News and Events

'Meet a Geek' Event

2 July 2015

The University of Sydney's 'Meet a Geek' Event proved very successfull, with Geosciences being involved in 4 different workshops and presentations looking at Geosciences topics, Coral Reef Geomorphology, Marine & Engineering Geology and GIS and spatio-temporal analysis technologies. A big thank you to our 'geeks' on the day Sabin Zahirovic, Dr Samantha Clarke, Stephanie Duce and Billy Haworth for sharing your research with us and running such successful workshops! What a great turn out!

View our online event gallery.


Over 140 students from various international Science schools participated during the 'Meet A Geek' event this year.

New research to help scrub out graffiti


2015 Esri Young Scholars Award Winner Billy Haworth

18 June 2015

University of Sydney PhD student Billy Haworth used cutting-edge smart mapping technology to analyse data – sourced from both the City of Sydney and his own field research – to examine graffiti hotspots in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills over six months.

Mr Haworth said the results challenged the effectiveness of the most popular anti-graffiti measures.

“Rapid removal is intended to deter graffiti writers and reduce quantities of graffiti,” Mr Haworth said.

“My research showed this approach increases the number of graffiti incidents by encouraging ‘quick and dirty’ tags instead of more diverse and time consuming designs.

“It also suggests if graffiti writers know their work will be swiftly erased, they will go somewhere else where it is less of a priority to remove.”

The project has been awarded the prestigious 2015 Esri Young Scholars Award, and Mr Haworth will now showcase his research at the world’s largest spatial conference – the Esri User Conference – in San Diego, California in July. Congratulations Billy!

The Esri Young Scholars Award is an international competition, celebrating the creative use of smart mapping technology – commonly known as Geographic Information System (GIS) technology – to solve commercial and community issues.

Find out more via the Esri website.

Congratulations Dr David Branagan for receiving the 2015 Sue Tyler Friedman Medal

12 June 2015

The Sue Tyler Friedman Medal was established in 1987 by the gift of the Northeastern Science Foundation (Inc) of Troy, New York, for distinguished contributions to the recording of the history of geology. The Medal, which is not confined to those with a geological background or to Fellows of the Society, will normally be awarded annually or at such other intervals as Council may determine, on a world-wide basis without regard to nationality considerations. Congratulations to the 2015 Sue Tyler Friedman Medal winner Dr David Branagan.

Find out more about The Geological Society of London's awards.


Congratulations Dr David Branagan for receiving the 2015 Sue Tyler Friedman Medal


The 2015 Sue Tyler Friedman Medal (front)


The 2015 Sue Tyler Friedman Medal (back)

Geoscience Student Awards Night 2015

1 June 2015

The School of Geosciences hosted their 2015 Student Awards Night on 19th May 2015 at The Macleay Museum, The University of Sydney to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our undergraduate and postgraduate students. Prize winners included Joanna Tobin, Luke Hardiman, Katarina Stuart, Samantha J Ross, Carmen Braz, Lena O'Toole, Laura Kent, Clare Needham, Michael Tetley, Amy Fairall, Tim Loveridge, Serena Yeung, Hannah John, Hannah Della Bosca, Natasha Livingstone, Andrew Merdith and Sarah MacLeod.

Geoscience academic and professional staff were in attendance, including Head of School Professor Phil McManus and Dean of Science Trevor Hambley, who presented the Geoscience Special Recognition Awards. The recipients of this award included Dr Samantha Clarke, Elyssa De Carli, Tegan Hall, Sarah MacLeod, Phyllis Yu and Sabin Zahirovic. Congratulations to our prize winners!

View photos from the Geoscience Student Awards Night via the School's Facebook gallery.


Congratulations to all our prize winners!


Left to right: Dr Sabin Zahirovic, Sarah MacLeod, Michael Tetley and Andrew Merdith with their awards

Biggest Morning Tea Fundraiser

28 May 2015

A big thank you to Gabriella McDonald and Sarah MacLeod for hosting a 'Biggest Morning Tea' to raise funds for cancer research and support services here at the School of Geosciences. Every dollar raised contributes to vital cancer research and clinical trials, support services for patients, their families and carers, and information and public education campaigns.

Together, Geosciences raised a total of $535 for Cancer Council! If you would like to make a donation, please visit the Cancer Council fundraising page.

