Honours in the School of Geosciences


The School of Geosciences offers Honours in Geography, Geology and Geophysics. Honours in these disciplines requires an original research project to be undertaken under the guidance of a supervisor (and sometimes a co-supervisor), and the presentation of this in the form of a thesis with a maximum of 20,000 words. The thesis accounts for 75% of the Honours grade.

Additionally, Honours students in Geography, Geology and Geophysics are required to give a final oral presentation of their thesis results (worth 5%) and complete an approved coursework program for the remaining 20%. Coursework requirements vary between different disciplines and students.

Entry into the Honours program generally requires completion of a Credit average in Senior Units of Study in either the Geography or Geology & Geophysics majors, and a Weighted Average Mark (WAM) of at least 65. In some years when the number of applicants exceeds resources (availability of supervisors, laboratory space, etc.) offers will be made according to academic merit. The general process for enrolling in Honours is as follows:

  • Each September, the University holds an Honours Information Week. During this week, the School of Geosciences holds an Honours information session. Intending Honours students should seek to attend this session.
  • During the final semester of undergraduate studies, intending Honours students should informally discuss their potential candidature with academics who may feasibly act as their supervisor.
  • Before the University deadline (30 November for currently enrolled students), apply for Honours through the Faculty which administers your degree.
  • Students are officially notified in January of their formal acceptance into the Honours program.

Note that it is possible to commence Honours mid-year. In these cases, the same process described above needs to be followed, however with different closing dates (check the relevant Faculty websites).

Students enrolled in degrees administered by the Faculty of Science should visit the Faculty’s Honours information site for more information about the Honours year, including how to apply, various scholarships that are on offer and other useful material.

Students enrolled in degrees administered by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences need to apply through the FASS Honours information site

2017 Honours Projects

Honours and MPhil research projects in Natural Hazards and Disasters 2017 Asia – Pacific Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk Research Group

The following research projects are available for 2017 for suitably qualified students under the supervision of Dale Dominey-Howes. For further information, please contact Dale at

Assessing the risk to Australia of solar storms and extreme space weather

Researchers, governments, emergency managers and communities are increasingly recognising the threat posed to modern, technological complex societies from solar storms and extreme space weather events. However, the risk to Australia is not well known and little work has been undertaken to evaluate the hazards, risk and vulnerability. This Honours project will use a hazards geography approach to explore the risk to Australia from solar storms and extreme space weather.

For further information, please contact Dale at


Source: Google Images

Impacts and effects of the September 2009 Sydney dust storm

In September 2009, Sydney (and New South Wales, generally) was affected by one of the largest and most significant dust storms in the last 100 years. Land management practices and climate change mean that such events will become more frequent and intense in the future. The 2009 Sydney dust storm brought transport systems to a halt, resulted in massive business interruption and caused a spike in admissions to hospitals associated with respiratory difficulties. Oddly, despite the massive effects of this dust storm, the impacts have not been well quantified – a significant oversight when attempting to prepare communities for similar events in the future. This Honours project will use a variety of methods to understand the physical earth system dynamics of the September 2009 Sydney dust storm and socio-economic tools to evaluate and quantify its impacts and effects.

For further information, please contact Dale at


Source: www.smh.com.au (23rd September 2009)

Zombie apocalypse! – a geographic reimagination of pandemic risk

Epidemics and pandemics are often (usually) seen the lens of medical, human and animal health. However, epidemics and pandemics are also classic ‘disaster risks’. Pandemic risk actually sits at the top of the Australian risk register as the most likely threat to Australian communities and animal populations. This project with use a ‘hazards geography approach’ to explore what we know and how well prepared Australia and its people are for responding to a serious pandemic event. Insights will shed light on how we might respond to the coming Zombie Apocalypse!

For further information, please contact Dale at


Source: AMC The Walking Dead (Google Images)

Honours 2016 Coursework Program

View here.

