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Director's Introduction 2009

This is the second year of the augmented Research School of Earth Sciences including the Earth and Marine Sciences Educational Program. A regular traffic proceeds between the Jaeger Building (#61) and the D.A. Brown Building (#47) about ten minutes walk away and it is gratifying to see so many staff engaged with teaching at undergraduate, honours and masters levels. We hope that we can provide the "research-led teaching" that will provide a satisfying and effective experience for our students. The amalgamation of research and teaching functions, for which RSES was a pioneer, has now been accomplished across the whole Science area and the former Faculty has been dissolved. Each of the entities in the College of Physical and Mathematical now has embedded teaching functions.

The fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of Geology at ANU was celebrated in April and we were fortunate that the Foundation Professor D.A. Brown was able to come to join the enjoyable proceedings and make a pointed speech. Unfortunately Prof. Brown passed away in early November, but his name continues attached to the main teaching complex for the Earth Sciences.

The early part of the year was taken up with preparations for an external Review of Geochemistry, Mineralogy and Petrology (interpreted very broadly). We are grateful to the review team of Prof R. Rudnick (University of Maryland), Prof. J. Blundy (University of Bristol), Prof. B. Bourdon (ETH, Zurich), Prof. K. Kyser (Queens University, Canada) and Prof. L: Carter (Victoria University, Wellington, NZ) who spent nearly a week in the School at the end of March having read voluminous material before their arrival. The presentations to the Review were grouped in five major themes that transcended the administrative Research Area boundaries: Cosmochemistry, Isotope Geochemistry, Experimental Petrology, Biogeochemistry and Environmental Geochemistry. The mixed nature of the groups saw some interesting dialogues emerging across the School. The Review Committee was impressed with the quality of work in the School, but provided a number of important suggestions for the future including the importance of maintaining the technical prowess in the School. Many examples of the fine research seen by the Review Committee will be found in the research highlights in this Annual Report.

The Natural Hazards Initiative that received seed funding from the Vice-Chancellor to encourage cooperation with the College of Asia and the Pacific is beginning to develop. The Masters in Natural Hazards will start next year, with both science and social science components, coordinated from the RSES side by Dr S. Pozgay. A centre for Natural Hazards has been established to form a focus for activities within the College of Physical Sciences, and across the University, and this is being steered by Dr P. Tregoning. We have also been fortunate to secure agreement from Geoscience Australia for a joint appointment for Prof. P. Cummins from January 2010, who will bring expertise in tsunamis.

This will be my last report as Director of the Research School of Earth Sciences. My successor, Prof. A. Roberts from the University of Southampton, will take over the position from February 1. The last three years have seen major changes in the School including major reviews in geophysics and geochemistry and the merger with the Department of Earth and Marine Sciences as a result of their review. The changes have coincided with the development of the College structure within the University and the environment in which the School operates has changed considerably. I hope that it can continue to thrive despite budgetary pressures.

B.L.N. Kennett
Director, RSES