Geosciences Nepal Earthquake Forum a success!

26 May 2015

More than a hundred students, faculty members and friends attended the School of Geosciences Nepal Earthquake forum at the Old Geology Lecture Theatre on Monday, 25th May 2015. Held in conjunction with Oxfam Australia, Sydney Ideas and the Sydney Environment Institute, the event saw presentations from Professor Geoff Clarke on the geology of the quake, A/Prof Dale Dominey-Howes on disaster planning and management in Nepal, and Wayne Gum, from Oxfam Australia, on current relief efforts.

The forum was held with organisational support from Geosciences undergraduate students, and specifically, the Geosciences’ student society GeoSoc. A total of $2,466 AUD in donations was raised for Oxfam’s relief efforts in Nepal. The forum was prompted by Geosciences’ extensive active research interests in South Asia, across all its disciplinary areas of Geology, Geophysics and Geography. Thank you all for joining us on the night and for your overwhelming support.


Assoc Prof Dale Dominey-Howes


Assoc Prof Bill Pritchard


From left to right: Wayne Gum (Oxfam Australia), Professor Geoff Clarke (Geosciences) and Assoc Prof Dale Dominey-Howes (Geosciences).

Honours Poster Gallery

20 May 2015

View our Honours Poster Gallery which is on display now in the Madsen Building, School of Geosciences. The gallery is located on the 3rd floor corridor, to the left of the Madsen Building foyer.

Each year, our Honours students are asked to prepare a poster outlining their Honours thesis topic. Here are some of this year's Honours posters.


Annie Zhuo's Honours Poster


Hannah John's Honours Poster


Alyce Yu's Honours Poster

RV Investigator Tour

14 May 2015

Geosciences staff members Assoc Prof Tom Hubble, Dr Maria Seton, Dr Simon Williams, Prof Sally Andrews, Prof Elaine Baker, Prof Phil McManus, Dr David Dall, Assoc Prof Jody Webster, Assoc Prof Jock Keene and Dr Samantha Clarke took part in an RV Investigator Tour on board the Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator on 14th May 2015.

The Investigator is a 93.9 metre purpose-built research vessel, capable of travelling 10,800 nautical miles in a single voyage, carrying up to 40 scientists and support staff, from the equator to the Antarctic ice-edge. The $120 million ship was completed in 2014, and will support atmospheric, oceanographic, biological and geoscience research. The Marine National Facility operates an annual financial year schedule from July to June.

Discover more about the Investigator or explore it via the RV Investigator virtual tour.


The RV Investigator

Last week, Assoc Prof Tom Hubble was out at sea on this exceptional vessel as the Co-Chief Scientist. Tom, and Scott Nicol from Geoscience Australia, were invited to lead a select team of scientists on the one week geoscience trial voyage to test out the RV Investigator’s brand new deep-marine equipment, including the new coring rig, the dredges and the sub-bottom profiling system. They took cores and dredge samples off the coast of Tasmania and as a result intend to submit a collaborative proposal in the next round of applications.
Tom and Scott will also be participating in Tim O'Hara's (Museum Victoria) five week RV Investigator voyage surveying and investigating deep benthic fauna and habitats of the East Australian Seaboard late next year.


Co-Chief Scientists Tom Hubble, Scott Nichol (PhD Sydney) and Brendan Brooke (Geoscience Australia) examining a gravity core taken from the middle continental slope in 3000m water depth offshore the Freycinet Peninsula during the INV2015-E05 cruise. And yes it does have a turbidite sand in it.


From left to right: Prof Jock Keene,Dr Maria Seton, Prof Phil McManus, Prof Elaine Baker, Assoc Prof Tom Hubble, Dr Samantha Clarke, Dr David Dall and Prof Sally Andrews

Nepal Earthquake Forum on 25th May 2015

13 May 2015

Presented with the School of Geosciences and the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney.

On 25 April, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in Gorkha district Nepal, just west of the capital, Kathmandu. At least 8,000 people were killed in the earthquake. This Sydney Ideas event, coordinated by the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences, will allow you to hear from three experts about the background and impacts of this disaster

Professor Geoff Clarke will discuss the geological context of the earthquake. Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes will assess its human implications. Wayne Gum, from Oxfam Australia, will discuss ongoing relief efforts in Nepal.

This event is free however attendees are requested to make a donation to Oxfam’s Nepal fund.

