Denison Summer Scholarships - Geosciences

Project: (GEOS1) Constraining the carbon reservoir in deep-sea sediments since the Cretaceous

Deep-sea sediments are the Earth’s largest carbon sink. Oceanic phytoplankton produces 50% of the world’s oxygen and consumes > 100 x 106 tons of carbon in the form of CO2 on a daily basis. Important groups of planktonic organisms such as coccolithophorids and foraminifers build calcareous skeletal structures that accumulate in deep-sea sediments as “marine snow”. The aim of this project is to compute the volume of preserved and subducted carbonate sediment on an evolving seafloor from 120 million years ago to the present-day.

Supervisor: Dr Adriana Dutkewicz

Secondary Supervisor: Professor Dietmar Muller

Dates: Nov-Early Mar

Prerequisites: GEOS2124/2924 and/or GEOS3103/3803


Project: (GEOS2) The evolution of continental rifts during supercontinent breakup and dispersal

Continents periodically aggregate and disperse over a timescale of several hundreds of millions of years, in so-called Wilson cycles. Continental fragmentation is associated with rifting, i.e the thinning of the lithosphere untuil it breaks.  The process not only leads to the formation of new ocean basins, but also new pathways for ocean circulation and change in climate and surface environments, and it affects global sea level change, be increasing continental area at the expense of the oceans, but at the same time submerging the rifted crust below sea level. The mature phase of supercontinent dispersal is characterised by consecutive continental collisions, which reduce the continental surface area via lithosphertic shortening and mountain building, also affecting global sea level.

Supervisor: Professor Dietmar Muller

Secondary Supervisor: Dr Sabin Zahirovic

Dates: Nov-Early Mar

Prerequisites: GEOS1001/1901 or GEOS1003/1903, and GEOS2124/2921 or GEOS2115/2915


Project: (GEOS3) Linking paleoclimate to surface process modelling to understand Australian landscape evolution

Surface process modeling, capturing erosion, sediment transport and deposition through time, is our primary tool to understand long-term landscape evolution, coastline change and “source to sink” links between the regions where sediments originate from to where they are deposited.  As continents move across latitudinal climate belts through geological time, and as global climate is changing between greenhouse and icehouse conditions, regional precipitation undergoes enormous change.  Annual rainfall is the primary driver of erosion; therefore, modelling spatio-temporal changes in precipitation needs to be coupled with landscape models.

Supervisor: Dr Tristan Salles

Secondary Supervisor: Professor Dietmar Muller

Dates: Nov-Early Mar

Prerequisites: GEOS1001/1901 or GEOS1003/1903, and GEOS2124/2921 or GEOS2115/2915


Project: (GEOS4) Environmental Protection and Regulatory Compliance in Biodiversity Conservation

This project is linked to research investigating the effectiveness of environmental laws for people and the planet. In this project we’re interested in exploring the ways in which we can capture information about how people respond to environmental regulation/s. In particular, this project is linked to emerging social-science methods designed to capture information about illicit activities in biodiversity conservation (e.g. poaching).

Supervisor: Dr Jo Gillespie

Secondary Supervisor:   

Dates: Nov-Early Mar

Prerequisites: ENVI3111/3911


Project: (GEOS5) Wetlands Protection: 'Ugly tips and polluted waterways' and the case for not draining the swamp

This project links to ongoing research about wetland protection regimes throughout our region. In this project we are investigating the various ways in which our wetlands are regulated. Incorporating Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques, you will be involved in demonstrating how different approaches to wetlands protection vary within broader spatial contexts. In this project we are interesting in questioning the complexity of the law/people/environment co-constitution of place as we transition away from the ‘ugly tips and polluted waterways’ approach to wetland conservation.

Supervisor: Dr Jo Gillespie

Secondary Supervisor: Dr Kevin Davies

Dates: Nov-Early Mar

Prerequisites: GEOS2111


Project: (GEOS6) Using fossils and plate tectonic reconstructions to detect deep-time climate change

Earth’s long-term climate has fluctuated between greenhouse and icehouse conditions during the Phanerozoic (540 million years ago to present), indicated by carbon and oxygen isotope proxies and other paleoclimatic indicators. These climatic changes typically shifted biogeographic zones towards the poles or the equator, which can be captured in the fossil record. This project will use the data-rich Paleobiology Database coupled to plate tectonic reconstructions in GPlates to study well-studied fossils that have a paleo-latitudinal dependence, while also aiming to identify other fossils that can be used to infer changes in deep time climate.

Supervisor: Dr Sabin Zahirovic

Secondary Supervisor: Dr Simon Williams or Professor Dietmar Muller

Dates: Nov-Jan

Prerequisites: (GEOS1001 or GEOS1003) and (GEOS2115 or GEOS2124)