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Research

The creation of knowledge relating to our dynamic planet is our focus, through bold field programs in geology, volcanology, geochemistry, geophysics and marine geoscience, and through innovation in the enabling technologies of analytical geochemistry and computational geoscience.

We excel in industry collaborative research focused on ore deposits through the world-renowned Centre for Ore Deposit and Earth Sciences (CODES), CRC ORE and the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Transforming the Mining Value Chain (TMVC).

Knowledge creation is partnered with knowledge dissemination in the form of a comprehensive undergraduate program, industry-tailored short courses and Master’s program, and by sought-after research training opportunities at Honours, Masters and Ph.D. levels.

Postgraduate projects available for the current round are shown on the Research Degrees site under the School of Natural Sciences.  However, other projects become available on a regular basis.

Research Specialisations and Strengths

Computational geoscience research at UTAS involves the implementation of new algorithms, or the development of new computer applications.  Both high-performance computing and portable computing platforms are used, appropriate to the dataset or intended end-user.  Research areas include the analysis of long duration seismic array datasets to investigate the ocean storm energy in the ambient seismic wavefield, the constant background of low-level signals.

University of Tasmania researchers have pioneered the use of ‘Big Data’ machine learning techniques applied to spatial data, in particular, multiple layers of data including satellite and airborne geophysics data layers.  These techniques enable the prediction of useful properties, such as mapped lithology and rock unit boundaries.  Another family of techniques allow new patterns to be revealed in large datasets.  Throughout this work, the emphasis is on computers contributing to, and complementing, input from humans.

A further area of innovation is in data visualisation.  University of Tasmania researchers in Earth Sciences have developed ways of using animation and human-computer interaction to improve the way that inferences can be made from large scientific datasets, or those in 3D and 4D. The research results in new insights, adding value to existing data, and also in new applications that may be used by other researchers worldwide.

Key Researchers


Anya Reading: Ambient seismic tomography, Seismic array investigations of ocean storms, Magnetotelluric imaging of the Earth’s crust and mantle

Michael Roach: Pure and applied geophysics


We investigate Earth’s fundamental processes and events through our strengths in geology, geochemistry and geophysics of ancient continental provinces and marine sedimentary sequences.

Key Researchers


Ross Large: Trace elements in ancient oceans

Sebastien Meffre: Tectonics, Geochronology


We have a long history of research leadership and strength in economic geology.

Our research strengths include:

  • ore deposit formation;
  • volcanology;
  • geochemistry;
  • sedimentary basins;
  • structural geology;
  • applied geophysics;
  • ambient noise seismology;
  • Earth informatics (‘Big Data’);
  • geoenvironmental;
  • analytical geochemistry.

Key Researchers


David Cooke: Economic Geology, Metallurgy

Julie Hunt: Geometallurgy


The Earth’s mantle and deep crust lie beyond the reach of deep drilling, so must be investigated using geophysical techniques such as seismic tomography and magnetotelluric imaging. These techniques make use of the varying speed of seismic waves, or the varying electrical properties of the deep Earth, to map crust and mantle structure in 3D.  The 3D geophysical images enable tectonic structure to be discovered. Field instrument deployments allow pioneering research into new areas of the planet.  UTAS scientists have been involved in geophysical field deployments in mainland Australia, Tasmania and Antarctica.  The Antarctic field deployments often involve co-located seismic recorders and GPS recorders to determine both the deep structure and the motion related to ice-sheet changes.  

Tracing the composition of the deep Earth, including the recycling of surface components, requires investigation of mantle-derived magmas and the xenoliths they entrain during ascent. Partial melting in the mantle generate a variety of magma compositions, which testifies to the heterogeneous nature of the Earth’s interior and the complex processes affecting magmas during ascent and emplacement (melt differentiation, mixing, assimilation, degassing, etc). At UTAS we explore the geochemistry and petrology of mantle-derived magmas and mantle xenoliths at both oceanic and continental settings, as well as active continental margins. We aim at providing insights into petrological and geochemical composition, including stable and radiogenic isotopes, of mantle sources by studying intrusive and extrusive rocks, melt and fluid inclusions in phenocrysts and mantle xenoliths.

