Appendix 1: Independently funded basic research projects  


Independently funded research projects now provide resources for the continuation of CCFS research and play an important role in research work plans over their duration. Research goals for each year are thus linked to the aims of funded projects. Summaries of the current independently funded CCFS-related projects are given below. For Industry funded projects and ARC Linkage Projects, see Industry Interaction


Experimental and empirical insight into melting of the early Earth's mantle


B. Kamber, G. Yaxley, N. Daczko, P. Hayman, S. Piazolo: Supported by ARC DP (commencing 2022)

Summary:  The early Earth's mantle produced melt at much higher temperature than today, creating rocks with unique chemistries and mineralogies. But pressing knowledge gaps about hot mantle melting remain. The aim of this project is to generate new experimental and empirical knowledge to help closing these gaps by: (i) conducting high pressure experiments to refine phase-composition relationships and element partitioning; (ii) quantifying mineral fabrics in cratonic peridotites to understand the movement of early continents; and (iii) constructing the first petrological deep time model for greenstone belt volcanic rocks. The expected outcomes are better models for the early Earth's melting and tectonic regimes and insight into the emergence of land.


Identifying mineral systems by mapping deep Australia


P. Rey, V. Chatzaras, S.Y. O'Reilly, O. Alard, H. Yuan, K. Selway, S. Demouchy, M. Haynes: Supported by ARC DP (commening 2022)

Summary:  This Project aims to enable mineral resource discoveries by calibrating geophysical surveys using geochemical and petrophysical properties measured on mantle samples brought to the surface by recent volcanoes. National geophysical surveys deliver images of geophysical gradients in the deeper part of the Australian continent. The interpretation of these gradients in geological terms and in terms of economic mineral systems is the key to unlock deep exploration success. This project will turn Australia’s investment in National geophysical surveys into new discoveries of base metals. The benefit stems from enabling the transition to a clean economy which requires a much broader range of critical minerals and a larger quantity of base metals.


The link between cratonic roots, redox state, and mantle geodynamics


C. O'Neill, S. Hansen, S. O'Reilly, W. Griffin, G. Begg: Supported by ARC DP (commenced 2021)

Summary:  This project aims to understand the role of Earth's redox state on the geodynamic evolution of continental cratonic roots. Cratonic roots form strong, buoyant rafts upon which Australia's oldest crust and mineral deposits survived. Cratons preserve a record of planetary-scale chemical shifts, including the rise of surface oxygen, but it is unclear how these redox shifts themselves affected lithospheric processes. This project integrates new developments in geochemistry, geophysics, and geodynamics, to map the geochemical state and structure of cratonic roots, aiding mineral exploration, and also shedding light on the processes that modify, mineralise, and sometimes destroy cratonic roots.


Unlocking Earth’s inner secrets in deep time using palaeointensities


Z.X. Li, A. Biggin: Support by ARC DP (commenced 2020)

Summary:  The geomagnetic field, generated in Earth’s liquid outer core, provides Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere with a critical protective shield from the bombardment of the solar wind. However, we still know little about the evolution of the geomagnetic field or the deep-time secrets it keeps. This project aims to study the varying intensity of the geomagnetic field during Earth’s middle life. The results will help decipher how the Earth’s core responded to evolving tectonic and dynamic systems, including the supercontinent cycles, and when Earth’s solid inner core initiated. Such knowledge will help us to better understand how the Earth System evolved as a whole, and how such an evolution has led to the present day life and environment on Earth.


Plumbing the gap: a mantle solution to the enigma of bimodal arc volcanism


N. Daczko, S. Foley, H. Handley, T. Raimondo: Support by ARC DP (commenced 2020)

Summary:  Subduction zones and volcanic arcs are the most tectonically active regions on Earth and are crucial to understanding, geochemical cycles, tectonic-climate coupling, ore genesis and natural hazards. Bimodal volcanism is a long-recognised characteristic of arc crust that has never been satisfactorily explained. This project tests the new hypothesis that the two types of magmas originate from distinct mantle sources. It takes the innovative approach of integrating novel high-pressure experiments with database analysis of natural volcanic rocks, covering magmatic systems from mantle source to volcano. This project will improve our understanding of arc processes, including the association of economic metals with arc volcanism.


