Opalisation of the Great Artesian Basin (central Australia): an Australian story with a Martian twist

Talk Abstract

Precious opal is, with kangaroos, koalas and Vegemite, one of Australia’s most recognised icons, and our official National gemstone. Since its discovery in the 1870s, opal has become part of the economic fabric and cultural identity of central Australia. Despite works from CSIRO in the 1960s, the origin of precious opal has remained largely unknown. Things changed thanks to an ARC discovery grant aiming at understanding the formation of precious opal, and remarkably, thanks to NASA and ESA Mars exploration programs.

In his talk, Patrice will reveal an intriguing set of common geological attributes between Australia’s red centre and the red planet, and will explain why central Australia could well be the best regional terrestrial analogue for the surface of Mars.

Associate Professor Patrice Rey

A/Prof Patrice Rey has a PhD in Geology and Geophysics from the University Joseph Fourier (Grenoble) and the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon. Following post-doc positions in the US and in Germany, Patrice became a lecturer at Monash University in 1995 before join the University of Sydney in 2000.

Patrice is a hard-rock geologist. He studies deep crustal processes, and mountain building processes from deep Archean times to the present. He recently published a paper in Nature on the origin of plate tectonics on Earth, in which he combined field observations and high-performance computer simulations. Since 2015, Patrice is co-leader of the ARC-ITRH Basin Genesis Hub (BGH). BGH fuses big multidimensional data into 5D sedimentary basin models (space and time, with uncertainty estimates) by coupling the evolution of mantle flow, crustal deformation, erosion and sedimentary processes using an open-source numerical framework.

In 2014, Patrice was elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America, for his contributions to Geosciences, and in 2013 he was awarded the A.B. Edwards Medal of the Geological Society of Australia for his work on the formation of Australian precious opal.