Using observation, experimentation, and modelling, the UTAS researchers:

  1. investigate the generation and evolution of primitive magmas in a variety of geodynamic settings,
  2. study the processes and products associated with melt/fluid-facilitated overprinting of mantle lithosphere, such as cryptic and modal metasomatism, including megacryst and diamond formation,
  3. examine asthenosphere-lithosphere interactions, and
  4. study the potential links between volatile mobility and fluid speciation in Earth’s mantle and processes that lead to lithosphere destruction, continental break-up and origin of certain mineral deposits (e.g. diamonds, sulfide Cu-Ni-PGE, chromitites).

We are renowned for using modern analytical tools at the micro-scale or smaller to address large-scale phenomena observed within magmatic provinces, their plumbing and ore-forming systems, with implications for mantle-lithosphere-atmosphere-biosphere interactions.

Key Researchers


Vadim Kamenetsky: Kimberlites and flood basalts, Carbonatite magmas

Vadim Kamenetsky, Leonid Danyushevsky: Melt and Fluid Inclusions


In Australia there are 1000s of kilometres of coastline. The investigation of our coasts and marine environments is essential to maintaining the health of Australia’s environment and economy. The Discipline of Earth Sciences has a long term and continuing research strength in Marine Geoscience associated with ocean basins and coastal zones.

This research specialization is highly interdisciplinary, integrating geophysics, geology, geochemistry, sedimentology, paleotology, marine and biological sciences to address topical research questions and today’s grand challenges of energy, resources and climate change.

Solid Earth components of this specialization are the history and morphology of the ocean floor and its margins, plate tectonics today and throughout geological time. Sources and compositions of marine sediments and their transport processes, influenced by climate change throughout geological time. Finally, resources of the deep sea.

Marine geoscience research critically depends on access to the seafloor. We have long-standing collaborative relationships with Oceanographic institutes such as the CSIRO’s Marine National Facility (MNF), New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the University of Hawaii, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) USA, and GEOMAR, Germany. Our research scientists regularly participate in the Integrate Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) drilling voyages.

Key Researchers


Rebecca Carey: Submarine and subaerial volcanology, sedimentology.

Martin Jutzeler: Sedimentology and Volcanology

Michael Roach: Marine geophysics


Research in volcanology at the University of Tasmania is across subaerial and submarine volcanic environments and processes.

The volcanology group at the University of Tasmania is internationally recognised as a leader in the field of volcanism, with research strengths in subaerial and submarine volcanic environments and processes, and quantitative approaches to solving problems in volcanology and volcano-sedimentary processes. Current research areas include magma ascent processes of both silicic and basaltic volcanism, eruption dynamics of the shallow conduit and vent systems, the role of hydrostatic pressure in modulating eruption and volcanosedimentary processes in deep submarine settings, and the evolution and degradation of continental and oceanic intraplate and arc volcanoes in subaerial and submarine settings.  

Our research relies on leading innovative field studies in both marine and terrestrial settings to collect geological and geophysical data that address fundamental questions in earth sciences. Our research approaches are highly collaborative with national and international research groups and we regularly utilise Australian and international marine platforms (e.g., the Australian research ship RV Investigator, and the Integrated Ocean Discovery Program’s ships) to conduct our submarine-based research.

The University of Tasmania has a 20-year history of research in volcanology, and are leaders in investigation and analysis of ancient mineralized volcanic rocks. More recently, University of Tasmania researchers have been applying the understanding of modern submarine volcanic systems to ancient submarine volcanic arcs and associated mineral deposits.

Key Researchers


Rebecca Carey: Submarine and subaerial volcanology, sedimentology

Martin Jutzeler: Sedimentology and Volcanology


Honours Research, and Summer Research Scholarship

The Earth Sciences honours program attracts students from around Australia and the world who want to undertake a specialised course with an emphasis on different mineral districts, ore deposit geochemistry, isotope chemistry, volcanic and tectonic environments, geophysical exploration, and environmental geology.

For more information refer to the Bachelor of Science with Honours course page.

