News and Events

News Archive: July 2015 - November 2015

School of Geosciences submission selected to inform the transformation plan for the 3 bays precinct

22 November 2015

A submission put together by members of the University of Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences, School of Geosciences was competitively selected from more than 200 ‘great ideas’ submitted from around the world to inform the Urban Growth NSW Transformation plan for the multibillion dollar urban redevelopment of three of Sydney Harbour Bays. These are Blackwattle, Roselle and White Bay.

Our idea "Marine ecological restoration through urban development” was to make use of hydrodynamic and ecosystem models of the harbour developed for the Sydney Harbour Observatory to identify the greatest risks to water quality in the 3 bays and evaluate the most effective ways to improve the water quality and increase marine biodiversity in the bays, by incorporating novel water quality improvement aspects in the design and concept phase, such as artificial wetlands, underground storm water filtration units, increased flushing, or in situ sediment remediation.

Our idea is highlighted in the great ideas competition report, as one of the winning ideas, and is built on many years of investigation of Sydney Harbour by the University of Sydney. The team included, Professors Ian Jones, Gavin Birch, and Phil Mulhearn, as well as PhD candidates, Daniel Harrison and Edwina Tanner.

Find out more about The Bays Precinct.

Honours Masters Conference 2015

10 November 2015

The Geographical Society of New South Wales is hosting an Honours/Masters Conference 2015 on Friday 13th November 2015, to showcase Honours and Masters research from across NSW universities. We're proud to be represented by our University of Sydney students Sai Sowmya Bysani, Thomas Sewell, Lisa Smoleniec and Annie Zhuo.

Find out more.

Natural Resource Management and Rural Livelihood in the Mekong

9 November 2015

The School of Geosciences has successfully secured student mobility grant from the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan program to support four students conducting Honours in Geography during 2016. Interested? Apply here.

Congratulations Geosciences Honours students!

30 October 2015

Congratulations to our Honours students for completing their Honours presentations today! View our Honours Student Gallery on the official Geosciences Facebook page.


Geosciences Honours Students 2015

New reef coring campaign unlocks the climate change secrets of the Great Barrier Reef

21 October 2015

The team from the Geocoastal Research Group (GRG) has just returned from a highly successful campaign to recover fossil coral reef cores from One Tree Island in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This is part of joint USYD/UQ/QUT Australian Research Council Discovery (ARC Discovery) supported project to investigate the growth of the reef over the last 9,000 years. Very little is known about how the GBR has responded or may respond to predicted environmental change and/or degradation. The goal was to recover transects of closely spaced cores as much as 30 m deep to reconstruct the biological and physical history of reefs in the southern GBR, helping us better understand how reefs may react to future environmental changes.


The RV D. Hill drilling platform posted on the windward slope of One Tree Reef, with a blue linckia starfish overseeing operations.

Recovering cores from living reef flats is very difficult and, for this project, was accomplished using a new UQ marine research vessel: RV D. Hill, named for the late Professor Dorothy Hill and which was designed, built, commissioned and then successfully deployed for this project in collaboration with UQ Adjunct Prof. Trevor Graham. The purpose-built vessel consists of a barge and separate ‘jack-up’ drilling platform that allows recovery of rotary cores to a depth of 30 m below the reef flat while avoiding significant environmental damage to the reef.


Drilling in action recovering cores in the One Tree lagoon.


Drill team excitedly gathers around to pull out our deepest core at ~30 m!

The campaign was highly successfully with 12 new holes cored over the month long campaign. We completed transects of multiple holes across the windward and leeward reef flats as well as patch reefs in the lagoon. Over 115 m meters of fossil coral reef deposits were recovered capturing both the “modern”, Holocene reef (formed in the past 9000 yrs) and also samples of the last major phase of barrier reef formation approximately 125,000 years ago. This Last Interglacial reef forms the foundation that the Holocene reef has grown on top of, and its history is even more poorly understood.


Core sample, including a well-preserved Faviidae coral recovered from 16 m depth. The red arrows are drawn on to indicate upwards recovery direction.

Several ancillary projects were also successfully conducted, including the collection of 12 short cores (<1 m) from across the reef flat as well as another 15 from the reef slope spur and grooves or “SaGs” features drilled by the heroic underwater dive team. SaGs are important because they are reef's first line of defence against wave energy, though how they form and relate to even the basic story of the reef development is very poorly understood.


Underwater drilling of the spur and groove features, lead by PhD candidates Stephanie Duce and UQ collaborator James Sadler.

The combined core database represents a globally unique data set and our analysis of the recovered fossil reef material will allow us to truly understand the anatomy and evolution of both the Holocene and Last Interglacial reef systems in unprecedented detail.


