Director’s Preface

 

This report summarises the activities and achievements of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems (CCFS) in 2018 (formally commenced mid 2011).  Activities include research, technology development, stakeholder engagement, international links and research training.

The overarching goal of CCFS is to understand Earth’s internal dynamics, evolution and fluid cycles from core to crust.  CCFS multiplies the capabilities of three national centres of research excellence in Earth and Planetary Sciences: GEMOC from Macquarie University (Administering Institution), Curtin University (TiGeR) and CET at the University of Western Australia (Collaborating Institutions).  The Geological Survey of Western Australia is a Partner Institution and researchers from Monash University, the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales are formally affiliated.

The 7-year allocated funding from the ARC ceased at the end of 2018, but ARC formally granted continuation of the status of CCFS as an ARC Centre of Excellence for three years, contingent on demonstration of a relevant, funded continuing research program and retention of key researchers.  The latter was easy to fulfil, as CCFS attracted awards for eleven ARC Future Fellows and two Laureate Fellowships.  Eight of the Future Fellows (including four women) have become, or are transitioning to, full-time academic staff positions, providing a powerhouse of outstanding mid-career (and gender-balanced) intellectual depth across the collaborating institutions.  CCFS thus has forged a dynamic researcher cohort, now forming the next generation of leading researchers who are part of the Australian and global geoscience fabric.  Those in CCFS nodes now lead research programs, have initiated new strategic directions, and some have initiated new University Centres, springboarding from CCFS in new directions.

73 PhD students undertook research aligned with CCFS in 2018.  CCFS postgraduates are producing world-class research with authorship of 42 publications (29 first-authored) in high-impact journals in 2018 and 75 presentations at peak international workshops and conferences.  163 PhD students and 43 early-career researchers have participated in CCFS until now.

CCFS created a world-leading, enduring and uniquely interdisciplinary geoscience framework that seamlessly incorporates information across geoscience datasets including those from geophysics, geochemistry, tectonics, geology, numerical modelling, Bayesian mathematics and the imaging of minerals, rocks and Earth domains from nano- to global-scales.  This was built on the visionary goals and breakthroughs achieved in the preceding GEMOC National Key Centre and has taken that holistic approach to understanding Earth processes to a new level.  A few eclectic examples include:

  • Presenting element and isotopic data as contoured images on regional scales, making geochemical data (traditionally presented as multi-element diagrams and plots) as accessible as geophysical tomography images
  • Driving the resurgence of experimental simulations of high-pressure and temperature conditions at varying depths within the Earth (including creation of a distributed national infrastructure network)
  • Refining palaeomagnetic reconstructions and methodologies to better understand Earth’s tectonic evolution, and especially the assembly, breakup and relative positions of continents over Earth’s 4.65 billion year history
  • Recognising domains of ultra-high pressure rocks excavated from depths of the mantle transition zone (>400 km) and defining, for the first time, unique microstructural characteristics to refine seismic interpretations, and to screen other ultramafic rocks for possible deep-Earth origins
  • Developing new cutting-edge in situ geochemical analytical methods with new instrumentation including imaging of atomic environments in minerals, multi-split streaming for laser-sampled analyses, and continuing the quest for higher resolution analysis of lower and lower element and isotopic abundances
  • Forming alliances with instrument manufacturers to revolutionise hardware design of e.g. detectors, to enable analysis of critical light elements (e.g. C, O, H, N)
  • Discovering new extreme conditions (e.g. ultra-reduced) within regions of the mantle from at least ~400 km to shallow volcanic systems, revealing conditions within the Earth equivalent to those in the solar nebula and in some meteorites and providing new knowledge of the carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen cycles from the deep mantle to the surface
  • Innovative geodynamic modelling to probe the nature of the early Earth and huge advances towards the holy grail of theoretical multi-observable probabilistic prediction of the composition of the lithospheric mantle and beyond (with evolving open-access software)
  • Ground-breaking development of adjoint methodologies for processing seismic data; collaborations with Chinese colleagues to gain unprecedented geophysical data and images of many regions in western and eastern Australia and analogue terranes globally
  • Using leading-edge microstructural imaging and analysis to better understand geophysical signals, mantle deformation and mineral characteristics

The interdisciplinary environment within CCFS has inspired teams to work across the boundaries of geophysics, geochemistry, petrology and geodynamic modelling to develop new holistic understandings of core to crust fluid systems.  One of the most exciting outcomes (from 2 early-career researchers) will be presented to the 2019 Goldschmidt Conference: A unified model for mantle magmatism (see Research highlight).  The Research Highlights (collated version downloadable from http://ccfs.mq.edu.au/Research Highlights/), presented in the Annual Report for each year of CCFS are an impressive record of the rich tapestry of new Earth knowledge that has been created - and the individual research components that contributed.  The eclectic items listed here only skim the surface.

The CCFS Vision “Delivering the fundamental science needed to sustain Australia’s resource base” has been more than fulfilled over the last seven years.  CCFS has continued to be a significant thought-leader in global geoscience research, and has become influential in shaping the national research and geoscience agenda.  Such contributions include:

  • CCFS participants made significant contributions to the AMIRA “Undercover Roadmap”
  • CCFS Chief and Associate Investigators, collaborating researchers and Board members have continued assisting the advance of UNCOVER Australia, including fruitful discussions with senior Department of Industry Innovation and Science (DIIS) representatives and with the Office of the Shadow Minister for Science.  These discussions are helping shape government resource policies.
  • CCFS CIs and Board representatives were members (and Chair) of the Australian Academy of Science National Committee for Earth Science (NCES) in 2018.  In that capacity, they played a key role in producing the Decadal Plan for Australian Geoscience ”Our Planet, Australia’s Future: A decade of transition in Geoscience” which was launched in October 2018.  See Communications.
  • CCFS representatives have contributed numerous submissions to the Chief Scientist on geoscience infrastructure and its role in Australia’s sustainable energy future
  • CCFS representatives have been active in contributing to Workshops planning the future strategy and vision for NCRIS AuScope
  • Australian Honours awarded to CCFS Board members Jon Hronsky and Phil McFadden, in 2018, and Sue O’Reilly’s previous award, all for services to national geoscience, demonstrate the national recognition of CCFS influence

CCFS’ huge and rapidly growing international network has forged collaborations that bring complementary expertise, funded resource leverage, access to an unsurpassed virtual laboratory for geochemical analysis and imaging, experimental capabilities, geophysical instruments and techniques, and global natural laboratories that provide analogues to understand the Australian continent where its geological clues are hidden beneath cover.

CCFS has exceeded its original goals: it has delivered transformational new geoscience knowledge relevant to Earth’s composition, evolution, geodynamics and structure, has transferred fundamental new research results to mineral exploration entities, has mentored and delivered a substantial new generation of outstanding mid- and early-career researchers, and has become an influential voice in Geoscience strategy and policy.  We are proud of these enduring legacies.

 

Professor S.Y. O’Reilly

 

  • to determine, using constraints from Earth’s oldest crust and mantle, lunar samples and meteorites, the role of fluids in creating a dynamic planet

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