Enquiries about undertaking Honours, please contact: Dr Angela Escolme - +61 3 6226 2664

Available Projects

This Honours project will focus on investigating orogenic-style gold mineralisation intercepted in drilling at Pacific Trends Resources’ Golden Ridge Project in NE Tasmania. A key objective of this research is to determine paragenetic relationships, mineralogical and geochemical characteristics, and absolute timing of mineralisation if appropriate hydrothermal minerals exist.

The student will undertake detailed logging of drill core available at Mineral Resources Tasmania core library, and detailed characterisation of selected samples using facilities at University of Tasmania. Approximately 3,000 m of drill core is currently available from 10 holes. Samples will be prepared as polished thin sections and round mounts for transmitted and reflected light petrography. Analytical work may include a combination of short wave infrared (SWIR), X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscope, electron microprobe and/or laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) studies. These datasets will provide the basis for characterisation of the mineralisation and potential geochronological information.

Key project outcomes will include:

  1. Graphic logs and cross section interpretations (if spatial distribution of drilling permits)
  2. Description of mineralisation and paragenetic framework
  3. New petrographic information on ore mineral and textures
  4. New mineralogical datasets (XRF, SWIR)
  5. New geochemical datasets
  6. Interpretations of genetic model for mineralisation with consideration to intrusion related and thermal aureole gold models

The project scope will be finalised in consultation with Pacific Trends Resources and academic supervisor.

Location NE Tasmania
FundingPacific Trends Resources
SupervisorsRobert Scott (UTAS), Sean Westbrook (Pacific Trends Resources)
Last updated:24 November 2020

This Honours project will focus on investigating orogenic-style gold mineralisation intercepted in drilling at Pacific Trends Resources’ Portland Gold Project near Gladstone in NE Tasmania. A key objective of this research is to determine paragenetic relationships, mineralogical and geochemical characteristics, and absolute timing of mineralisation if appropriate hydrothermal minerals exist.

The student will undertake detailed logging of drill core and detailed characterisation of selected samples using facilities at University of Tasmania. Approximately 1,000 m of drill core is currently available. Samples will be prepared as polished thin sections and round mounts for transmitted and reflected light petrography. Analytical work may include a combination of short wave infrared (SWIR), X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscope, electron microprobe and/or laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) studies. These datasets will provide the basis for characterisation of the mineralisation and potential geochronological information.

Key project outcomes will include:

  1. Graphic logs and cross section interpretations (if spatial distribution of drilling permits)
  2. Description of mineralisation and paragenetic framework
  3. New petrographic information on ore mineral and textures
  4. New mineralogical datasets (XRF, SWIR)
  5. New geochemical datasets
  6. Interpretations of fluid source and potential for magmatic fluids input from local granite sources
  7. Interpretation regarding mineralisation style compared to other local occurrences and orogenic systems found in Victoria

The project scope will be finalised in consultation with Pacific Trend Resources and academic supervisor.

Location NE Tasmania; MRT
FundingPacific Trends Resources
SupervisorsRobert Scott (UTAS), Sean Westbrook (Pacific Trends Resources)
Last updated:24 November 2020

The company’s most active project and showing compelling signs of the next significant porphyry discovery in the Lachlan.

Project Aims:

  • characterisation of rocktypes
  • applied geochemistry / lithogeochemical characterisation of rocktypes, alteration
  • geochron of intrusive units encountered in core (i.e good geological constraints)
  • pyrite mapping
  • high level comparison with Cadia alkalic porphyries
Location NSW
FundingMagmatic Resources
SupervisorsDavid Cooke (UTAS), Peter Duerden (Magmatic Resources)
Last updated:24 November 2020

Project Aims:

  • characterisation of rocktypes
  • applied geochemistry / lithogeochemical characterisation of rocktypes, alteration
  • geochron of intrusive units encountered in core (i.e with good geological constraints)
  • high level comparison of Northparkes alkalic porphyries
Location NSW
FundingMagmatic Resources
SupervisorsDavid Cooke (UTAS), Peter Duerden (Magmatic Resources)
Last updated:24 November 2020

Gold mineralisation has been identified across the Archean Yamarna Terrane, occurring in both the Yamarna Greenstone Belt and the Dorothy Hills Greenstone Belt and in most rock types.  Pyrite, often in association with pyrrhotite and arsenopyrite, is typically associated with the gold mineralising event. The alteration halo of these mineralised systems includes disseminated and vein-hosted sulphides and provides a larger footprint than the immediate gold mineralisation. This footprint extends adjacent and laterally to the gold mineralisation and can be used to identify structures that have acted as pathways for mineralising fluids.

