide (Kennett & Jackson, Phys. Earth. Planet. Interiors, 2009). Now, there is an opportunity for the involvement of a Ph. B. / Honours/ M. Sc. student in the systematic application of this approach to experimental data, including local measurements of the pressure and temperature dependence of elastic wave speeds, for the upper-mantle mineral olivine and its high-pressure polymorphs wadsleyite and ringwoodite.



A Comparative Study of the Geochemistry of Ore-bearing
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Supervisor:Campbell, Ian
Subject keywords: Economic and Structural Geology,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Analytical,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,
The principal aim of this project is to test the hypothesis for the origin of porphyry Cu deposits by comparing the petrology and geochemistry of ore-bearing and barren porphyries. If a difference is found it should be an invaluable empirical tool in the exploration for Porphyry Cu deposits. The most likely candidates are:
(i) Differences in the oxidation state of ore-bearing and barren porphyries
(ii) Difference in the PGE geochemistry of ore-bearing and barren porphyries resulting from differences in the timing or form (sulphide or sulphate) of S saturation.
(iii) Textural differences relating to volatile saturation.
(iv) The partitioning of Fe:Mg and D:H between coexisting biotite and hornblende as a means of identifying porphyries that become vapour saturated.
The role of the student will be to study a classic ore-bearing and barren system in Chile. The suite of intrusive rocks associated with El Abra porphyry copper system will be used for the ore-bearing system, because we have the required samples at the ANU, and one of the well-studied Andes felsic systems as the barren system. The student will compile and compare existing data for both systems and collect existing data for both suites as required. The project will probably involve fieldwork in the Andes.
The Geochemistry of Platinum Group Elements in Felsic Rocks
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Supervisor:Campbell, Ian ONeill, Hugh
Subject keywords: Petrology,Economic and Structural Geology,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Analytical,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD
The concentration of PGEs in felsic rocks is very low and below the detection limit of existing analytical techniques. We have developed a new method that allows us to make the first measurements of PGE concentrations in felsic rocks. This is virgin territory and the student would study the distribution of PGEs in classic suites of igneous rock such as the ilmenite and magnetite series in Japan and the one of the classic 'I-type' suites in Australia. The PGEs partition very strongly into sulphides and can therefore be used to monitor sulphide saturation in melts, which has important implications for whether a given felsic system can evolve to produce an economic gold or copper deposit.
The Evolution of Ore-associated Felsic System with Time
Supervisor:Campbell, Ian
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating),Economic and Structural Geology,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Analytical,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,
The ANU laser ICP-MS can be used to date zircons from felsic rocks with a precision of ±1%. The project involves determining major and trace elements in rock and minerals, and radiogenic isotopes and showing how they evolve with time. The trace elements will be determined by laser ICP-MS and Hf isotopes in zircon and Sr isotopes in apatite by laser sector probe. The aim of the project is to document the chemistical evolution of the felsic system with time and to establish the relationship between this evolution and ore formation. ANU students have successfully applied this approach to the El Abra and Chuquicamata porphyry copper deposit in Chile and the Wallaby gold deposit in Western Australia. We would like to extend this approach to other giant felsic ore systems. Hf in zircon and Sr in plagioclase by laser sector probe have not previously been applied to ore-associated felsic systems and can be expected to provide exciting new constrains on the evolution of these systems.
Modelling of seismic sources
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Supervisor:Tkalcic, Hrvoje
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Volcanoes, Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Rock Mechanics/Fluids, Geophysics, Analytical, Computational
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB, Internships, Summer Scholar Projects
Improved structural models of the Earth and the knowledge about seismic wave propagation allow seismologists to study earthquake mechanisms. The earthquakes could most generally be divided to tectonic and volcanic. The far-field radiation of most tectonic earthquakes can be conveniently described with the so-called double-couple system of forces. However, a full seismic moment tensor representation is more complete form of the mathematical representation of seismic sources, especially in non-tectonic environments. Of particular interest are seismic events with anomalous seismic radiation and puzzling focal mechanisms, such as volcanic earthquakes, mid-ocean ridge events or explosions.Different computational methods are used to reveal statistically significant non-double-couple components of the moment tensor and model complex finite sources. A student with maths and physics background and strong analytical skills is invited to join the project and assist with analysis and interpretation of results. Please contact the supervisor directly at hrvoje@rses.anu.edu.au for more information.

