Tectonics and Earth Systems

The Tectonics and Earth Systems (TES) Group explores how deformation of the solid earth over deep time built a human-habitable, resource-rich planet.

Proterozoic Birrindudu Basin

The Proterozoic Birrindudu Basin in remote northern Australia—we endeavour to explore deep time through understanding the rock record, wherever it is best preserved.

The Tectonics and Earth Systems Group is a part of the Mawson Centre for Geoscience and its research spans the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Resources (ISER) and the Environment Institute.

TES Group members are geologists and geochemists, and our aim is to develop an evolving model of the world where every aspect is testable and mutable.

Research methodologies

We use geochronology, thermochronology, structural geology, geochemistry, igneous geology and sedimentology to unravel the tectonic geography of a region through deep time.

Our work is data focussed and built from the rock record. As such we work with geochemical proxies for tectonic processes, redox, salinity, productivity, erosion and hydrothermal activity, many of which are pioneering and developmental.

We are also investigating new, rapid, accurate dating techniques, such as laser-ablation analysis of Rb–Sr and K–Ca isotope systems via plasma mass spectrometry (see also our Metal Isotope Group) and are grappling with data analytical approaches to apply to the sizable and diverse data we generate and interpret.

Research aims

By combining these studies, we attempt to reconstruct the past continents and oceans of the world in a full plate-tectonic manner; focussing on the last 2 billion years of earth history, when we consider plate tectonics operated in a similar manner as it does today.

From these novel, full-earth, reconstructions we strive to quantify feedbacks between geosphere phenomena (such as mountain belt topographic evolution, ocean basin connectivity, and rift development), chemistry of the atmosphere/hydrosphere and the development of the biosphere.


Boabs above carbonates of the greater McArthur Basin

Boabs above carbonates of the greater McArthur Basin

  • Full plate tectonic reconstruction of the Neoproterozoic earth
    Major Partners: Professor Dietmar Müller (University of Sydney), Dr Sergei Pisarevsky (Curtin University), Dr Simon Williams (Northwest University, China), Dr Andrew Merdith (Laboratoire de Géologie, Lyon, France), Prof Theodore Razakamanana (Toliara University, Madagascar), Dr Donnelly Archibald (St Francis Xavier University, Canada), Professor Chris Clark (Curtin University), Dr Tim Johnson (Curtin University)
    Developed from Australian Research Council future fellowship FT120100340.

  • Tectonic geography of the McArthur Basin, Northern Australia
    Major partners: Northern Territory Geological Survey (NTGS)Santos LtdOrigin Ltd, Imperial Oil and Gas, Todd River Resources, Associate Professor Anthony Dosseto (University of Wollongong), Professor Lukas Ackerman (Czech Academy of Sciences), Dr Marcus Kunzmann (CSIRO), Dr Amber Jarrett (Geoscience Australia), Professor Galen Halverson (McGill University, Canada)
    Funded by: Australian Research Council Linkage Project LP160101353 with Origin, Santos, NTGS and Imperial Oil and Gas as industry partners, additional funding by Todd River Resources.

The base of the Bolla Bollana Tillite in Termination Valley, Willouran Ranges, Northern Flinders.

The base of the Bolla Bollana Tillite in Termination Valley, Willouran Ranges, Northern Flinders.