Pyrite is a very common mineral within the terrane and occurs as syngenetic and as pre, syn and post-mineralisation metasomatic variants. Pyrite has also been identified in Proterozoic lithologies and thus represents a potential ~400Ma period of occurrence across the terrane.

Project Aim: Through laser-ablation ICPMS (LA-ICPMS), identify pyrite trace element signatures within the Gruyere and Gilmour gold deposits that can identify pyrite paragenetically associated with gold mineralisation and use that information to identify prospective mineralisation pathways.

  • Develop understanding of Gruyere and Gilmour stratigraphic elements.
  • Confirm, understand and present the paragenetic stages of pyrite present in the study areas
  • Collect and interpret trace element and S-isotope data.
  • Provide a pyrite paragenetic framework for Yamarna.

Expected Activities: In the light of COVID-19 travel restrictions remaining in place, it is currently assumed the ability to visit the Yamarna site is unlikely in 2021. This will require samples to be selected by Gold Road personnel and sent to the university.

  • Develop paragenesis from existing studies, core photography, TIMA imagery and drill core samples.
  • Select suitable samples for polished thin sections and LA-ICPMS analysis – deposit and regional representatives (in conjunction with Gold Road).
  • Prepare samples and conduct PTS interp and  LA-ICPMS analysis/interp.

Gold Road Support: Provide up to $10,000 in support for project costs, including travel, thin sections, sample prep and analyses (as travel may not be a possibility there will be more funds for analysis).

Please contact Ross Large on 0418352501 for further information.

Location WA
FundingGold Road Resources
SupervisorsRoss Large, Jeff Steadman and Kevin Cassidy (Gold Road Resources)
Last updated:24 November 2020

TBA

LocationTasmania
SupervisorsLejun Zhang and Stuart Smith
Last updated:24 November 2020

Recent observations at the Rosebery mine have identified a variety of carbonate and other minerals associated with vugs in the Rosebery deposit. The project will identify the carbonate mineral species and carbonate mineral chemistry with depth, and use the existing mine lithology and structural model to assess what larger scale features are controlling the vugs which host the minerals. This project will help to understand the minerals present, and the faults which control the open space filling. The project budget is to a maximum of $10,000; the scope and final research proposal will be detailed by the student, CODES staff and MMG staff at the commencement of the project.

Location Rosebery, Tasmania
SupervisorsRalph Botrill (MRT)
Last updated:31 October 2018

At Rosebery mine, Devonian granitic fluids have impacted the ore body by removing base metals. More proximal to the granite the mineralogy of the host rock changes. There is a need to document the minerals related to the Devonian granite in order to understand the nature of the fluids released from the granite. The project budget is to a maximum of $10,000; the scope and final research proposal will be detailed by the student, CODES staff and MMG staff at the commencement of the project.

Location Rosebery, Tasmania
SupervisorsRalph Botrill (MRT)
Last updated:31 October 2018

The MESH expedition collected an exceptional sample suite from the 2012 deep submarine silicic eruption of Havre, Kermadec arc. Sediment cores sampled a well-preserved pumice-rich volcaniclastic sequence deposited by unknown sedimentary processes during the 2012 eruption. The core also contains older pumiceous deposits that have never been identified before. This project aims at understanding how these sediments were emplaced off-dispersal axis, and reconstruct from which eruptive phase they belong. The student will carry out facies description, componentry, grain shape and grains size analysis, geochemistry fingerprinting, and collaborate on sampling for 13C dating. Both sedimentology and volcanology approaches will be used, and results will be compared with the large dataset and eruption models currently built by numerous students worldwide.

This study is part of a huge effort from UTAS researchers and international colleagues to unravel eruption and transport behaviour in submarine eruptions. This study will allow to expand our understanding of the eruption from a different perspective, and using deposits that are not yet linked to a specific phase of the eruption. The project has the potential of a standalone scientific paper.