New constraints on the Earth's inner core anisotropy from seismic body waves
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Supervisor:Tkalcic, Hrvoje
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Physics, Geophysics, Seismology and earthquakes,
Degree types: PhB, Honours, M.Sc.,PhD, Summer Scholar Projects,Internships

We live in a decade of unprecedented quantity and quality of seismic data, which are easily accessible online. Although the quality of seismic records is improving constantly, there are still vast amounts of unanalysed seismic waveforms, which might hold a key to deciphering unresolved geophysical puzzles. One such puzzle is the inner core structure. The inner core was discovered in 1936, and inner core anisotropy (directional dependence of elastic properties) was hypothesised fifty years later, to explain anomalous travel times of core-sensitive seismic waves. Some recent results suggest the existence of "innermost inner core". However, inadequate spatial sampling of the central inner core by seismic waves makes further advances on this topic very challenging. This project will focus on finding new ways of sampling the centre of the Earth and interpreting the results in the context of our planet's dynamics and evolution. Interested students with a physics or maths background are invited to contact the supervisor directly at hrvoje@rses.anu.edu.au to discuss possibilities.
Studying the crust and the upper mantle structure beneath Australia using multiple geophysical datasets
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Supervisor:Tkalcic, Hrvoje
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Geophysics, Seismology and earthquakes, Computational
Degree types: PhB, Honours, M.Sc., PhD, Summer Scholar Projects

Seismologists combine the so-called receiver functions and surface wave data to improve the general understanding of crustal and upper mantle structure in various regions of the world. An important humanitarian objective of obtaining improved structural models is better understanding of the seismicity and hazard assessment for the region of study. Receiver functions are mostly sensitive to sharp gradients in Earth's elastic properties (such as the Moho discontinuity), while surface wave data contribute to a better understanding of overall seismic wave speeds. We are working to develop a reliable method for the joint modeling of these two types of data, possibly with independent information from seismic "noise". This project will focus on applying this method to the data collected by the seismic stations at various regions to better constrain crustal and upper mantle structure, including features such as the crustal thickness, upper mantle low-velocity zone and transverse isotropy (polarization anisotropy). Students with a strong computer science, physics or mathematics background including familiarity with Unix are invited to contact the supervisor at hrvoje@rses.anu.edu.au for more information.
Earth's inner core: Is the Differential Rotation Real?
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Supervisor:Tkalcic, Hrvoje
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Physics, Geophysics, Seismology and earthquakes,
Degree types: PhD, PhB, Honours, M.Sc., Summer Scholar Projects
This topic is a subject of very active research in the geophysical community and was exploited in a recent science-fiction motion picture 'The Core' (although the scientific facts in the movie were almost entirely wrongly represented). Differential rotation of the inner core with respect to the rest of the planet was first suggested from numerical simulations of the geodynamo in 1995. Since then, seismological studies aiming to detect differential rotation of the inner core using temporal changes in seismic waveforms were mostly controversial, and often subjected to criticism (the title above was taken from a publication in Science). One reason for scrutinising seismological data is a very likely inadequate resolution to resolve small temporal changes in inner core properties. This project will explore a unique dataset from Australian seismic stations to address the above issue. A highly motivated student with a background in geophysics, physics, astronomy or mathematics will find the project challenging and satisfying. Please contact the supervisor directly at hrvoje@rses.anu.edu.au for more information.
Carbonate eclogite in the upper mantle - its role in petrogenesis
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Supervisor:Yaxley, Gregory
Subject keywords: Petrology,Geochemistry,Laboratory,Experimental,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,
One effect of alteration of the basaltic ocean floor is addition of a few weight % carbonate in the form of calcite, or CaCO3 to the upper few 100 metres of the oceanic crust. There is abundant evidence from high pressure experimental studies and from investigations of high pressure and ultra-high pressure metamorphic rocks that some of this carbonate can survive the subduction process and is recycled back into the deeper mantle. Geochemical evidence suggests that this material may then be important in some partial melting processes in the upper mantle, leading to formation of certain types of magmas (eg some alkali basalts, carbonatites, kimberlites etc). The recycling of carbonate from the earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere and crust, back into the mantle is thus likely to be a highly significant part of the planet's overall carbon cycle, with an important role to play in the chemical evolution of the earth. However, relatively little is known about the behaviour of carbonate-bearing mafic rocks at high pressure (i.e. carbonate eclogite) and the few studies that have been done have yielded contrasting results. The aim of this project is to use high pressure experimental petrology to carefully constrain the high pressure melting and phase relations of carbonate eclogite, and to develop models for its involvement in upper mantle petrogenesis. The data produced will also enable calibration of a geobarometer that could be used to determine the barometric history of natural crustal high pressure carbonate + garnet assemblages. The student would be involved in a larger ARC funded project investigating the melting behaviour of heterogeneous upper mantle. He/She would prepare high pressure experimental assemblies, run them in the high pressure experimental equipment at RSES and undertake microanalysis by electron microprobe and laser ablation ICPMS. There are also possibilities for field work aimed a collecting suitable samples for thermobarometry based on garnet-carbonate exchange equilibria. The student would be closely involved in analysis and interpretation of the experimental and natural samples.
Establishing a tectonic listening post in Turkey
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Supervisor:Lister, Gordon Forster, Margaret
Subject keywords: Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Economic and Structural Geology, Geology, Geophysics, Laboratory, Fieldwork
Degree types: M.Sc,
The Australian Research Council has funded the \"Closing Tethys\" project. As part of this research we intend to support two MPhil students to establish a tectonic listening post in Turkey. We plan to find these students during 2012, and plan for them to start work on the project in 2013 at the very latest.