Honours topics in Geography

The common practice in Geography, and especially Human Geography, is for students to develop their own topic, in conjunction with their supervisor. Oftentimes this is connected to an existing research project on which the supervisor is working, however it is also possible for supervisors and students to agree on ‘blue sky’ projects, reflecting the individual student interests. Students should familiarise themselves with supervisors' research interests prior to discussing potential thesis topics.

Look for a supervisor at the School of Geosciences.

Honours research in Geography usually involves a field research component, which can be local (in Sydney), in another part of Australia, or overseas. In general, the further distant the research site, the greater the need for forward planning and financial resources. Students contemplating projects involving overseas fieldwork are strongly encouraged to discuss this as early as possible with potential supervisors.

Honours topics in Geology and Geophysics

The common practice in Geology and Geophysics is for students to participate in specified projects that are coordinated by academics.

2016 Honours Projects

Honours Coursework Options

Honours in the subject areas offered by the School of Geosciences comprises coursework requirements which account for 25% of the final grade. If you are enrolling in Geography Honours, information about coursework will be made available early in 2016. If you are enrolled in Geology or Geophysics Honours, you need to discuss coursework options with your supervisor and with Derek Wyman, the Deputy Honours coordinator.

Course Date Time Location Teachers

Introduction to GPlates and Pygplates

This GPlates is open-source desktop plate tectonic software running on Windows, Linux and MacOS X, whereas Pygplates is its python equivalent.  GPlates enables the interactive manipulation of plate-tectonic reconstructions and the visualization of geodata through geological time. Users can build regional or global plate models, import their own data and digitise features. Raster files images in a variety of formats can be loaded, assigned to tectonic plates, age-coded and reconstructed through geological time. Plates and plate boundaries through time can be visualised over mantle tomography image stacks.  GPlates is also designed to enable the linking of plate tectonic models with mantle convection models.  The software allows the construction of time-dependent plate boundary topologies as well as exporting plate polygons and velocity time-sequences. Mantle convection model output images can be imported and animated with plate tectonic reconstructions overlain. Pygplates enables spatio-temporal data analysis and batch data processing via scripting. The course will cover basic functions available in GPlates and Pygplates.


March 7 - 10 2016 9:00am -5:00pm Madsen Meeting Room 335

Dietmar Müller

Simon Williams

Computational Tectonics


4 - 6 2016


Patrice Rey

Luke Mondy

Data Processing and Plotting using Generic Mapping Tools (GMT)


See the Course Outline.

March 29 - April 1 2016 9 - 5pm Madsen Lab 301 Sabin Zahirovic

CitcomS Course

Dynamic Earth Modelling
Linking plate tectonics and mantle flow to Earth’s topography

Advances in scientific software and high-performance computing over the last 10 years make it possible to model the evolution of the global plate-mantle system in deep geological time.
Dynamic Earth Modelling is a 3-day course dedicated to Honours and postgraduate geoscience students interested in modelling mantle flow using CitcomS.

April 11 - 13 2016 9:30 - 5pm Madsen Conference Room 449 Nicolas Flament

An introduction to weathering processes and the Australian Regolith

This unit addresses the evolution of the Australian landscape, involving tectonic influences, long term climate variation and the effects of bedrock weathering. The regolith is the weathered and transported blanket of material covering fresh rock and, in Australia, represents an important feature that must be understood for mineral exploration, geotechnical engineering, and groundwater studies. This unit provides a review of regolith development in Australia and the classification schemes employed by Australian researchers.

Approximately 12 hours of lectures; 4 hours of practicals and a written assignment on a weathering related topic. Course notes provided.

Classes to be held over three days in May with dates to be decided upon following consultation with participants.
    Derek Wyman

Honours and MPhil (Science)

Find out more about Honours and MPhil.

More Information

If you have any queries, please contact:

Honours Coordinator
Prof Phil McManus
Room 435, Madsen Building (F09)
Ph: +61 2 9351 4242

Deputy Coordinator
Dr Derek Wyman
Room 433, Madsen Building (F09)
Ph: +61 2 9351 2924