AGIA members awarded 34th IGC Travel Grant

AGIA members Laura Phillips, Bryony Caswell and Zoe Thomas have been awarded funding under the 34th International Geological Congress Travel Grant Scheme for Early-Career Australian and New Zealand Geoscientists.

Membership of a geoscience society affiliated with the Australian Geoscience Council (in this case AGIA) was one of the criteria for receiving the grant. Access to sponsorship is just one of the many benefits of AGIA membership – please refer to the Membership page to see details of AGIA sponsorship opportunities. Read on to see details of the grant projects being undertaken by your AGIA colleagues…

Laura Phillips: Lab visit to Boise Uni (USA) to gather first tephra geochronology data for Late Permian sediments of the Galilee Basin, learn state-of-the-art CA-IDTIMS dating technique

Laura Phillips’ PhD project will use public and proprietary drilling data to investigate regional to local correlations of the Late Permian Betts Creek/ Bandanna–Colinlea Coal Measures, with the emphasis on creating a consistent stratigraphic framework. Age dating of available tuffs in the sequence will better constrain the correlation between the Galilee and Bowen basins, and quantify subsidence rates between the different tectonic settings. Sedimentary and petrophysical facies analysis of core and wireline logs will help define depositional environments and their relationship to coal seam splitting patterns across the basin in response to climate and/or tectonically driven change. Provenance analysis of sandstones will help to determine differences in origin of source rocks supplying sediment to the basin and may help to identify different stratigraphic units.

Bryony Caswell: Fieldwork on the Waikato coast, New Zealand, to examine paleoenvironment/paleoecology changes associated with a rarely-studied Early Jurassic Ocean Anoxic Event

This project will collect new data on the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (Early Jurassic) from the Uroroan stratotype section on the Waikato Coast, North Island, New Zealand. The early Toarcian was a period of global warming and climate change that caused the oceans to become globally depleted of oxygen which resulted in a mass extinction of marine life. This important event is of great interest as an analogue for the changes that are occurring in the today’s oceans in response to rising global atmospheric CO2. Studies of the oceanic anoxic event have to date focussed on geological exposures in the northern hemisphere. Contrastingly this project will provide information on the changes that occurred in the Panthalassa Ocean and so will make a substantial contribution to our knowledge of the Toarcian OAE because only 0.3% of studies are from regions outside of the Boreal and Tethyan oceans.

The New Zealand Toarcian sections are of excellent quality and prior study has focussed on their lithology, geochemistry and biostratigraphy but very few have investigated the impacts of the OAE. Therefore, this will be the first study to investigate the palaeoecological and palaeoenvironmental changes that occurred during the OAE in New Zealand. New data and samples will be collected to determine the palaeoenvironmental and palaeoecological changes that occurred. The results will help to develop the lithostratigraphic, chemostratigraphic and biostratigraphic framework for further studies of the event in the southern hemisphere. This will further knowledge and understanding of New Zealand’s geological past and the Toarcian OAE within Australasia. Furthermore, by improving our knowledge of the changes that occurred in the southern hemisphere it will contribute to our understanding of the changes that occurred across the Earth during this important event.

Dr Zoe Thomas: Field work in Northland (NZ), with support of local Iwi, using a drone to map the extent of lignite deposits for reconstructions of past climate and to image an area of cultural significance

The coastal region of Omapere, Northland, New Zealand, is hugely significant both scientifically and culturally. The area includes extensive lignite deposits which are of critical importance to reconstructions of past climate, but also has considerable cultural significance for the local Iwi, with the sand dunes at the Hokianga Heads associated with the arrival and departure of Kupe, one of the first Polynesian discoverers of New Zealand. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for mapping purposes and generating high resolution aerial images have recently been recognised to produce highly detailed data in a time efficient and culturally sensitive manner. Using this technology, it is possible to produce a detailed 3D representation of the lignite deposits within the sand dunes at the head of the harbour. Unfortunately, this area is being threatened by weed invasion, so this project is extremely timely for the preservation of this area of vast scientific and cultural significance. In terms of scientific enhancement of my career, I aim to publish at least one first author paper directly from this work, and use it to underpin a large future grant proposal. In addition, I am passionate about science communication and intend to create a virtual tour of my fieldwork, which will be housed by Intrepid Science, an online science communication resource maintained by my team at UNSW.