The best place to establish a listening post in Turkey appears to be in the southwest where the Lycian nappes slide off the Menderes massif. The plan is to send two students into the field, to work together, with each student having a complementary but mutual interest.

If you want to know what a \"tectonic listening post\" happens to be Email gordon.lister@anu.edu.au or drop in for a chat. The M.Phil. degree can be taken after a student completes third year. Good marks in undergraduate are essential as this allows objective demonstration of your quality. It also encourages supervisors to provide hard-to-find research support.

Team work is essential, so applications from teams will be considered as well as applications by individual students.

The students will engage in fieldwork together, and they will map particular cross-sections. They will construct tectonic sequence diagrams in the field, and then sample to allow analysis of microstructures and geochronology back in the lab at ANU. The two students will be given complementary projects, but how this will work can only be ascertained at time of interview. A plan might be that one student focusses on the geochronology, working to time events in the cross-section, while the other engages in large-scale tectonic reconstruction based on the data collected, and synthesis of other research results.

The Map That Changes The World
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Supervisor:Lister, Gordon Forster, Margaret
Subject keywords: Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Economic and Structural Geology, Geology, Laboratory, Computational, Fieldwork
Degree types: PhD,
The Square Kilometer Array will allow the exploration of deep space.
The Map That Changes The World will allow the exploration of deep time.

Consider a PhD topic helping build The Map That Changes The World. Join our team and work, any time, any where (it simply depends on what era you want to work in).

PhD candidates with resource exploration experience are particularly welcome in our research team at Australia's national university, and even more so if your host company is willing to support you while you are in Canberra absorbing the implications of new theories, new methods, and new technology. The Companies that support our effort are appreciated for their foresight and generosity.

Tectonic reconstruction requires an ability to synthesize information from many diverse sources, and an innate ability with computers and information systems. It is also possible to combine tectonic reconstruction with field research in a specific area, if a prospective student does not want to focus on this particular aspect. Prospective students should explore possible directions in which a project might be taken by contacting the supervisor in question.


Analytical models of orogenesis constrained by kinematic and climatic data
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Supervisor:Iaffaldano, Giampiero
Subject keywords: Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Mathematical Geophysics, Physics, Geophysics, Analytical, Computational
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB, Internships
Convergence between tectonic plates often results in the rise of amazing topographic features, such as the Tibetan plateau (see the figure) or the Andean belt. These are continuously reshaped through climate-controlled erosive processes, but the details of such controls, as well as potential feedbacks emplaced, are currently debated. The ever-growing records of climatic and kinematic data at convergent margins bring important constraints to unravel the mechanisms of orogenesis.

A motivated student is invited to join this project to develop and numerically implement analytical models for the competing roles of mountain-building and erosive processes at plate boundaries.

Contact the supervisor directly for detailed information.
Forward and inverse numerical models of the coupled mantle/lithosphere system
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Supervisor:Iaffaldano, Giampiero
Subject keywords: Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Mathematical Geophysics, Physics, Geophysics, Analytical, Computational
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB, Internships
What forces caused the Australian plate to drift away from Antarctica (see the figure)? Why lithospheric plates change their motions over time? Questions like these are of fundamental importance to the Geosciences.

