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Directors Introduction 2007


2007 has again been a year of change.  The review of the Department of Earth and Marine Sciences (DEMS) in May recommended the creation of a single discipline entity in Geosciences incorporating both RSES and DEMS.  Following extensive discussion this recommendation was accepted by both parties. The Director and Dean of the College negotiated an arrangement with close integration to try to overcome the spatial separation of the two components on the ANU campus.  In September, ANU Council approved the creation of a new Research School of Earth Sciences incorporating the Department of Earth and Marine Sciences.  The agreement includes an Education Contract between the School and the College of Science with respect to the provision of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Courses, as well as the Higher Degree Research program.  An Associate Director (Education) will report to both the Dean of the College and the Director of the School. The new structure comes into being at the beginning of January 2008, and we hope that the spirit of good will that infused this year’s activities can continue through the inevitable problems that will come with the implementation of the merger.

In March 2007, RSES carried out a review of work in the area of Solid Earth Geophysics with a distinguished panel of external scientists in the School for most of a week.  Components of the Earth Physics and Earth Materials areas combined to develop a comprehensive set of materials that were distributed in advance to the Review Committee.  The Committee had a very busy schedule of interviews and presentations during their time in the School and produced a thorough report very quickly.  The Review endorsed the very high quality of the work in geophysics in the School and recommended that there should be further investment in the area of computational geophysics.  As a result a search committee has been formed to investigate the possibility of an appointment across the full range of fields in which numerical simulation is important. 

The high quality of work at RSES continues to receive external recognition. Prof. Brad Pillans has been elected as Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (Hon FRSNZ) and Dr Ian Williams has been elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE) for his work on the development and commercialization of the SHRIMP ion microprobe. At the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna in April, two sectional medals were awarded to RSES scientists. The Gutenberg medal in Seismology was presented to Prof. Brian Kennett and the Bunsen Medal in Mineralogy to Prof. Hugh O’Neill.  Professor O’Neill also shared the 2007 Bowen Award from the Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology Section of American Geophysical Union and this was awarded at the Fall Meeting in San Francisco in December.

Internal recognition has come through promotion of three members of RSES to Professor: Dr I Campbell, Dr T. Ireland and Dr M. Sambridge.  In addition in the 2007 promotion round, Dr J. Mavrogenes was promoted to Level D and Dr N. Rawlinson to Level C.

The Accelerator Mass Spectrometer supported by 2005 ARC LIEF funds was commissioned at the end of February and is active use for 14C dating. The geobiological mass-spectrometry facility on the top floor of Jaeger 2 came into full use in September.  The modest Jaeger 5 building constructed to house SHRIMP RG is being extended to house the new SHRIMP SI that is under construction. An upper storey will provide a focus for the Planetary Sciences Initiative with a new microchemistry facility.  Progress has been good and the building should be in use by mid-2008.

The number of grants funded through the Australian Research Council was down somewhat in 2007, but did include two very large grants in the areas of geodesy and tectonics.  RSES was part of a successful consortium led by the University of Queensland that received support from LIEF funding for thermochronology work.
AuScope Ltd., has been established to administer the National Cooperative Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) funding for “Structure and Evolution of the Australian Continent”, and ANU was the first institution to sign the participant agreement.  RSES houses components of the Earth Imaging, Geospatial and Simulation & Modelling activities. Professors Lambeck and Kennett are on the AuScope Executive Committee as the Senior Scientists in the Geospatial and Earth Imaging Area.  With AuScope support a new computer cluster Terrawulf II has been installed at RSES to provide a facility for geophysical inversion.  Further capital investment is under way in an absolute gravimeter and new seismic instrumentation. In Earth Imaging AuScope was able to supplement reflection work in North Queensland by Geoscience Australia and the Geological Survey of Queensland to provide multiple crossings of the enigmatic “Tasman Line”.    

Research at RSES mobilises a wide range of geological, geochemical and geophysical techniques and expertise to try to understand the nature of the Earth and its environment. The research is organised through the four main Research Areas: Earth Chemistry, Earth Environment, Earth Materials & Processes and Earth Physics, but many activities transcend area boundaries.

The following pages provide an account of many facets of the research activity of RSES undertaken in 2007. 

B.L.N. Kennett