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Collaboratively Answering Australia’s Geoscience Questions.

Welcoming ANU’s Associate Professor Meghan Miller to the AuScope team as our Earth Imaging program leader

Associate Professor Meghan Miller comes to AuScope with a wealth of knowledge in global seismology and plate tectonics research. Image: AuScope

AuScope is excited to have Associate Professor Meghan Miller leading our Earth Imaging program from 1 July 2018 as Professor Malcolm Sambridge transitions to managing our Seismometers In Schools national outreach program. Congratulations to you both!

Here, Meghan shares her story, from growing up in North America to studying in the US and Australia, with field studies in Morocco, Indonesia and Timor-Leste in between. We discover her passion for plate tectonics and deep Earth, swag of academic achievements, and ambitions for research innovation in Australia.

Tell us about you, in a nutshell.

There is no nutshell, but here goes!

I’m originally from Canada and grew up and studied an undergraduate and two masters degrees in the U.S.  I began my studies in the seismically active Southern California, but later moved to New York. I went on to work at the US Geological Survey and a software company for a few years, but soon, a research career beckoned.

So, I headed to Australia to pursue a PhD at ANU in Canberra. I then returned to Canada and the US to complete my post-doctoral studies. My PhD focused on the tectonic evolution of the western Pacific subduction zones, then my postdoc focused on seismic imaging of the Caribbean and South American plate boundaries.

In 2009, I became an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, and at the beginning of 2017, I returned as an associate professor in seismology & mathematical geophysics at ANU. Now, I split my time between teaching and research at ANU, and program leadership with AuScope!

What are you working on right now?

My research focuses on understanding the Earth’s tectonic evolution using seismology to understand it. Specifically, I’m interested in investigation into the evolution of plate boundaries, in particular active subduction zones, and cratonic structure which can provide a glimpse into ancient tectonic processes.

Right now, I’m planning a deployment in northern Western Australia and the Northern Territory which complements an ongoing experiment I am running in Timor-Leste and Indonesia.

These new data will greatly enhance the imaging capabilities and allow for resolution across the Timor Sea and further improve on a seismic catalogue for this unique tectonic environment.

Do you have an analogy that explains what you do?

Yes! Think of medical CAT-scans that give us an image of bones in our bodies. As seismologists (rather than radiologists), we use seismic waves (rather than X-rays) generated by earthquakes to image the Earth (rather than our bodies).

A series of cross-sections through the crust and upper mantle beneath Alaska (Miller et al., 2018).

Why is your current research important, and how does it translate to the real world?

I’m studying why and how both the continents and in fact the whole tectonic plates have evolved into their current state. I am particularly interested in plate boundaries where active processes are evidenced by volcanoes and earthquakes. These features affect our lives. If we can better understand why, where and when these Earth processes are most likely to occur, we can best inform the general public and protect lives.

How, and to what extent does your work depend on AuScope?

Without AuScope data, it would be impossible to attain the resolution that we need to produce images of the Earth’s interior that begin to bridge the gap between geological observations and geophysical observations.

What is the coolest thing about your job?

Being able to travel to remote locations and see the world from a different perspective, and also see the diversity in landscapes and geology and as well cultures and environment.

Exploring a volcanic landscape on the Aeolian Island of Vulcano in Italy, which is a research area of interest Meghan’s my studies of subduction zone evolution and links to volcanic processes. Image: Associate Professor Meghan Miller

Can you share a happy accident or turning point in your research?

One of the first field experiments I conducted was in Morocco and Spain, where I was investigating seismic activity along a subduction structure at the plate boundary. I laid out seismometers in the Atlas Mountains, south of the plate boundary, and found links to volcanism unrelated to subduction zone, rather, likely a mantle plume below the Canary Islands that had channelled up in my field area.

What’s it’s like to work in the Australian geoscience research community?

In the states and Canada, the seismology community is relatively large. Here, you get to know people quite well and have access to lots of resources for research, such as AuScope. Australia has a large influence on the global science community as it so far away, but is focussed on international collaboration, it’s nice to be a part of that.

How do you see your field developing in the future?