Testing continental growth models with calcium and strontium isotopes


T. Kemp, S. Wilde, M. Van Kranendonk, T. Elliot: Support by ARC DP (commenced 2020)

Summary:  The Project aims to chart the evolution of the Earth’s primordial mantle and oceans between 3.75 and 2.8 billion years ago using calcium and strontium isotopes in ancient igneous and sedimentary rocks. A novel solution to the controversy over the timing and rate of growth of the Earth’s continents is expected. Anticipated outcomes include the establishment of innovative analytical tools for tracing geological and environmental processes, and stronger collaborative links with premier research institutions abroad. The significant benefits of the Project include an enhanced understanding of the environment in which early life evolved, and fresh insight into the formation of the richly mineralised nucleus of the Australian continent.


Magma dynamics and ore deposits


A. Cruden, M. Fiorentini, S. Barnes, A. Bunger, C. Jackson: Support by ARC DP (commenced 2019)

Summary:  This project aims to investigate where, how and why narrow finger-like conduits form in lithosphere-scale magma plumbing systems by a novel integration of field surveys, three-dimensional reflection seismic data, laboratory experiments and rock fracture mechanics. The project expects to generate new knowledge on the formation and location of highly valuable ore deposits of nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum group elements, which are preferentially trapped in poorly understood finger-like magma conduits.


Unveiling the fine structure of the Australian continent using ocean waves


Y. Yang, J.C. Afonso, N. Rawling, M. Ritzwoller, F. Niu: Support by ARC DP (commenced 2019)

Summary:  This project aims to develop new methods to better image lithospheric and upper-mantle structures by using noise from ubiquitous ocean waves, and then use these methods to illuminate fine-scale lithospheric-asthenospheric structures in Australia, from the surface to the upper mantle. Imaging the Earth’s structure using seismic tomography is one of the most fundamental tasks of geoscience. Conventional earthquake-based seismic tomography has difficulties in deciphering fine-scale lithospheric structures. The images from this project will provide a better understanding of the nature of intraplate earthquakes and volcanoes and improve the assessment of intraplate seismic and volcanic hazards in Australia.


A terrestrial hot spring setting for the origin of life? Darwin’s Warm Little Pond revisited


M. Van Kranendonk, M. Fiorentini, K.A. Campbell, D. Deamer: Support by ARC DP (commenced 2018)

Summary:  This Project aims to test the proposal that a terrestrial hot spring field could have been the setting for the origin of life, in preference to the currently favoured site at deep sea vents. This will be achieved by: 1) detailed characterisation of the only known, truly ancient, inhabited terrestrial hot spring analogue in the geological record - the 3.5 billion-year-old Dresser Formation, Western Australia; 2) comparison of this ancient analogue with active hot spring fields in New Zealand; and 3) experimental research on prebiotic organic chemistry using Dresser materials and active hot spring fluid chemistries. Results will be used to develop a terrestrial origin of life setting and assist in the search for life on Mars.


Understanding the roles of carbon, water and nitrogen in the development of plate tectonics as drivers of mantle evolution


S. Foley: Supported by ARC Laureate Fellowship (  commencing 2019  )

Summary:  This project aims to understand the roles of carbon, water and nitrogen in the development of plate tectonics as drivers of mantle evolution. Through improved understanding of the impact of melting on the deep earth cycles of carbon, water and nitrogen, this project intends to better understand how key elements are enriched towards economically viable concentrations. This project will generate knowledge of long-term benefit for decision-making in the minerals exploration industry and key government agencies. The project will establish a new generation of Australian scientists with a deep interdisciplinary understanding of earth sciences and pave the way for eventual unification of plate tectonics with climate systems.