Since the groundbreaking ideas of Alfred Wegener, paleomagnetic and geodetic reconstructions have significantly improved our knowledge of past and present plate motions; while seismic tomography allowed us recognizing lithospheric kinematics as the surface expression of convection in the Earth mantle.

Times are mature to explore the dynamics of the lithosphere, and constrain it through the record of plate kinematics. A number of projects are available on performing forward and inverse numerical models of the mantle/lithosphere system, aimed at reconstructing the spatial and temporal patterns of forces acting upon plates.

Contact the supervisor directly for detailed information.
Forecasting the seismic potential of plate boundaries by looking at their past
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Supervisor:Iaffaldano, Giampiero
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes, Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults, Environmental Geoscience, Mathematical Geophysics, Physics, Geophysics, Analytical, Computational
Degree types: Honours, M.Sc, PhD, PhB,
Earthquake forecasting represents a significant challenge to the scientific community, and to the society at large. Understanding in detail the seismic potential of populated areas is fundamental to mitigate the hazard associated with these natural events.

Earthquakes occur every hundred/thousand years predominantly along plate boundaries (see the figure). The seismic potential of these appears to be linked to the emplacement of tectonic forces over the past million years, which may be inferred from the record of plate-motion changes.

Projects are available in developing and using numerical models of lithosphere dynamics to explore the seismic potential associated with dynamically-evolving plate boundaries.

