The geological evolution of William’s Ridge

The geological evolution of William’s Ridge, Kerguelen Plateau: a complex record of East Gondwana breakup

Degree type


Closing date

31 December 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore


$28,597pa for 3.5 years

About the research project

The William’s Ridge (central Kerguelen Plateau) and Broken Ridge (SW of Australia) represent conjugate seafloor features that formed during the Cretaceous rifting and breakup of East Gondwana and the development of the Indian Ocean. This complex evolution involved isolation of continental fragments (‘microcontinents’) by jumps of seafloor-spreading ridges, formation of oceanic plateaus by episodic hotspot/mantle plume magmatism, and many changes in tectonic plate configurations. Why, how, and in

many cases even when these ‘events’ occurred are geoscientific enigmas. The underlying first-order processes are ultimately responsible for the crustal architecture of the seafloor representing 70% of our planet’s surface.

A recent RV Investigator cruise (IN2020_V01) sampled bedrock from the William’s Ridge for the first time. Guided by newly acquired geophysical datasets, these rocks provide the first opportunity to investigate the crustal nature of William’s Ridge and the tectono-magmatic processes responsible for its development.

In particular, this PhD project will address the following key questions:

  1. What are the nature and affinity of basement to the William’s Ridge, Rig Seismic Seamount ± Broken Ridge, i.e. continental or oceanic?
  2. What are the overprinting tectono-magmatic events that have modified this crust through rifting and breakup processes?
  3. Can potential William’s Ridge-Rig Seismic Seamount microcontinent formation be related to changes in plate motion and/or mantle plume related volcanism?
  4. How can the new geological datasets be used to refine East Gondwana break up models?

Addressing these important questions will produce valuable new knowledge about East Gondwana formation and dispersal, early evolution of the Indian Ocean, microcontinent formation, and first-order information on plate tectonic processes and timescales. Results from analyses of these samples will also be key to justifying a new or revised Australian submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to expand Australia’s marine jurisdiction.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Jacqueline Halpin


The successful applicant will receive a scholarship which provides:

  • a living allowance stipend funded by Geoscience Australia of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

International applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.


The project is open to domestic (Australia and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from International applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Relevant science degree in geoscience
  • Good communication (writing, oral)
  • Quantitative skills

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Laboratory/analytical experience
  • Igneous and metamorphic petrology expertise

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Jacqueline Halpin, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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