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Directors Introduction 2006


2006 was the year with three Directors of the Research School. Prof. Mark Harrison completed his term in at the end of March 2006, and then took leave of absence to return to the University of California, Los Angeles. Prof. Ross Griffiths then acted as Interim Director until the beginning of September, when Prof. Brian Kennett took up a three-year appointment as Director.

The changes were accompanied by significant administrative upheavals as the Executive Officer, Ms Kerryn Jackson, moved to take up the position of Executive Officer to the College of Science. The new RSES Executive Officer. Mr Mike Avent, was then faced with the task of rebuilding the administrative team, following further departures to the College of Medicine and Health Sciences. By the end of the year the School structures had settled down, just as the significant changes associated with the creation of the College of Science became apparent. The emphasis on discipline groupings within the College of Science has led to close interactions with the Department of Earth and Marine Sciences in the development of a Strategic Plan for the Geosciences and in a revision of the curriculum for 2007. RSES will henceforth be more strongly involved in undergraduate teaching; as well as starting an M.Sc course on the Physics of the Earth in 2007. In May, Prof. K. Lambeck commenced a four-year term as President of the Australian Academy of Sciences. In the same month Prof. B. Kennett received the Murchison Medal from the Geological Society of London. Dr G. Yaxley has been awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship to work in Germany. Many members of the School were involved in the preparation of investment plans under the National Collaborative Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). In particular, a workshop in RSES at the end of January launched the AuScope structure for topic 5.13 "Structure and Evolution of the Australian Continent", and there was also strong involvement in the development of plans for a National Geospatial Reference Frame. These efforts were rewarded in December 2006 with the announcement of $42.8M support over the period 2007-2011 for AuScope, of which $15.8M is designated for the geospatial component.

The next step of establishing the AuScope organisation will involve significant work, but should bring major infrastructure investment into the School particularly in the area of Earth Imaging and Inversion. The School has had months of building work as the former radiocarbon laboratories were remodelled to accommodate the installation of the Accelerator Mass Spectrometer supported by 2005 ARC LIEF funds. A total refit of laboratories on the top floor of Jaeger 2 was also commenced to provide a home for the geobiological mass-spectrometry of Dr J. Brocks which again received 2005 LIEF support. A joint ARC LIEF bid with the University of Melbourne for new noble gas massspectrometers was successful in 2006. With the completion of the SHRIMP SI expected in 2007, a substantial renewal of major facilities in the geochemistry area will have occurred in a rather short time. The equipment for joint seismic/magnetotelluric recording funded under a 2005 LIEF grant with support from Adelaide and Macquarie Universities has been commissioned with 12 full sets of magnetic coils and 15 recorders. This equipment provides the basis for systematic magnetotelluric exploration of the continent and will be supplemented with AuScope investment. RSES continued to do quite well in the ARC funding round in 2006 with 12 funded grants (8 direct, 3 through other institutions for Discovery, and a major Linkage project), including a QEII Fellowship to Dr W. Schellart. The pattern of funding across research areas is somewhat uneven, and a challenge for the future comes in maintain the breadth in the School activities so that we are well placed to take up new challenges.

2006 saw the completion of recruitment against the new initiatives of the last few years. In Earth Sounding, Dr H. Tkalcic has been appointed as a Fellow in Observational Seismology. In the Marine Science Initiative, the complement was completed with the appointment of Dr A. Hogg as a Fellow in the area of Ocean Modelling. Further, after prolonged visa delays Dr Y. Amelin was able to accept appointment to the Planetary Sciences Institute and will bring a strong profile in cosmochemistry. A successful Frederick White Conference sponsored by the Australian Academy of Sciences was organised by RSES in Canberra in April on “Mastering the Data Explosion in the Earth and Environmental Sciences”. A diverse Audience with strong RSES participation gained insight from discussion of many topics including inverse problems and data mining from geophysical and statistical viewpoints. Members of the School also played an important role in the organisation of the 2006 Goldschmidt conference in Melbourne in August, which secured a large attendance from the international geochemistry community. Dr S. Eggins and Dr M.Gagan were promoted to Level D and Dr G. Hughes and Dr A. Reading to Level C. Dr Reading will not have long to enjoy her new status at RSES, since she has been appointed to a continuing position in Geophysics at the University of Tasmania from February 2007. The breadth of the research activity of RSES is astonishing and the following pages provide an account of a fraction of the total activity.