The joint USYD/UQ/QUT drilling teams of the two campaign phases.


The joint USYD/UQ/QUT drilling teams of the two campaign phases.

The GRG will begin work immediately on the new cores, allowing us to directly test competing ideas about how coral reefs grow in response to sea level (i.e. rising, stable) and other paleoenvironmental changes (i.e. rising temperature, poor water quality) over the last 125,000 years. We will also use these results to ground-truth sophisticated new numerical computer simulations to better predict the fate of the GBR in the face of future environmental changes. We anticipate that this information will also help environmental managers to meet the challenges to the GBR presented by global climate changes.

For more information about the project, please contact Associate Professor Jody Webster.


Enjoying a famous One Tree Island sunset after a hard day’s work. "Here we are, on the GBR!"

Landslides and tsunamis under investigation on Australia's east coast

9 October 2015

Undertaken by the University’s School of Geosciences, the research is detailed in a chapter in Southern Surveyor: Stories from on board Australia’s ocean research vessel, a new book from CSIRO Publishing.

It’s hard to understand how these slopes ever fail yet the evidence is they can, because there are enormous scars, or scoops, along the continental margin from Bateman’s Bay to Fraser Island,” said Associate Professor Tom Hubble, lead researcher on the project.
“One of the largest examples of these continental scars is located off Bulli in New South Wales, and is 16 kilometres long, nine kilometres wide and roughly 300 to 400 metres thick.”

Importantly, the landslide events and the earthquakes that could trigger them are considered to be extremely rare, according to Associate Professor Hubble and his team.

Read the full article.

Congratulations Hazards Research Group!

7 October 2015

Congratulations to Dr Emma Calgaro and Assoc Prof Dale Dominey-Howes of the Hazards Research Group in the School of Geosciences, University of Sydney - 1 of 8 teams who have secured an inaugural grant award of US$1 million (AUD$1.45 million) as part of the Global Resilience Partnership program.

Their project led by early career researcher Dr Calgaro is titled: “Disability and disasters: empowering people to build resilience”. It will focus on working with people with disabilities across several SE Asia countries and government agencies to empower people with disabilities, to enhance capacity of emergency service organisations and to improve governance in relation to disability inclusive disaster risk reduction.

Emma and Dale were flown to New York last weekend to receive their award at a special ceremony hosted by USAID - US Agency for International Development as part of the current United Nations General Assembly activity.

Project details here.

Thinking Space guest speaker Prof Oren Yiftachel

18 September 2015

Thank you Prof Oren Yiftachel from the Department of Geography, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel for joining us here at The School of Geosciences as our Thinking Space guest speaker on Wednesday, 16th September. Prof Yiftachel's talk was about 'Gray Space' and the New Urban Regime: Between Liberalism and 'Creeping Apartheid'.

The lecture analysed the impact of structural economic, identity and governance tensions on urban regimes and societies in the C21st. It drew attention to the pervasive emergence of 'gray spaces'; that is, temporary, unauthorized or illegal developments, transactions and populations. 'Gray-spacing' has become a central feature of contemporary urbanism in most parts of the world, as well as a strategy to control the unwanted/irremovable, and manage the wanted/uncontrollable. Urban policy is central to this process, given its ability to approve, deny, legitimate and criminalize urban development. Gray spacing enables the mobility of marginalized and indigenous groups into privileged regions, often under the guise of liberalizing politics and economies. At the same time puts in train a process of 'creeping urban apartheid' under which the region is governed through the principle of 'separate and unequal'. These tensions and trends will be illustrated by highlighting research findings on the planning of cities around Europe, Africa, Australia and the Middle East.

Prof Oren Yiftachel teaches urban studies and political geography at Ben-Gurion University, Beersheba. His research has focused on critical understandings of the relations between space, power and conflict, with particular attention to ethnic, social and urban aspects of these relations.


Prof Phil McManus (left) with Prof Oren Yiftachel (right) during his Geosciences visit.

Step Up a success!

11 September 2015

Step Up was a high school initiative created by the School of Geosciences in the form of an information session and workshops for high school teachers where they met and had the opportunity to talk to our academics and students about University transition from high school to University, specifically in regards to transitioning into our Geoscience programs which cover Geography, Geology, Geophysics, Marine Science and Environmental Science.

Some of the top schools from Sydney were represented last evening at our Step Up event! A big thank you to Nikki Montenegro, Wendy Suthern, Sabin Zahirovic, Tim Chapman, Lisa Smoleniec, Dan Penny, Jak McCarroll and Mandy Thran and of course to our Head of School Prof Phil McManus for launching a successful initiative!

Check out the event gallery on our Facebook page.