In order to gain greater insights into large-scale earth processes, our field needs masses of data at much finer geographical spacing than have been collected historically.

Right now, we have new capabilities in seismic instrumentation called ‘nodes’, which are soup can-sized, battery operated and cordless.They can be placed at just a few tens of metres apart, rather than hundreds of kilometres, allowing ‘large-N’ experiments to be conducted. With these new instruments and data handling capabilities, we can collect high density data that are no longer aliased spatially.

In my AuScope role, I look forward to further bridging the gap between geophysical and geological observations, alongside AuScope Earth Imaging collaborators at Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, The University of MelbourneGeoscience Australia and state geological surveys.

Learn more about our Earth Imaging Program

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AuScope Strategy Workshop 2018

AuScope is excited to lead a Strategy Workshop on its current and future programs at the National Wine Centre of Australia in Adelaide between 18 – 19 October 2018. The event will include two parts, a Working Dinner on Thursday 18 October, and the Strategy Workshop on Friday 19 October. Community members and future collaborators, please join us in building the future of Australian geoscience research.


Here, we will provide current and future collaborators with an opportunity to:

  • Learn about AuScope’s charter, funding mechanism, and funding opportunities
  • Reflect on national geoscience priorities of the Decadal Plan for Australian Geoscience
  • Learn about AuScope’s current infrastructure (tools, data and analytics) programs and projects
  • Collectively ideate and discuss potential, collaborative AuScope programs and projects

With Australian research infrastructure faring well in the 2018 Federal Budget ($1.9B over 12 years), AuScope and our NCRIS peers are set to benefit enormously from both the sum and period of this funding, as are all Australians whose lives and environment are positively impacted by research innovation.

It is now critical that our Australian Earth and Geospatial research community responds to both known (and unknown) infrastructure funding opportunities (and limitations) with AuScope in the decade ahead, with consensus, and with Australia’s geoscience challenges front of mind.


Please RSVP by 31 July 2018. Please feel free to share this event around by:

  • Sharing this website URL:
  • Sharing our Twitter post, URL:
  • Sharing our LinkedIn post, URL:

Further Information:

More event details and information will be available in the months leading up to the event. If you have RSVP’ed, thank you! And we have you on our mailing list.

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Australia races towards futuristic location-based services with high-precision positioning technology

There’s already been one revolution in navigation over the past couple of decades, with the change from printed maps to satellite navigation. Now there’s new technology on the way that will further transform the way we position ourselves on the globe.

In 2017, Western Australia’s growers harness precision agriculture in on-farm trails that use GPS technology. Soon positioning technology will become accurate to within ten centimetres or less nationally– a stepwise gain in agricultural optimisation. Image: Get Regional

With today’s satellite navigation technology we have the ability to access positioning information at the touch of a button, from in car navigation systems to smartphones and activity trackers on our wrists.

With help from AuScope, the next generation of positioning technology will accelerate new and innovative uses of positioning information – many of which are yet to be imagined.

A big leap in accuracy, availability, and reliability is being made available free across Australia, thanks to the Australian Government’s commitment in Budget 2018-19.  The investment of $224.9 million will allow Geoscience Australia to develop world-leading positioning capabilities that will help shape the future of industry and business in Australia.

Geoscience Australia will dedicate $160.9 million of that investment to develop an operational Satellite Based Augmentation System, commonly known as SBAS. An SBAS will deliver corrected positioning signals, such as that received from GPS, directly to the user through satellite technology, improving the accuracy, availability, and reliability along the way. An SBAS will ensure reliable positioning data accurate to 10 centimetres is available throughout Australia, including its maritime jurisdiction.

Schematic diagram of SBAS where positioning accuracies of 10 cm will be available across Australia, providing a world of possibilities for new technologies. Image: Geoscience Australia

The remaining $64 million is dedicated to upgrading Australia’s Global Navigation Satellite Systems, GNSS network through the National Positioning Infrastructure project. The project will establish the necessary ground infrastructure to enable data from global networks of satellites to be tracked, verified and optimised for precise positioning with an accuracy of three centimeters across Australia in areas with mobile coverage.

