Tag Archives: geology

Predicting where gold and copper lie

Indonesian and Australian scientists are searching for buried treasure: using the movement of tectonic plates to predict when and where giant deposits of gold and copper should form, while building an understanding of the conditions these deposits are created in.

The project, which began in 2013 and is due for completion in 2016, is using Southeast Asia as a ‘natural laboratory’ to explore these natural processes and their products. Knowing when and how deposits formed can help us understand geological processes occurring today.

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Academy recognition

Photo: Wouter Schellart’s geodynamics research into the activity of the Earth’s mantle, including the Mt Etna volcano, earned him the AAS Anton Hales medal for Earth Sciences. Credit: NASA

The Australian Academy of Science recognised five individuals for their career achievements in 2013.

How Australia and India broke up—100 million years ago

Dr Joanne (Jo) Whittaker, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart

Dr Joanne (Jo) Whittaker likes to solve jigsaw puzzles. Now this marine geoscientist is tackling the biggest puzzle on the planet—the formation of continents.
WithSDP_0059 the help of Australia’s national marine research vessels, and now her L’Oréal Fellowship, Jo is reconstructing how the Indian, Australian and Antarctic tectonic plates separated over the past 200 million years, forming the Indian Ocean and the continents as we see them today. This information will help us model climate change better, find new gas resources, and understand the dynamics of the land in which we live.

The piece of this jigsaw she is now working on centres on two underwater plateaux, the Batavia and Gulden Draak Knolls, towering about 3000 metres above the Perth Abyssal Plain (PAP), which is around 1600 kilometres off the coast of Geraldton in Western Australia. In November 2011, Jo’s team mapped and sampled rocks from both knolls. Based on the evidence so far, Jo says, it looks like they split from the margins of the moving Indian Plate about 100 million years ago.
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Mapping the seafloor from space

We know more about the topography of Mars than that of Earth because 70 per cent of our planet is covered by water.

Kara Matthews has mapped the seafloor using satellite data and software. Credit: Kara Matthews

Now University of Sydney PhD student Kara Matthews has used satellite data and GPlates, a computer package developed at the University, to create a complete digital map of the many geological features of the seafloor.

Fracture zones—the orange lines in the accompanying image—are deep linear scars on the seafloor that extend perpendicular to the boundaries where tectonic plates are moving apart, revealing up to 150 million years of plate movement. They are accompanied by huge ridges on the seafloor, rising up to 2 km above the abyssal plains, and valleys as deep as 8 km below sea level.
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Slide back in time and see the Himalayas form

Researchers in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney have developed a computer package that lets scientists record and study the Earth over geological time.

GPlates moves geology into the fourth dimension
GPlates image showing topography (left) and predicted temperature 300 km below surface (right) as India moves towards the Eurasian continent 60mya. Credit: Sabin Zahirovic, EarthByte

Their GPlates software, which they describe as “Google Earth with a time-slider,” contains powerful tools for modelling geological processes. Yet it is simple enough to use in schools or at home, and is freely available. By combining data on continental motion, fossils and sediments, for example, scientists can analyse changes in geography, ocean currents and climate over geological time.
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Australian scientists elected to Royal Society

Four of Australia’s most accomplished scientists have been elected to the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, the Royal Society of London.

PROF IAN FRAZER LAUNCHES THE CERVICAL CANCER VACCINE GARDASIL. CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

Prof Ian Frazer, Prof Alan Cowman, Prof Mark Randolph and Dr Patrick Tam join 40 other scientists to be elected to the Royal Society in 2011, which celebrated its 350th anniversary last year.

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Life beneath the sheets: 9000 years in the dark

Researchers at Geoscience Australia have unravelled the development of a unique seafloor community thriving in complete darkness below the giant ice sheets Looking into the borehole. Credit: Geoscience Australiaof Antarctica.The community beneath the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica is 100 kilometres from open water and hidden from view by ice half a kilometre thick. This ecosystem has developed very slowly over the past 9,000 years, since the end of the last glaciation.

Today it is home to animals such as sponges and bryozoans fed by plankton carried in on the current. Dr Alix Post studied shell fossils within core samples where she unexpectedly found evidence of these isolated ecosystems.