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Research Activities 2006

Earth Environment


Click on the links below to read the 2006 Earth Environment research highlights Or download the 2006 Earth Environment Research Highlights in PDF format HERE 962 Kb



In the past year public awareness of climate and associated global change issues has grown markedly, such that this is now the number one issue of public concern. The wide range of research undertaken by the RSES Earth Environment Group is highly relevant as we are addressing current issues of concern such as the frequency and longevity of droughts in Australia , as well as questions of longer term relevance, such as the effects of climate change on terrestrial and marine systems and its impacts on human evolution.

Our research draws upon a unique group of World-class research facilities that enable the analysis of a wide range of trace element and isotopic systems, with an emphasis on the timing and rate of change of major environmental and Earth surface processes. Emphasis is placed on developing diagnostic environmental proxies within an absolute chronologic framework that spans a few tens to several hundred thousand years of the Earth's history, and to use these as a basis for understanding past and present environmental change and predicting future trends. Earth Environment specialises in the reconstruction of high-resolution environmental records from growth banding preserved in fossil and modern corals, speleothems (cave deposits), layered sedimentary deposits and anthropologic sites of special significance.

The Earth Environment group maintained success in obtaining ARC funding through both discovery as well as linkage grants. Successful strategic planning rounds in 2005-2006 resulted in the joint RSES/DEMS appointment of Dr Mike Ellwood and the RSES/RSPhysEngS appointment of Dr Stewart Fallon, adding unique expertise and sorely needed critical mass to our marine sciences initiative. Likewise Dr Steve Eggin's appointment to the tenure track staff ensures that our group will maintain our world leading abilities in marine geochemistry.

We also welcome new Post Doctoral Researchers, Dr Linda Ayliffe, Maxime Aubert and Dr Stacy Jupiter who are funded by ARC grants to Professor Grün and Dr Gagan and via support from the Coral Reef Centre of Excellence to Professor McCulloch, respectively. There has also been a talented cohort of graduating students who completed their PhD theses in an exemplary manner and we wish Drs Ayling, Fraser, Trotter and Wyndham continued success in their future endeavours.

During 2006 academic staff continued their high level of success with ARC proposals with Professors Grün, Chappell and Dr Ellwood being funded. Dr Mike Ellwood was extraordinary successful in his first time applications having both of his ARC grants funded, one being jointly with Dr Eggins. These proposals focus on the role of nutrients and atmospheric CO 2 in the Southern Oceans by examining the biogenic silica cycles as well as patterns of Ge/Si fractionation in sponges and diatoms. Professor Grün's Linkage proposal on the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area ranks is especially important for documenting
Australia's unique cultural and environmental history. This project is being undertaken jointly in a strategic alliance between the custodians and managers of the area and leading Australian research institutions to build a picture of the continent's human and environmental history before this evidence is irretrievably lost.

Installation of new LIEF funded state-of-the-art equipment is now essentially complete in the Earth Environment Group enabling us to continue our cutting-edge research. This includes an ~$2 million gas source AMS which will revolutionise our capacity to undertake 14 C dating terrestrial materials and an ultra-short wavelength (157 nm) laser ICPMS combination to enable direct in-situ analyses of a wider variety of Geological materials with greatly enhanced sensitivity.

Research Highlights

Rose D. Berdin
Oceanic germanium/silicon fractionation: evidence from oceanic profiles, diatom cultures and sediment opal. Michael J Ellwood
In situ Sr analysis of a Neanderthal tooth Rainer Grün
Ultrastructure and in-situ geochemistry of conodont mineralised tissues Julie A. Trotter
In-situ oxygen isotope compositions of Ordovician conodonts using SHRIMP II and laser ablation MC-ICPMS Julie A. Trotter
Coral Reefs and Global Change Malcolm McCulloch
Permo-Carboniferous inheritance in Australian landscapes Brad Pillans
Routine penetration of South Java Current into the Savu Sea recorded by a Porites coral Dingchuang Qu
Diurnal origin of Mg/Ca banding in Orbulina universa and effects of cleaning on test composition Eggins S.M
Variability in the uranium isotopic composition of the oceans over glacial–interglacial timescales Tezer M. Esat
From Cane to Coral Reefs: Ecosystem Connectivity and Downstream Responses to Land Use Intensification Stacy D. Jupiter
Evidence for past climates and environmental response from sediment archives in central and eastern Australia Ed Rhodes

Initiation of Australian longitudinal dunefields, revealed by cosmogenic burial dating on dune-sand quartz from the Simpson Desert , central Australia

Toshiyuki Fujioka
Understanding climate change: Speleothems as archives of natural rainfall variability and rapid climate events Pauline C. Treble