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Research Activities 2008

Earth Environment


Click on the links below to read the 2008 Earth Environment research highlights or Click HERE to download the PDF version 30 pages 2.7Mb



As for other parts of the School, the size of the Group increased substantially due to the amalgamation of RSES with the former Department of Earth and Marine Sciences. Several members of staff joined the Group [De Deckker, Ellis [partim], Opdyke and Young] together with their students and technical staff.

Members of the Earth Environment group undertake research on environmental and climate change with particular emphasis on the interactions between humans and the environment. The group specialises in the development of diagnostic environmental proxies within an absolute chronologic framework that spans a few decades to several hundred thousand years of Earth history. The purpose is to document and understand past changes that have particular relevance to help predicting future ones.  With the considerable current awareness and concern about environmental changes, the relevance of the group's research is paramount and of direct relevance to society. The future of the Great Barrier Reef is one of these concerns with biogenic carbonate build ups and ocean acidification.

Our researchers and their students and collaborators [Eggins, McCulloch, Opdyke, Trotter and Walther] are involved in growing organisms such as the marine microscopic, calcitic foraminifera under controlled conditions and also determining changes in calcification and temperature in shallow and deep-sea corals. Several of those people are also conducting research to determine proxies for pH changes in the oceans. Experimental research, monitoring and data gathering dealing with silica budgets in the Southern Ocean are the concern of other research teams [Ellwood and Wille]. Gagan, Treble and Ayliffe are involved in investigations on speleothem spanning different ages with the aim of determining past climatic signals. Some of that work concerns links between human evolution and climate in Indonesia. Gagan, Sosdian and students are also involved in isotopic analyses on shallow water corals from a variety of localities.

De Deckker continues his work on Holocene sequences, both from marine and lacustrine origins using biogenic carbonates, and is also involved in fingerprinting the geochemistry and microbiology of aeolian dust.

Another aspect of the Group's research deals with human impacts on environment, across very different time scales. Of principal concern is the impact of terrigenous sediments and nutrients on reefal systems [McCulloch and Trotter] and in estuaries [Ellis] over short time scales. Grün and colleagues [Aubert and Eggins] deal with much longer time scales and on sites that are important to cultural and environmental history such as the Willandra Lakes World Heritage area, in particular, developing new techniques for dating human teeth and bones.

Landscape evolution is also an important focus of several members of the Group. Pillans, Fitzsimmons and Barrows are further developing dating techniques, such as palaeomagnetism, optically stimulated luminescence and cosmogenic nuclides to characterise geomorphic changes, denudation and weathering changes.


Research Projects

In situ oxygen isotope analysis of faunal material using a secondary ion micro-probe: a new tool for palaeoecology and archaeology - Maxime Aubert

Past glacial cycle monsoon variation recorded in speleothems from Flores, Indonesia - Linda Ayliffe

Geochemical and microbiological fingerprinting of airborne dust that fell in Canberra, Australia in October 2002 - Patrick De Deckker

Phasing and amplitude of sea level and climate change during the penultimate interglacial - Andrea Dutton

Winter-time dissolved iron and nutrient distributions in the Subantarctic Zone from 40-52S; 155-160E - Michael Ellwood

Reconstructing the history of drought and aridity in Australia: Evidence from Lake George - Kathryn Fitzsimmons

Speleothem carbon-isotope response to an explosive volcanic eruption ~12 ka ago near Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia - Michael Gagan

The relevance of parametric U-uptake models in ESR age - Rainer Grün

Warming and Acidifying Ocean and Coral growth - Jung Ok Kang

Landscape evolution and palaeoenvironment reconstruction of the Lake Mulurulu Lunette, Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, NSW - Tegan Kelly

Modelling climate and water isotope variability in southern Indonesia with GISS ModelE-R - Sophie Lewis

Ocean Acidification in the Great Barrier Reef - Malcolm McCulloch

Weathering history of rock art on Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia - Brad Pillans

Silicon isotopic composition of marine sponges: Understanding isotopic variations using a mass balance approach - Jill Sutton

Calibrating the speleothem O isotope signal to rainfall - Pauline Treble

Did Cooling Oceans Trigger Ordovician Biodiversification? Evidence from Conodont Thermometry - Julie Trotter

Silicon and Boron isotopic signatures in marine sponges - Martin Wille

Oldest complete vertebrate eye preservation from the fossil record - Gavin Young