Ultra-precise dating in Earth, planetary and archaeological science


D. Phillips, F. Jourdan, E. Matchan, A. Gleadow, Z.X. Li, P. Bland, N. Norman, M. Honda, P. Cawood, R. Weinberg, P. Vasconcelos, A. Herries, M. Fiorentini, M. Wingate: Support by ARC LIEF (  commencing 2021  )

Summary:  An advanced facility incorporating next generation, multi-collector mass spectrometer and ultra-clean gas line systems, capable of ultra-precise dating of Earth, planetary and archaeological material. This joint Melbourne-Curtin facility seeks to generate ultra-precise age data from ever smaller and younger samples, such as minute particles from space return missions and tiny inclusions in diamonds. The facility is expected to revolutionise noble gas dating techniques, resulting in new knowledge on solar system genesis, hominid evolution, indigenous migrations, palaeo-climate change, natural hazards and ore deposit formation, while further enhancing Australia’s international leadership and competitive advantage in the discipline.


WA CRC-MC-ICPMS for Earth, Planetary and Environmental science


N. Evans, P. Bland, K. Rankenburg, Z.X. Li, F. Jourdan, S. Rowins, M. Fiorentini, M. Wingate, S. Barnes, Y. Uvarova: Support by ARC LIEF (commenced 2020)

Summary:  This application aims to provide a mass spectrometer for Australian researchers collaborating on NASA, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and China National Space Administration extra-terrestrial sample return missions as they characterise unique samples of dust and rock collected from asteroids, the Moon and meteorites. The Application will also support government geoscience agencies who will generate nationally significant isotopic datasets to improve mineral exploration success, and scientists monitoring Earth’s environment. Expected outcomes will ensure that Australia remains at the forefront of cosmochemistry, minerals research and environmental studies, which will provide significant benefits to our economy and society.


The Western Australia ThermoChronology Hub


M. Danisik, N. Evans, B. McInnes, C. Kirkland, Z.X. Li, M. Fiorentini, M. Wingate: Supported by ARC LIEF (commenced 2019)

Summary:  This project aims to facilitate novel geochronological research in diverse areas of Earth and planetary science by providing a world-first triple-dating instrument facility. Combining three independent radiometric dating methods, the facility will undertake research to advance our understanding of the origin and evolution of the Earth and other planets and provide tools to enhance exploration for Earth’s resources. Expected outcomes include the formation of a strong collaborative facility for academic, government and industry research and a further strengthening of Australia’s position as an international research and education leader in the field of geochronology. It will lead to an improved understanding of the evolution of Earth’s surface, and the formation and distribution of mineral and petroleum resources.


Determining the extent and nature of the oldest crust in Antarctica


S. Wilde, A. Nemchin, M. Whitehouse, S. Harley, M. Kusiak, D. Dunkley: Support by Australian Antarctic Science Grant (commenced 2019)

Summary:  A large inventory of samples, collected by past Australian expeditions to Antarctica, reside with Geoscience Australia and provide a unique treasure-trove of information that can now be tapped, following major advances in knowledge and instrumentation over the past three decades. Selected samples collected from the Napier Complex in Enderby and Kemp Lands, on the western frontier of the Australian Antarctic Territory, have already provided exciting new insights into the timing and complexity of geological processes acting during the earliest stages of Earth’s history. In order to further advance our understanding of this globally significant area, and to add value to a vital academic resource, this project aims to determine the extent of this most ancient terrain and to unravel the complex geological events that affected the area since its formation almost four billion years ago.


CWAS: China-Western Australia Seismic Survey


L. Zhao, H. Yuan, GSWA: Supported by the Institute of Geology & Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing (commenced 2016)

Summary:  Western Australia is an ideal natural laboratory for understanding the evolution of the Australian craton. To better understanding how and where the cratonic nuclei merged in the Precambrian requires high-resolution probing of the crustal and mantle structure beneath Western Australia. IGGCAS, CCFS and GWSA will install a 900-km-long dense (station spacing of 10 to 15 km) seismic profile across Western Australia from Port Hedland to the southwestern border of the Kimberly Craton, in order to:

- image the crustal structure of the north edge of Pilbara craton, the Canning basin and south edge of the Kimberly craton with a high-resolution, and address the following issues: 1) deep geometry of the craton boundaries, 2) deep geometry of craton collisional belt; 3) differences of crustal structures between two cratons.

- image the mantle structure of the north edge of Pilbara craton, the Canning basin and south edge of Kimberly craton and address the following questions: 1) geometry of the convergence beneath the craton boundaries, 2) characteristic difference of the upper mantle of the two cratons.