A wide range of fundamental and applied research and teaching in Earth Science is undertaken, providing an impressive array of coursework opportunities and research projects for master's and PhD students.

Coral reef studies and coastal marine systems

Western Australia’s spectacular coastline, from the sub-tropics of the north to the cool waters of the south, offers diverse environmental conditions in which our researchers examine the interaction of physical, chemical and biological processes in shaping this varied coastline.

Ningaloo Reef is a major coral reef system that rivals the Great Barrier Reef of northeastern Australia and provides considerable opportunity for research and teaching in marine geoscience.

Research activities focus on important aspects such as understanding how changing ocean temperatures and pH affect the ability of marine organisms to grow their skeletons or shells, and using novel isotopic systems, such as boron and other elements, to reconstruct older ocean conditions and examine how they have changed. Such studies are critical for understanding current and future climate change and impacts on coastal environments.

Centre for Coral Reef Studies and Coastal Marine Systems

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Early life and biotic evolution

Western Australia’s Pilbara region contains some of the earliest evidence for life on Earth.

Our staff and students examine this evidence using sophisticated analytical instruments and geochemical methods to identify biological material in ancient rocks. These studies provide a window to early Earth environments and have implications for the existence of life on other planets.

The younger sedimentary basins of Western Australia and SE Asia contain some excellent fossil records, and our researchers use the record of microscopic to macroscopic skeletal organisms, spores and pollen, in these rocks to establish age of deposition and/or their paleo-environments. In addition, microscopic skeletal organisms and pollen have important application in petroleum exploration.

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Geochemistry and geochronology

A wide variety of research activity in our school utilises geochemical methods to make discoveries and advances in our understanding of Earth processes and evolution of our planet. Questions such as the processes of formation and growth of continental crust, the origin of mineral deposits, deciphering climate records in corals, and whether the oceans are acidifying, are addressed through applying inorganic geochemical techniques.

Geochronology focuses on precise methods to generate absolute ages that help define exactly when key events occurred. Our researchers and students have access to a variety of instruments in WA to generate absolute ages from individual mineral grains.

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Perth is heavily reliant on groundwater, and with changing climates, it is critical for society on understanding hydrogeological systems and interactions between groundwater and with surface environments.

Water is vital for urban populations and industrial uses, including the large mineral industry in Western Australia, which requires understanding diverse water sources, impacts of water use, sustainable allocation of groundwater resources, and related aspects such as contamination. Research focuses on a wide range of projects in collaboration with industry and government agencies.

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Mineral geoscience

Western Australia has many of Australia’s major mineralised regions, with gold, copper, nickel and iron ore in host rocks formed in a wide range of tectonic settings.

UWA has a very well established international reputation in mineral geoscience research through our Centre for Exploration Targeting with its current focus on understanding mineral systems and developing tools for mineral exploration beneath a thick cover of soil or weathered rock.

This requires innovative thinking and integration of geological, geophysical and geochemical techniques using latest digital methods and software, in conjunction with industry, government agencies and university collaborators.

Understanding of geological history and resource formation can be applied to regions in other parts of the world, and our researchers work in many regions of Western Australia as well as Africa, Greenland, Canada, and Brazil.

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Centre for Exploration Targeting
Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems
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Petroleum geoscience and basin analysis

The North West Shelf is Australia’s premier petroleum province, and Western Australia’s onshore basins host some of Australia’s newest oil and gas discoveries! Our staff and students work on a wide variety of research projects focusing on the evolution of these Paleozoic–Cenozoic sedimentary basins and the development of petroleum systems within these basins.

Integration of geological and geophysical data is a key element of both research and teaching in petroleum geoscience at UWA. The latest digital technology is used to analyse and interpret datasets, often working in collaboration with petroleum exploration companies, consultancies and government agencies. We work on subsurface projects and outcrop analogues in Western Australia and SE Asian regions such as Malaysia, Sarawak and Thailand for both conventional and unconventional resources.

Sedimentary basins provide important records of Earth history, and using a wide range of geoscientific data, our researchers seek to interpret changes in environments, climates and tectonic setting through time, in basins ranging from three billion years old to modern day. Modern ocean basins are explored via shipboard work that gathers geophysical data and/or retrieves cored material from the ocean floor.

Centre for Energy Geoscience

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