Contact the supervisor directly for detailed information.
Efficiency of mantle plumes
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Supervisor:Davies, Geoffrey
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Geophysics,Computational,
Degree types: Honours,M.Sc,
Mantle plumes carry heat upwards from a thermal boundary layer at the bottom of the mantle, and the thermal boundary layer is formed by heat conducting out of the core. Plumes thus help to cool the core. The efficiency with which plumes remove heat is debated and needs to be clarified. The project would be to use an existing numerical code to explore different parameters that control the plume and to compare the resulting plume with observational constraints. Some programming experience would be required.
Maximum Entropy Production and Earth's internal processes
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Supervisor:Davies, Geoffrey
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Planetary studies,Mathematical Geophysics,Computational,Analytical,
Degree types: PhD,
The so-called maximum entropy production principle is a relatively new idea that may apply to fairly complex dynamical systems. The project would be to test the MEP principle by developing applications to some of Earth's internal processes and comparing its predictions with progressively more sophisticated numerical models. Potential applications are the compositional-dynamical stratification of the mantle and the energy involved with core convection and the dynamo mechanism of Earth's magnetic field. Good computational skills would be required.
Thermochemical mantle plumes
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Supervisor:Davies, Geoffrey
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Geophysics,Computational,
Degree types: PhD,
The physics of thermal mantle plumes is quite well understood, and they provide a good explanation for volcanic centers like Hawaii and Iceland, and for the chains of extinct volcanos that extend away from these 'hotspot' sites. They also seem to explain gigantic flood basalt eruptions that occur once every 10-20 Ma. However there is a range of other volcanism that doesn't fit the classic pattern of flood basalts and related hotspot tracks. Plumes may entrain some denser material from the bottom of the mantle, and then their dynamics would be more complicated. These dynamics would be explored with numerical models in two and three dimensions. The results would have implications for the tectonic evolution of the continents and for the cooling of the core and the history of the dynamo. Good computational skills would be required.
Dynamic and chemical evolution of the mantle
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Supervisor:Davies, Geoffrey
Subject keywords: Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Geophysics,Computational,
Degree types: PhD,
This project continues numerical modelling of mantle dynamics in two and three dimensions to explore models that can accommodate geophysical, geochemical and tectonic constraints. We have a fairly clear understanding of how plate tectonics, mantle convection and mantle plumes work at present, but we would like to know how the dynamics of the mantle system has changed as Earth has slowly cooled over the past 4.5 Ga. There is geochemical and isotopic information from the mantle that has been difficult to reconcile with dynamical modelling. The chronology and tectonic history of the continental crust also provides important constraints, especially since they indicate the system has had episodes of heightened activity. Good computational skills would be required.
Seismic attenuation of multiple ScS waves in the South Pacific
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Supervisor:Fontaine, FabriceKennett, Brian
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Geophysics,Computational,
Degree types: M.Sc,PhB,
The South Pacific is characterized by the presence of several hotspots and a superswell. Seismic attenuation measurements are more sensitive to variation of temperature than seismic velocities, due to the strong dependence of attenuation to temperature. French Polynesia, East and North of Australia are ideally located to perform measurements of attenuation from multiple ScS waves. The student will measure seismic attenuation using a stacking procedure for the multiple ScS spectra, using data already available from both the RSES database for Australia and from the PLUME (Polynesian Lithosphere and Upper Mantle Experiment) network for French Polynesia (collaboration with Dr. G. Barruol, CNRS, France). The goal will be to produce maps of the patterns of seismic attenuation in the mantle. The measurements will give important constraints on the temperature variation in the South Pacific upper mantle. More details can be found by contacting the supervisors.
Tracing fluids and rare elements in the crust by combining microscale oxygen isotope analysis with geochronology
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Supervisor:Rubatto, Daniela
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Deep Earth/Continent evolution, Petrology, Geochemistry, Laboratory, Analytical, Fieldwork
Degree types: Honours, PhD,
Aqueous fluids play a critical role during metamorphic processes in the Earth’s crust because they have first order influence on element transport, reaction kinetics and heat transfer. Understanding their fluxes, sources and interaction with minerals is fundamental for the comprehension of these processes. The interaction between rocks and aqueous fluids is best investigated through a multidisciplinary approach with particular emphasis on oxygen isotopes. During this project you will be part of a team effort to develop protocols and knowledge for microscale analysis of oxygen isotopes to investigate fluid fluxes and their interaction with minerals containing rare elements. You will: combine fluid tracing with age determinations at the microscale to establish the timing to fluid circulation; Integrate oxygen and age data with petrology and trace element analysis in order to determine when and how rare elements are mobilized during metamorphism; Apply these methods to case studies where fluids play an important role in the geological processes, including regional metamorphic sequences, subduction and ore deposits. The project will include field-work in one or more localities in Australia and around the world. An important component of the project will be laboratory analysis using a variety of instruments from SEM to LA-ICPMS and particularly SHRIMP ion-microprobe, all located at RSES.
The student will
Regolith and rock art on Burrup Peninsula, northwestern Western Australia
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Supervisor:Pillans, Brad
Subject keywords: Geochronology (dating), Geochemistry, Geology, Laboratory, Fieldwork
Degree types: PhD
The heritage-listed Burrup Peninsula and nearby islands contain the largest known gallery of aboriginal rock art (mostly petroglyphs), with probably more than 1 million images. However, industrial development around the port of Dampier is seen by some as a threat to the preservation of the rock art. This project will investigate aspects of regolith/landform evolution on the Burrup Peninsula near Dampier in northwest WA. In particular, we will focus on the nature, age and rate of rock weathering on Burrup Peninsula to better understand the stability of the rock art and provide data for a conservation strategy. The project includes a major fieldwork component which would be undertaken in idyllic weather conditions during the winter months.



Groundwater and Surface Water Geochemistry
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Supervisor:McPhail, Bear Norman, Marc
Subject keywords: Environmental Geoscience, Geochemistry, Laboratory, Analytical
Degree types: , Summer Scholar Projects
Groundwater is a vital water resource in Australia, and the world, and understanding the dynamics of recharge from and discharge to surface waterways is necessary for using our water resources wisely. At ANU, we are developing hydrogeochemical methods to understand groundwater dynamics, including interactions between aquifer waters, surface water and groundwater. At present we focus our studies in the Lower Murrumbidgee catchment of New South Wales. There are a number of possible projects for a summer scholarship, such as interpreting element and isotope compositions of the Lower Murrumbidgee River and related groundwater, measuring the mineralogy and cation exchange capacities of aquifer and aquitard materials and interpreting the impact on groundwater compositions, and assisting in the development of new analytical methods for the geochemistry of water and regolith.

If you are interested in developing your interests and experience in groundwater and low-temperature geochemistry, please contact bear.mcphail@anu.edu.au.
The student will Be involved with the preparation and geochemical analysis of water and/or regolith samples to understand the mobility of major, minor and trace elements, including uranium, in groundwater environments. The student will also be involved with the interpretation and application of the results to bigger projects currently underway in groundwater dynamics and the fractionation of uranium isotopes.