Event Details
Cost: FREE event, with registration required.
Date: Monday 25 May
Time: 6 to 7.30pm
Venue: Old Geology Theatre, Edgeworth David Building Science Rd, the University of Sydney, see the map.

Register here.

Jack Devery Remembrance Event


From left to right: Bruce Ryan, Phil McManus, Bob Solomon, Tony Broe , Colin Sale and Terry Beed

11 May 2015

Jack Devery died on 1 April, 2015. Jack was 95 years old. He was a graduate of, and staff member in, the former Department of Geography. He had served with the Geographical Society for many years and was a representative of the Society on the Geographical Names Board NSW. He was also a first grade rugby league player for South Sydney. There will be an obituary in a future issue of Australian Geographer. Jack will be missed.

The School of Geosciences and The Geographical Society of New South Wales co-hosted a short Tribute to Jack Devery on Friday, May 1st at 1:30 p.m. at The School of Geosciences, University of Sydney.

Slowdown after Ice Age sounds a warning for Great Barrier Reef's future

5 May 2015

Environmental factors similar to those affecting the present day Great Barrier Reef have been linked to a major slowdown in its growth eight thousand years ago, research led by the University of Sydney shows.

"Poor water quality, increased sediments and nutrients - conditions increasingly being faced by the modern day reef - caused a delay in the Reef's growth of between seven hundred and two thousand years duration," said Belinda Dechnik, lead author of an article published in Marine Geology in May.

"It took hundreds more years then we would have expected to establish itself and even longer to attain the complex level of biodiversity that much of the Reef has become famous for."

"While that may appear inconsequential in the 700,000 year history of the Reef even a decade of such delayed growth would have a rapid impact on today's Reef and the experiences of the estimated two million people who visit it every year," Dechnik said.

The research was led by the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences. It was conducted at the University's research station at One Tree Island on the Reef.

Read the full news story.

Sydney shows global leadership in QS World University Rankings by Subject

4 May 2015

School of Geosciences performs strongly in 2015 QS World University Ranking by Subject. The QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2015 have just been released and The School of Geosciences at The University of Sydney is once again performing very well;

Geography and Area Studies =28

Earth and Marine Sciences 51-100

Environmental Sciences 51-100

The University of Sydney was ranked in the top 100 in the world in 34 of the 36 areas covered in the rankings, regarded as the most comprehensive global comparison of universities at individual subject level. The QS World University Rankings by Subject are based on the expert opinion of more than 85,000 academics, who identified the leading institutions within their field and region of expertise, and more than 41,000 employers, who identified the universities that have produced outstanding graduates in a given discipline area. The results are also informed by the analysis of 17.3 million research papers and 100 million citations.

For information about the overall picture at The University of Sydney please click here.

Billy Haworth receives 2015 Esri Young Scholars Award

4 May 2015

We are happy to announce Billy Haworth as the Australian winner of the 2015 Esri Young Scholars Award. Billy is a PhD student at the University of Sydney, who has previously completed a Master of Applied Science and worked as a GIS researcher.

His winning project is entitled: Spatio-temporal analysis of graffiti occurrence in an inner-city urban environment, and looks at the patterns of graffiti found throughout Sydney suburb Surry Hills.

As the recipient of the award, Billy receives a fully paid trip to the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, California from 20 – 24 July. This includes: return flights, airport transfers, hotel accommodation, conference registration and a daily allowance.

In addition to receiving an all-access-pass to the world’s biggest spatial event, Billy's work will also be displayed alongside other international Young Scholars winners, and he will get the chance to meet Jack Dangermond – Esri founder and president.

See more here.

How cracking explains underwater volcanoes and the Hawaiian bend

28 Apr 2015

The discovery helps explain the spectacular bend in the famous underwater range, the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, where the bottom half kinks at a sixty degree angle to the east of its top half.

"There has been speculation among geoscientists for decades that some underwater volcanoes form because of fracturing," said Professor Dietmar Muller, from the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences and an author on the research findings published in Nature Geoscience today.

"But this is the first comprehensive analysis of the rocks that form in this setting that confirms their origins."

It has long been accepted that as the Earth's plates move over fixed hot spots in its underlying mantle, resulting eruptions create chains of now extinct underwater volcanoes or 'seamounts'.

Read the full article.

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.