News and Events

Disaster management for people with disabilities in Southeast Asia

Global Resilience

Members of the Global Resilience Challenge team are working in the Philippines with the deaf community on disaster emergency preparedness training.

31 Mar 2015

The goal of helping people in Southeast Asia with disabilities be better prepared for disasters has won a team of University of Sydney researchers a place in the Global Resilience Challenge.

"People with disabilities in Southeast Asia are currently four times more likely to die when a disaster strikes than those without disabilities," said Dr Emma Colgaro, the project leader and research fellow from the School of Geosciences.

"The difficulties faced by people with disabilities can include the inaccessibility of evacuation facilities, emergency response staff not being trained to meet their needs and the interruption of crucial support systems during a disaster."

The Global Resilience Challenge is a three-stage grant competition led by a US$150 million effort to aid vulnerable communities in the Sahel, Horn of Africa,
South and Southeast Asia to move from a reactive response to inevitable disasters to pre-planned management strategies.

After successfully competing against 500 applicants for only 17 places the researchers, from the University's School of Geosciences, received US$ 200,000 in funding to develop their proposal.

Read the full article.

Congratulations to our Geoscience graduates!

27 Mar 2015

Congratulations to our Geoscience graduates Dr Sunil Bajpai, Dr Olivia Dun, Dr Gustavo Hinestrosa Gomez, Dr Lada Phadungkiati, Dr Roshni Sharma and Dr Zoe Wang! Good luck on your future endeavours!


Dr Olivia Dun with supervisor Professor John Connell


Dr Gustavo Hinestrosa Gomez with supervisor Associate Professor Jody Webster


Congratulations Dr Olivia Dun and Dr Zoe Wang! Our graduands with their supervisors, fellow students, friends and family.

Explainer: are natural disasters on the rise?

25 Mar 2015

Cyclone Lam, Pam and now Nathan – natural disasters have filled our news in recent weeks. They wreak havoc in poor and vulnerable communities and cost billions in recovery and aid funding.

These disasters happen when a natural hazard – such as a cyclone, bushfire or earthquake – damages human systems. They seem to be becoming more frequent and worse – but are they really?

Join The Conversation with Author Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes.

Scientists solve mystery surrounding Murray riverbank collapse during drought

24 Mar 2015

Scientists have worked out precisely why big sections of riverbank along the lower Murray in South Australia crumbled during drought over the past decade. A section of the banks gave way at Long Island Marina, sending three cars into the river along with a pet cat, near Murray Bridge about five years ago.

Scientists from universities in Adelaide and Sydney hope their research findings can help authorities better prepare for future events. Associate Professor Tom Hubble from the University of Sydney said it was the sort of damage previously regarded as associated with floods rather than dry spells.

"Banks usually fail either at the peak of a flood or during the drawdown phase; as the water level is dropping back to normal and if it drops quickly that's when you usually get the large-scale bank failures," he said.

Read the full news article via ABC News.

Associate Professor Tom Hubble was also interviewed on ABC National Radio this morning and you can listen to the broadcast here.

Earth's tectonic plates skitter about

20 Mar 2015

Back when dinosaurs were just starting to skulk, Earth had just one giant land mass, a supercontinent that scientists call Pangea. It broke up about 200 million years ago, and since then its fragments - riding on chunks of crust called tectonic plates - have been gliding, merging, and splitting their way into their present - temporary - positions. Now, geoscientists have unveiled a computer model that maps the details of that tectonic dance in 1-million-year increments - practically a frame-by-frame recap of geologic time. It shows that the plates speed up, slow down, and move around in unexpectedly short bursts of activity. It also suggests that researchers may have to rethink what drives much of that incessant motion.

The reconstruction is the work of scientists at the EarthByte program at the University of Sydney in Australia, one of the world’s foremost research groups for plate tectonics and geodynamics, who described it in a paper published online on 12 March in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Previous work had mapped out tectonic movement in 20-million-year increments, which were then used to analyze plate velocities. But a closer look using the latest plate reconstructions created by the EarthByte group revealed that a lot more can change in 20 million years than scientists had thought.

Read the full news article via Science Mag.

HS Kingdom seismic interpretation software awarded to the School of Geosciences

18 Mar 2015

The School of Geosciences and the Geocoastal Research Group has had their IHS Kingdom Education subscription renewed for another 3 years. Learn more about the software:

This is great news as the School has been using this powerful seismic interpretation software over the last 5 years for a range of research projects. The school now has 5 stand-alone licenses and 15 network licenses for School-related educational and research purposes. See Assoc. Professor Jody Webster if you are interested in using the software.