Prof Phil McManus welcoming participants to Step Up


High school teachers meeting our staff and fellow colleagues

Open Day 2015

31 August 2015

The University of Sydney's Open Day on Saturday, 29th August was a huge success, seeing over 30,000 attendees on the day.

A big thank you to Sabin Zahirovic, Tegan Hall, Billy Haworth, Luke Hardiman, Lauren Harrington, Jodie Pall, Lena O’Toole, Jo Tobin and James Egan for volunteering and running such successful workshops and hands on activities at Open Day such as Magic Planet simulations, rock and fossil identification activities, GIS mapping and geocoastal workshops!
We also had Geosciences mini lectures throughout the day given by Dr Dan Penny about Geography, Geology and Geophysics, Prof Phil McManus about 'Environmental Studies' and Prof Maria Byrne on Marine Science.

Check out our Open Day Gallery on Facebook.

Geosciences Open Day this Saturday, 29th August

27 August 2015


Join us for The University of Sydney Open Day this Saturday, 29th August!

Treat your mind to a mini lecture from our Geoscience academics:

  • Dan Penny - 'Geography, Geology and Geophysics' talk @ 10:30am; Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre
  • Phil McManus - 'Environmental Studies' talk @ 2pm; Lecture Theatre 173 Carslaw Building
  • Maria Byrne - 'Marine Science' talk @ 2:30pm; Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre

Geoscience Workshops

Don't forget to visit Tegan, Billy and Sabin over at The Eastern Avenue Tents from 9am - 4pm and take part in some Geoscience workshops such as Magic Planet geology simulations on the day!


Sabin Zahirovic running a Magic Planet workshop

Check out the Mini Lecture Schedule

Plan your day and see What's On.

Central Australia Fieldtrip

26 August 2015

Group photo from our GEOS 3008 Field Geology and Geophysics excursion to Central Australia on 22nd July 2015!


Big data maps world's ocean floor

12 August 2015

Scientists from the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences have led the creation of the world’s first digital map of the seafloor’s geology. It is the first time the composition of the seafloor, covering 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, has been mapped in 40 years; the most recent map was hand drawn in the 1970s.

Published in the latest edition of Geology, the map will help scientists better understand how our oceans have responded, and will respond, to environmental change. It also reveals the deep ocean basins to be much more complex than previously thought.

“In order to understand environmental change in the oceans we need to better understand what is preserved in the geological record in the seabed,” says lead researcher Dr Adriana Dutkiewicz from the University of Sydney.

“The deep ocean floor is a graveyard with much of it made up of the remains of microscopic sea creatures called phytoplankton, which thrive in sunlit surface waters. The composition of these remains can help decipher how oceans have responded in the past to climate change.”

Read the full article.

This news story has also been published in the following websites:

DailyMail Australia

The Sydney Morning Herald


Adaptive Scientist


A still shot of the world's first digital map of the seafloor's geology.

Geosciences PhD candidate Billy Haworth awarded 2015 Esri Australia Young Scholars Award

11 August 2015

University of Sydney PhD student Billy Haworth awarded the 2015 Esri Australia Young Scholars Award at the Esri User Conference in San Diego, California by Esri president and founder, Jack Dangermond.

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. Billy's project investigated 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.

Find out more about Billy's award-winning project.


Billy Hawoth with Esri president and founder, Jack Dangermond.


Young Scholar winners from other countries around the world.

Konichiwa from the 19th INQUA conference, Japan

11 August 2015

The Geocoastal Research Group attended the 19th INQUA conference in Japan last week. The theme of the Conference was ‘Quaternary Perspectives on Climate Change, Natural Hazards and Civilization’. Sessions ranged from reconstructing paleoclimates and sea level to climate modelling, human behaviour and geomorphology! There really was something for everyone and it was a great opportunity for the group to present their work to experts from around the world.

Read the blog post.


2015 Southeast Asia Field School in Indonesia

10 August 2015

In partnership with the Geography Department at the University of Indonesia, 23 undergraduate geography students from Sydney have just completed the Southeast Asia Field School in Indonesia (GEOS3053). This year, students visited Central Java and Jakarta and explored important issues such as food sovereignty, poverty alleviation pathways, community-based resource access, and gated urban communities. The geography field school has been held annually since 1988 and has long been a highlight of the geography program at Sydney.

View the photo gallery.


Postgraduate Research Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement awarded to Billy Haworth

9 August 2015

Geosciences PhD candidate Billy Haworth has been awarded The Faculty of Science Postgraduate Research Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement. Congratulations Billy!

