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Research School of Earth Sciences
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Research Activities 2009

Earth Materials and Processes


Click on the links below to read the 2009 Earth Materials & Processes research highlights or Click HERE to download the PDF version



The Earth Materials and Processes area comprises research groups in Rock Physics, Experimental Petrology, and Structure & Tectonics. Our research centres around laboratory based measurements under controlled conditions, simulating those occurring in nature, but these activities are complemented by a rich array of analytical equipment and are supported by extensive field-based observations, often in collaboration with scientists from other institutions, nationally and internationally. Through such investigations we aim to develop understanding of the structure and chemical composition of planetary interiors, and the processes by which planets evolve. Our interests start at the very beginning of solar system history with how the Earth and other rocky planets accrete, and then cover the ongoing processes of mantle convection, volcanism, metamorphism, global tectonics and the formation of ore deposits.
Areas of current research activity include:

  • The making of terrestrial planets. Chemical constraints on the accretion of the Earth and similar planets from the solar nebula, and the processes of core formation; mineralogical and chemical properties of the deep mantle and their influence on global tectonics.
  • The nature of the Earth's upper mantle. Experimental studies and thermodynamic modelling of the phase equilibria relevant to upper mantle melting and ultra-high-pressure metamorphism associated with crustal thickening and subduction; experimental and microstructural studies of phenomena associated with lattice defects and grain boundaries including incorporation of water into nominally anhydrous minerals and microscopic mechanisms of seismic wave attenuation; experimental studies and modelling of grain-scale melt distribution and its implications for melt transport, rheology and seismic properties.
  • Oxidation state and coordination of metal ions at high temperatures. Studies of crystals, melts and hydrothermal solutions by X-ray absorption spectroscopy, using synchrotron radiation. Studies of silicate glasses and melts to very high temperatures under controlled redox conditions. Analysis of hydrothermal solutions trapped in synthetic fluid inclusions is providing important basic information on metal complexes at high temperatures.
  • Coupling between fluid flow and fault mechanics in the continental crust. Field-based studies of a normal fault system in Oman, along with complementary stable isotope and other geochemical studies of associated calcite vein systems, are being used to explore how fault-controlled fluid flow is localized among components of regionally extensive fault networks. Field-based and microstructural studies in two examples of intrusion-related ore systems (Porgera, PNG, and North Parkes, NSW) are providing insights about the dynamics of growth of fracture-controlled hydrothermal systems and localization of ore deposition in these settings. Laboratory studies of the seismic properties of the cracked and fluid-saturated rocks of the upper crust
  • The mission to planet Earth in which we construct a virtual time machine (in collaboration with U. Sydney) to provide a spatio-temporal context that will allow a greater understanding of planetary tectonics from the point of view of plate-scale physical processes. This infrastructure development is supported by the NCRIS AuScope initiative. To provide critical data for the tectonic reconstructions, “listening posts” are being established that provide samples that can be analyzed and dated using 40Ar/39Ar and U-Pb geochronology in the Earth Chemistry.

Research Projects

EM: Rock Physics   
Environmental Tracers in Waters of the Lower Murrumbidgee Catchment, New South Wales Kyle N. Horner
Laboratory Studies of Rock Deformation, Dislocation Recovery and Attenuation Robert J.M. Farla
Dynamic permeability and the evolution of fluid pathways in fault networks Stephen F Cox
A versatile facility for rock physics research Ian Jackson
Effects of stress states and fluid pressure regimes on fluid pathways and evolution of fluid compositions within intrusion-related hydrothermal systems. Angela Halfpenny
EM: Petrology   
Melt transport in the mantle Cassian Pirard
Peridotites from a submarine volcanic front arc volcano: a global first Sarlae McAlpine
Squeezing out the upper mantle: melt evolution of voluminous mafic layered intrusions Oliver Nebel
Accretion of seamounts and oceanic islands in subduction zones David Buchs
The oxidation state of terrestrial basalts revisited Guil Mallmann
The CO2 paradox in subduction zones Laure Martin
Multi-element Comparisons of Natural and Anthropogenic Inputs into Pristine Estuarine Sediments, Merimbula, N.S.W., Australia Fern Beavis
Experimental constraints on chlorine behavior in subducted sediments Huijuan Li
Ni Partitioning Between Olivine and Silicate Melt Jesse Jones
An experimental study of the upper mantle melting behaviour of recycled carbonate eclogite at 3.5-5.5 GPa Ekaterina S. Kiseeva
Archaean asteroid impacts, banded iron formations and sulphur MIF-S anomalies. Andrew Glikson
A Monte Carlo study of short- and long-range order of tetrahedral cations in sapphirine and khmaralite Andrew G. Christy
Asteroid impact connections of crustal evolution Andrew Glikson
A probable end-Eocene impact structure under the Timor Sea Andrew Glikson
The Nb-Ta chicken-egg problem Joerg Hermann
EM: Tectonics   
Gravity drives Great Earthquakes Gordon Lister
Diffusional rims and moats around ilmenite inclusions in garnet and their significance for garnet geospeedometry  Iona R. Stenhouse
Evidence of (subduction-related?) magmatism after "the collision" of India and Eurasia Lloyd White
Evolution of the subducting Solomon Sea Plate Tomas O'Kane
Tectonic reconstruction using deformable plates Joe Kurtz
Dating a major shear zone in the Central European Alps - The Forcola Fault Clemens Augenstein
Variscan deformation of Australia ─ A heretic view of the Alice Springs Orogeny,  Australia-Asia collision and tectonic extrusion Chris Klootwijk