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Research Activities 2011

Earth Environment





In 2011, we welcomed four new staff members. Dr A. Abrajevitch and Dr. D. Heslop joined the palaeomagnetics group of Prof. A. Roberts, Dr. M. Davies will work with Profs A. Roberts and P. De Deckker on new dating methods on marine cores together with Prof. L.K. Fifield (Nuclear Physics, RSPSE), and Dr. N. Abram joins Dr. M. Gagan to work on isotopic fingerprinting of natural disasters. We are very pleased to announce that Dr. J. Yu, presently at Lamont Doherty Observatory, has accepted a position at RSES and will join Dr S. Eggins and Dr. M. Ellwood to investigate new isotopic proxies to understand the interaction between climate change and ocean chemistry. He will take up his position in 2012.

Five new PhD students joined Earth Environment in 2011: Ms C. Krause to work under the supervision of Dr. M. Gagan, Mr S. Meyerink and Ms M. Samanta to work with Dr. M. Ellwood, Mr M. Willmes with Prof. R. Grün, and Mr B. Wang with Dr. D.C. McPhail.

Two of our PhD students submitted their theses: Ms J. Sutton, supervised by Dr M. Ellwood, on germanium/silicon and silicon isotope fractionation by marine diatoms and sponges and utility as tracers of silicic acid utilization, and Ms S. Lewis, supervised by Dr S. Eggins, on climatic influences on stable water isotope variability in palaeo-precipitation.

ARC grants awarded for funding beginning in 2011 allow us to explore new, exciting avenues of environmental research. The grant success showcases the analytical capabilities of Earth Environment and the diverse applications and research interests that are pursued by Earth Environment staff members.

Dr. N. Abram was funded to investigate how climate change, great earthquakes, and volcanic disasters pose risks for environmental, economic, and social harm in rapidly developing Australasia. Prof. P. De Deckker will establish pre-industrial baselines for sea surface temperatures over the last millennium for the Australian region and provide data of importance to global climatology and oceanography that precede instrumental records. Dr S. Eggins will investigate the effect of ocean acidification and climate change on Southern Ocean planktic foraminifers. The results of controlled culture experiments will be compared to recent marine records. Dr. M. Ellwood will determine the role iron plays in influencing phytoplankton growth, which ultimately regulates the drawdown of carbon dioxide by the oceans. Prof. R. Grün will reconstruct the migrations of prehistoric populations through direct dating and isotopic tracking of their mobility patterns. Prof. A. Roberts will study the magnetism of dust deposits in marine sediments to understand how Australian dust influences climate in order to better predict the influence of humans on future climate.

In 2011, Dr. D. Heslop was successful in obtaining ARC funding beginning in 2012 to study sediments from the oceans around Australia to understand how the Earth's magnetic field was recorded. He will use this information to construct a new generation of computer models that will provide insights into the physics of the recording process. The research is underpinned by Prof. A. Roberts's ARC grant to set up a world-class rock magnetic facility to support Australian palaeomagnetic and environmental research.

The high research profile of Earth Environment is documented by the numerous publications in world leading journals such as Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Earth and Planetary Science Letters and Quaternary Science Reviews.

Earth Environment staff has been prominently involved in the RSES teaching activities in Earth and Marine sciences, as well as other undergraduate programs. The large number of students based in our Area documents their success.

None of our 2011 research activities were possible without our dedicated technical staff, Mr. J. Cali, Mrs. J Cowley, Mr. L. Kinsley, Mrs. L. McMorrow, Dr. G. Mortimer, Mrs. H. Scott-Gagan, and Mrs J. Shelley. A number of casual staff have also assisted our research efforts. I am particularly grateful to our Area Administrator, Mrs. R. Petch, who always goes the extra mile.

Professor Rainer Grün
Associate Director, Earth Environment


Research Projects