Awarded annually on the basis of nominations received by the Head of School from each of the seven Schools within the Faculty of Science, the award recognises outstanding postgraduate student achievements, particularly during the early phases of candidature. The award is valued at $500.


Postgraduate Research Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement awarded to Billy Haworth.


Madsen Facade Project

7 August 2015

The Madsen building scaffolding has started to come down this week! Thank you everyone for your patience during the Madsen facade project!


Podcast: The geological wonders of central Australia on The Science Show

29 July 2015

Student podcast: The geological wonders of central Australia on The Science Show. Listen to this podcast by Geosciences Masters candidate Jason McConnell-Leech on ABC's RN. Jason participated in Geosciences' central Australia field trip this month.

Listen to the podcast.

EarthByte plate tectonic animation added to NOAA Science On a Sphere database

28 July 2015

An EarthByte plate tectonic animation has recently been added to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s NOAA Science On a Sphere database. NOAA produces large interactive 3D spherical projection systems that are installed at museums, universities, schools and other institutes across the world.

The NOAA post featuring our animation has attracted almost 40,000 views in just 18 hours! This latest animation complements a number of other EarthByte datasets that have been incorporated into NOAA's system, including the age-grid and isochron maps originally created by EarthByte's Maria Seton. Excellent work!

Check out EarthByte's plate tectonic animation.

Discover more about the EarthByte Group.


EarthByte plate tectonic animation that had been recently added to NOAA's Science on a Sphere database.

EarthByte at the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Tectonics and Earth Resources (ACTER)

26 July 2015

Recently, EarthByte joined the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Tectonics and Earth Resources (ACTER). The joint research centre is led by the Institute for Geoscience Research at Curtin University and the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with involvement of Australian and Chinese universities and industry partners. The aim of the centre is to promote joint research activities, the exchange of staff and students, and to foster long-term mutually-beneficial collaboration between Australian and Chinese research groups.

EarthByte's Professor Dietmar Müller will be leading the computational geoscience arm of the centre, which will be investigating the tectonic history of the Australasian region to better understand the cycles of supercontinent assembly and breakup, and their role in shaping the complex tectonics of the Western Pacific and Australasian regions. In better understanding the tectonic and geodynamic evolution of the region, the centre will be able to place greater constraints on the emplacement of mineral deposits and the formation of hydrocarbon resources. At an ACTER workshop, held at Curtin University in July 2015, EarthByte was represented by Dr Simon Williams who presented the key research areas of our group and potential collaborative opportunities for the ACTER participating institutions.


At an ACTER workshop, held at Curtin University in July 2015, EarthByte was represented by Dr Simon Williams who presented the key research areas of our group and potential collaborative opportunities for the ACTER participating institutions.

Geosciences PhD candidate Stephanie Duce awarded AINSE Postgraduate Research Award!

20 July 2015

Geosciences PhD candidate Stephanie Duce has been awarded an AINSE Postgraduate Research Award! As part of her award, ANSTO will be providing Steph with their expertise and unique facilities at the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Lucas Heights where she will be using these facilities to perform radiocarbon dating on coral core samples and hopefully work out how spur and groove features form and evolve. Congratulations Steph!

Find out more.


School of Geosciences, University of Sydney​ PhD candidate Stephanie Duce

Geoscience students at the STANSW Conference

17 July 2015

School of Geosciences students Nikita Golkin, Jonathon Leonard, Carmen Braz and Luke Hardiman demonstrating at the Science Teachers Association of New South Wales' HSC Science Exam Preparation Conference on Friday, 17th July 2015. Thank you to Nikita, Jonathon, Carmen and Luke who took charge of the Magic Planet Workshop on the day.

Learn more about the conference.


Geoscience students at the STANSW Conference


Thank you to Nikita, Jonathon, Carmen and Luke who took charge of the Magic Planet Workshop on the day.

Geosciences at the International Science School Program 2015

9 July 2015

Geosciences hosted a successful, 2-day International Science School Program for ISS2015 at the University of Sydney from 8th July - 9th July 2015, with the event starting off with a Geosciences lecture from Sabin Zahirovic and Dr Samantha Clarke, showcasing various interactive activities from Geoscience research groups.

A big thank you to Sabin, Samantha, Phyllis, Stephanie, Rebecca, Elyssa, Stuart, Amanda, Jonathon, Carmen, Luke, Jordan, Tegan and Nikita for sharing their passion and presenting their research to such a keen group of international students!

View our event photo gallery.


Geosciences at our highly successful 2-day International Science School Program for ISS2015!


Students at the Coral Reefs station, talking about the Great Barrier Reef and One Tree Island Research Station with the Geocoastal Research Group team.


Nikita and Jono from The EarthByte Group setting up for their Magic Planet simulations!

'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.