Analysis of broad-band seismic data
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Supervisor:Kennett, Brian
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Mathematical Geophysics,Computational,
Degree types: Internships,
An enthusiastic and capable intern could become involved in the development and application of methods for display and analysis of seismograms to exploit 3-component recording of vector ground motion. The work would include the software implementation of published algorithms, their application, and the development of new techniques.
The body-wave structure of East Antarctica
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Supervisor:Kennett, Brian
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Tomography,Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Tectonics/Earth Deformation/faults,Mathematical Geophysics,Geology,Physics,Geophysics,Computational,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,PhB,

A programme of temporary broad-band seismic deployments throughout Australian Antarctic Territory took place during austral summers between 2002-2005. These stations recorded energy from distant earthquakes which sample the crust and upper mantle beneath the ice of East Antarctica, currently the least explored part of the tectonic Earth. Seismic structure will be determined from travel-time, receiver function and tomographic analyses of the data towards a better understanding of the tectonic structure and history of East Antarctica.



Research student(s) working on the project would have the opportunity to take part in fieldwork deployments in Australia and possibly Antarctica, use existing data collected by the RSES Seismology group, develop seismological methods and use potential field and geological data in working towards their final tectonic interpretations.
The terrane architecture of East Australia
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Supervisor:Rawlinson, Nicholas
Subject keywords: Seismology and earthquakes,Tomography,Deep Earth/Continent evolution,Mathematical Geophysics,Geology,Physics,Geophysics,Computational,Fieldwork,
Degree types: PhD,PhB,

Energy from distant earthquakes, from the southwest Pacific and other regions, samples the upper-mantle and crust beneath East Australia and New Zealand and is being recorded at dense arrays of 3-component seismic stations enabling the seismic structure in the lithosphere to be resolved in new detail. Tomographic and receiver function methods will be used to address the terrane architecture and tectonic history of East Australia.

Research student(s) working on the project would have the opportunity to take part in field deployments in East Australia and possibly New Zealand, use existing data collected by the RSES Seismology group, develop seismological methods and use magnetic, gravity and geological data in their final interpretations.
Dynamics of flow through ocean straits
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Supervisor:Hogg, Andrew Hughes, Graham
Subject keywords: Ocean dynamics/fluid dynamics,Climate Dynamics,Physics,Laboratory,Computational,
Degree types: Honours,PhD,
Ocean straits are narrow constrictions which separate marginal seas from oceans, such as the straits of Gibraltar, the Indonesian Throughflow and the Heads of Sydney Harbour. Straits therefore restrict the flow of water between different parts off the ocean. It follows that these straits play a key role in regulating flow of water, nutrients and pollutants around the ocean.

This project will exmine the fundamental fluid dynamics of flow through straits, and will apply these results to the ocean. The project may either be based on laboratory experiments, numerical simulation or a combination of the two. The student can expect to develop and implement a program of experiments to learn more about flow through straits, and to develop conceptual understanding of this important aspect of oceanography.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.

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Supervisor:Hogg, Andrew
Subject keywords: Sea level change/Climate change, Ocean dynamics/fluid dynamics, Physics, Computational
Degree types: Honours, PhD
One of the outstanding puzzles in paleoclimatology is to determine the cause of ice ages. Data shows that CO2 (in the red) varies with temperature (black) in the figure, indicating that CO2 plays a significant role in controlling glaciation; but what controls CO2?

This project will use simple models to attack this problem. The student will start from a 2-equation model of the climate system which replicates the major elements of the glacial cycles, and will develop this model into a multi-box model to gain constraints on possible influences on glacial climate dynamics.






Modelling the Southern Ocean
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Supervisor:Hogg, Andrew
Subject keywords: Ocean dynamics/fluid dynamics,Climate Dynamics,Physics,Computational,
Degree types: Honours,PhD,
The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in the global ocean circulation. It connects all three major ocean basins (the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific) and so helps to control heat transport, climate variability and nutrient balances. Yet, circulation in the Southern ocean is poorly understood - mainly because there is a relatively small amount of observational data.

This project aims to simulate the circulation of the Southern Ocean in a realistic way, and look at ways in which this circulation will vary. The simulations will use existing eddy-resolving ocean models (see figure for the "eddy field", or turbulence which is modelled). The simulations will be performed on the local supercomputer (the AC) and some modification of the models will be required. This project would suit a student with an applied maths or physics background, and in interest in climate dynamics or physical oceanography.

Contact the supervisor directly for more information.