Alongside our research students, our Department generates world-leading research in Earth and Planetary Sciences. This research occurs through a number of globally recognised research centres and groups, many of which partner with industry and other academic institutions in research collaborations.
Earth Surface Processes
Deep Earth Processes
Geophysics and Geodynamics
This group focuses on understanding the nature and evolution of our planet, as well as other terrestrial planets and moons. We study a wide variety of geophysical and geodynamic processes, ranging from shallow geothermal studies to the deep dynamics of the Earth’s mantle. We are particularly interested in understanding the Earth in a holistic manner, and therefore our research is characterised by a strong multidisciplinary approach. In our studies, we combine concepts/data from a number of disciplines, such as Mineral Physics, Geochemistry, Numerical Modelling, Thermodynamics, Inversion Theory, etc.
Isotope and inorganic geochemistry
This research group utilises the World class analytical facilities in the Geochemical Analysis Unit at Macquarie University, and is part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems.
This research group works on understanding the early evolution of life, petroleum geochemistry related topics, biogeochemistry of Phanerozoic sequences, and fuel spills and remediation in Antarctica and other places. The organic geochemistry lab is a shared facility at Macquarie University, dedicated to trace hydrocarbon analysis. Collaborators at Macquarie University include the Palaeobiology group in Biological Sciences, the Department of Environment and Geography, and the Department of Chemistry & Biomolecular Sciences. We have many collaborators in other groups in Australia and elsewhere.
The Uranium-series research group focuses on placing time scale constraints on an array of Earth processes from partial melting, melt ascent, magmatic evolution and degassing of volcanoes to soil production, weathering, sediment transport and landscape evolution. The U-series laboratory (part of the GAU) is world-class and has the facility to measure U-Th (ICP-MS) Ra (TIMS) and 210Pb (alpha spectrometry) isotopes.
Other connected research groups
Genes to Geoscience (Collaborative multidisciplinary research)
Genes to Geoscience is a federation of research labs, and includes some in EPS. Our theme is the fusion of disciplines that is underway among genomics, functional ecology, earth system science and palaeontology. Our focus is to incubate the future research leaders of the next 30 – 40 years.
Facilities and instruments
Geochemical Analysis Unit (GAU)
The Geochemical Analysis Unit (GAU) in the CCFS Centre of Excellence/GEMOC Key Centre includes a world-class instrument park and associated clean-room geochemical laboratories that are intensively used for research and teaching. The GAU is recognised internationally as an outstanding integrated analytical facility and is continuing to develop a unique infrastructure based on in situ imaging and microanalysis of trace elements and isotopic ratios in minerals, rocks and fluids. The umbrella structure of the operation ensures equity and access to all users across all of the facilities.
One of the primary goals of the GAU is to be able to analyse a broad spectrum of elements in the periodic table from trace-element abundances (ppb/ppm) to major element levels (10’s of weight percent) in a wide variety of geological materials. For whole-rock analysis this includes the measurement
of major elements by XRF and trace elements by solution ICP-MS. The measurement of elemental abundances is complemented by the high-precision measurement of radiogenic isotopes including Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Lu-Hf, Re-Os, Pb and short-lived U-series systems (U, Th and Ra) by TIMS and solution MC-ICPMS. The
development of techniques for the measurement of ‘non-traditional’ metal isotopes (Li, Mg, Si, Fe, Cu) by MC-ICPMS is embedded in a number of current research programs.Recent advances in the GAU have involved building capability in spectroscopy with the acquisition of a ThermoFisher iN10FTIR
microscope and a Horiba LabRam HR Evolution confocal Micro Laser Raman spectrometer.
The addition of the Oxford Instruments Synergy system (combined EDS X-ray analysis and electron back scatter diffraction camera) to the Zeiss EVO SEM has enabled the examination of the microstructural and crystallographic orientation of many materials.
Organic Geochemistry Laboratory and Instruments
Major instrumentation includes an Accelerated Solvent Extractor (ASE300); two gas chromatograph-mass spectrometers (GC-MS), including a 4D GCxGC-MS system; a purge and trap GC-MS inlet; a liquid chromatography-MS system installed in 2014, composed of a 1260 Infinity LC and fraction collector interfaced to a 6120 Quadrupole MS; a Beuhler Isomet 4000 linear precision rock saw; and facilities for heating, cleaning and separation of oils and rocks extracts. The lab (E7B 340/344) has 4 fume cupboards to enable a safe working environment.
U-Series Research Group Analytical facilities
These include dedicated clean lab facilities for radioactive materials, and access to the Nu Plasma high-resolution multi-collector ICPMS, and the Finnigan Triton TIMS in the Geochemical Analysis Unit.
Experimental Petrology Laboratories
Macquarie University hosts one of the best equipped experimental petrology laboratories in the world. It is equipped with a range of apparatus allowing experimental observations on Earth materials from crust to core conditions and beyond. This includes ambient temperature furnaces, gas cells, piston cylinder cells, multi-anvil cells (cubic and octahedral with and without deformation) and heated diamond anvil cells. These devices interface to a range of instruments that allow material property measurement in-situ at the pressure and temperatures that exist from the crust to the core. We also have high-pressure experimental systems positioned at the Australian neutron and synchrotron sources to provide the most cutting edge probes of Earth materials available anywhere in the world.
- Seismic, gravity, magnetic, GPR and electrical equipment (FEM, TEM, Resistivity).
- Digital data-acquisition system for monitoring geophysical experiments in field and laboratory.
- Physical property laboratory measurement systems (susceptibility, conductivity, seismic velocity, density).
- 9 and 40-kb capability piston-cylinder apparatus.
- A well-equipped computing laboratory with a variety of specialised software and a wide range of software packages are available for data reduction, interpretation, modelling and inversion.
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
- Field equipment includes electrical resistivity, transient electromagnetic receivers and transmitters, a gravity meter, proton and cesium-vapour magnetometers, dual frequency susceptibility meter, conductivity meter, and palaeomagnetic laboratory, and a multi-channel land refraction or shallow reflection seismograph.
The Department has excellent facilities for rock preparation and thin sectioning including a selFrag instrument, which was installed in May 2010 and was the first unit in Australia. This instrument uses high-powered electrical pulses to disaggregate rocks and other materials along the grain boundaries.
It removes the need to crush rocks for mineral separation, and provides a higher proportion of unbroken grains of trace minerals such as zircon.
We have a selection of vehicles suitable for fieldwork. Maps and air photographs are held in collections, as well as in the University Library.