SupervisorsMartin Jutzeler, Rebecca Carey
Last updated:Aug 23 2017

Multiple thin basaltic beds were cored during ODP Expedition 126 in the Sumisu intra-oceanic rift, Izu-Bonin arc. Study of this beautiful basaltic succession will allow answering critical questions for the understanding of submarine volcanism and marine sedimentation of volcanic particles. Are these basaltic beds related to large subaerial stratovolcanoes 60 km away, or from a local deep seamount? Are these facies derived from fall deposits onto water, or turbidity currents? If from a subaqueous origin, can we reconstruct the water depth at the vent? This study will characterise lateral facies variations in several ODP cores to interpret transport and depositional processes in deep basins. Glass composition and volatile content of the volcanic glass (and possibly melt inclusions in olivine) by FTIR will give insights on the geochemical signature and eruption water depth, and contribute to interpretation on possible provenances. This study includes sedimentology, volcanology, and geochemistry.

Location Sandy Bay campus, Tasmania
Funding Martin Jutzeler grant
SupervisorsMartin Jutzeler, Rebecca Carey and Sandrin Fieg
Last updated:Oct 2016

This general category is specifically provided to encourage students who have an interest in LA-ICP-MS methods, mineral chemistry or geochronology, but are not keen on the advertised projects. There are several potential projects that can be arranged. Potential supervisors are: Leonid Danyushevsky, Ivan Belousov and Paul Olin.

Last updated:24 November 2020

This general category is specifically provided to encourage students to directly contact Michael and Matthew if they have an interest in geophysics, but are not keen on the advertised projects. There are many potential projects that can be arranged. Generally we do not arrange sponsor-supported projects in years with low numbers of expected geophysics students.

Location Australia-wide
SupervisorsMichael Roach, Matthew Cracknell
Last updated:7 Sep 2018

This general category is specifically provided to encourage students who have an interest in applied geophysics, but are not keen on the advertised projects. There are several potential projects that can be arranged. Generally we do not arrange sponsor-supported projects in years with low numbers of expected geophysics students. Potential supervisors are: Michael Roach and Mathew Cracknell.

Location Australia-wide
SupervisorsMichael Roach, Matthew Cracknell
Last updated:2 November 2018

This general category is specifically provided to encourage students who have an interest in submarine or subaerial volcanology and/or sedimentology, but are not keen on the advertised projects. There are several potential projects that can be arranged. Potential supervisors are: Rebecca Carey, Martin Jutzeler, and Karin Orth.

Last updated:2 November 2018

This general category is specifically provided to encourage students who have an interest in economic geology (ore deposit geology), but are not keen on the advertised projects. There are several potential projects that can be arranged. Potential supervisors are: David Cooke; Lejun Zhang; Michael Baker; Angela Escolme; Jonathan Cloutier; Robert Scott.

Last updated:24 November 2020

This general category is specifically provided to encourage students who have an interest in environmental geochemistry, but are not keen on the advertised projects. There are several potential projects that can be arranged. Potential supervisors are: Clare Miller, David Cooke, Matthew Cracknell and Sebastien Meffre.

Last updated:24 November 2020

This general category is specifically provided to encourage students who have an interest in igneous petrology and geochemistry, but are not keen on the advertised projects. There are several potential projects that can be arranged. Potential supervisors are Leonid Danyushevsky, Dima Kamenetsky, Ivan Belousov, Paul Olin, and Sebastien Meffre.

Location To be negotiated
Last updated:November 2018

The College of Sciences and Engineering offers the Dean's Summer Research Scholarship for eligible students. Research projects in Earth Sciences are generally completed over the summer of your second and/or third undergraduate year of study.

If you want to know more about what Summer Research can mean for an Earth Sciences student, check out Rhiannan's amazing story. While an undergraduate student she travelled on a research voyage, continuing the same project from her first summer scholarship into a second, which then led to an honours year!

Visit the College website for general information on the Summer Research Scholarship.

If you're interested, the first step is to express interest to your Earth Sciences lecturers. They can help identify research opportunities and get you on track. It all starts with a conversation!

Affiliated Research Centres