Thinking local isn't enough when it comes to food and climate change

17 Mar 2015

Bill Pritchard and John Duncan on some of the challenges facing the food system in India, and why India is the canary in the coal mine for climate change and food.

Less than a year ago, the IPCC released its 5th Assessment Report. This report sought to address, head-on, the interactions between a changing climate and the world’s food systems. Meanwhile, the concept of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has emerged as the major strategy for assisting farmers to mitigate their emissions and adapt to a changing climate. However, recent evidence on the potential implications of the climate-food nexus suggests that local action via CSA will be insufficient. More ambitious strategies designed at national and international scales are needed.

Read the blog post on the Sydney Environment Institute blog.

Cyclone Pam shows why more people means more havoc

16 Mar 2015

While the impacts and effects of Tropical Cyclone Pam on the Republic of Vanuatu are still being revealed, important lessons are beginning to emerge in relation to disasters in the Pacific region.

Six people have died in the Vanuatan capital Port Vila, but there are no casualty figures from outside the city yet.

At Category 5, Cyclone Pam was a very severe tropical cyclone with reported wind speeds of up to 300 kilometres an hour. However, it is not unique in that this region of the central South Pacific has experienced similar severe tropical cyclones in the past.

That said, given greatly increased development and infrastructure in low-lying Pacific islands, the effects of cyclones like Pam are much larger than they have been in the past. Basically, we now have more people, infrastructure and assets “exposed” on the ground in places where tropical cyclones make landfall.

Read the full article via The Conversation by Assoc Prof Dale Dominey-Howes.

Research voyage on the RV Investigator funded!

16 Mar 2015

Dr Maria Seton and Dr Simon Williams from the School of Geosciences and colleagues from GNS Science and the Geological Survey of New Caledonia were awarded ship time on Australia's new, state-of-the-art research vessel, the RV Investigator. The supplementary voyage, with Dr Seton as Chief Scientist, will investigate the continuity of Australian terranes into Zealandia through the Lord Howe Rise via targeted dredging of the Fairway Ridge. The voyage will also present an opportunity to travel back to the phantom "Sandy Island" where rock samples will be recovered in order to determine the age and origin of the ridge underlying "Sandy Island".

Check out the Investigator @ CSIRO blog

Thinking Space Program 2015 launched

Mar 4 2015

Thinking Space Program 2015: Geographers and the Environment at the University of Sydney schedule now available. These sessions explore current issues and debates in human geography and the social sciences through presentations about key thinkers, cross-cutting themes, skills, methodologies, and current postgraduate research. All welcome!

All sessions take place on Wednesdays from 4:00 - 5:00pm in the Madsen Conference Room (Rm 449). Presentations will normally take up 30-45 minutes, leaving plenty of time for comments and discussion. Most of the sessions will be recorded and distributed to those interested. All welcome.

Attend a session.

Clean Up Australia Day

Feb 27 2015

Sarah-Jo Lobwein, a Sutherland Shire resident and University of Sydney Institure of Marine Sciencs coordinator has organised a land and sea clean-up at Silver Beach, Kurnell on the 25th anniversary of Clean Up Australia Day. Since its inception, volunteers have removed 288,650 tonnes of rubbish from 145,754 sites in Australia.

She said snorkellers, divers and "landlubbers" were invited to attend the clean-up, which she hoped would become an annual event. Well done Sarah-Jo!

Read the full article.

Small drop in sea level had big impact on southern Great Barrier Reef

Jan 22 2015

The idea that coral reefs have formed over millennia in a continuous process has been challenged by a study of the southern Great Barrier Reef. The research, led by the University of Sydney, shows that even small variations in sea level can cause significant change across the reef.

"We create a new narrative for how the Barrier Reef and other coral reefs came about and explain the importance of surprisingly small changes in sea level," said Associate Professor Jody Webster from the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences and an author on a recently published article on the findings in Geology.

Read the full article.

Sydney students make history in India


The University of Sydney's first ever group of exchange students in India

Feb 3 2015

A group of 15 Sydney students is spending three weeks in Mumbai and Bangalore as part of the University's first mobility agreement with India.

They are studying at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai (TISS) and the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bangalore on a field school program looking at the political economy of development and environmental management in India.

"The students are gaining an insight into the vast challenges faced by one of the most important nations in the 21st century," said Dr Elizabeth Hill from the Department of Political Economy, one of the study conveners who is accompanying the students.

Her fellow convener, Associate Professor Bill Pritchard from the School of Geosciences, added: "The program offers students the opportunity to develop cultural competency and familiarity with an important developing economy with which the University is building important partnerships."

Read the full article.