Together these projects aim to build an integrated and interoperable capability that will provide instant, accurate and reliable positioning information for all Australians anytime and anywhere across our nation.

The majority of Australians can only position to 5 metres accuracy with current technology. In the near future, the NPI will provide accuracy of 3cm in areas with mobile coverage, enabling emerging innovation such as semi-autonomous vehicles to enter existence. Image: Geoscience Australia


Today, accurate positioning technology requires dedicated equipment with the right hardware, software and communication links – and this is expensive.

Australia stands to benefit significantly from building upon the hundreds of ground stations that have been installed across Australia by private industry, and federal, state, territory and local governments.

AuScope Geospatial played a key role in the development of this infrastructure, with a critical injection of funding and establishment of the framework under which Geoscience Australia has worked with state and territory governments to build world-class GNSS infrastructure. This includes a network of over 100 GNSS ground stations and the systems and tools to deliver data to the science and research community.

Dr. John Dawson at Geoscience Australia describes the critical nature of AuScope’s GNSS infrastructure for the positioning program, which government and industry have become really excited about:

“The AuScope GNSS network will be an integral part of the NPI project, contributing to an interoperable network of ground stations across Australia. This network will help enable centimetre accurate positioning which is essential for a wide range of applications, now and into the future”.

The AuScope GNSS network will be used to observe signals from the GNSS satellites for Geoscience Australia to analyse and compute corrections which can be utilised by the user.

“We knew there would huge benefits from positioning technology, but we didn’t realise how quickly we’d be in the position where, not only can we make corrections to achieve greater accuracy, but will be able to provide decimetre accuracy across the whole of Australia,” explains Dr. Dawson.

Using the accurate positioning data from Geoscience Australia, commercial providers will be able to value add and provide additional capabilities for their customers.

Impact on industry sectors

Improving Australia’s positioning capability is more than realising driverless car technology and improving location services on a smartphone, Dr. Dawson says:

“It’s about helping farmers reduce costs and waste, enabling the Royal Flying Doctor Service to land in adverse weather conditions, making it easy to dock a cruise ship in a busy port like Sydney Harbour, and improving safety on construction and mining sites.”

The future of driving was on show at the 2017 Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, as VicRoads tested a highly automated driving (HAD) vehicle fitted with world-first satellite positioning technology. Image: Bosch via Business Insider Australia.

The technology will help grain growers to control sowing and harvesting along accurately guided tracks – maximising the cropping area and increasing yields.

In mining, positioning technology is already used extensively for activities right along the production chain, from surveying sites to extracting ore and transporting it.

‘In Perth, the mining company Rio Tinto has a central hub where the staff are operating trucks, trains, conveyor belts and transporting mining ore, all behind a computer screen using positioning technology,’ Dr. Dawson said.

Image: Alexandra Pugachevsky via Wikimedia Commons

In construction, this technology is used for site surveying and machine guidance.

And in research, highly accurate positioning allows geodesists to monitor changes in movement of the Earth’s crust, which tells us about the rate of plate motion, stress build up and even seasonal changes in the groundwater.

Location-based services is a market that is anticipated to grow significantly with accurate and reliable positioning technology. For example, positioning technology will transform the way we will locate underground utility services. In future, by standing with a smartphone or tablet at a building site, you could identify exactly where underground pipes or cables are located.


There are six global navigation satellite positioning systems, operated by the United States, Russia, Japan, the European Union, China, and India. Together these systems have more than 80 satellites orbiting the Earth. Australia is one of few countries that can receive positioning signals from all six systems.

Schematic showing the six global satellite positioning systems, which together have more than 80 satellites orbiting the Earth. Image: Geoscience Australia

Each satellite transmits information about its position and the current time. The signals are picked up by your receiver, such as a smartphone or car navigator. The receiver calculates how far away each satellite is based on the time it took for the messages to arrive. Using the location of at least four satellites and their distance from you, the receiver pinpoints your location.

But small errors creep into the measurements made by the navigation receiver. There are several causes, including a slight slowing of radio waves through the ionosphere, variations in satellite timing and variations in satellite orbit.

Even accounting for these errors, existing systems identify a user’s location with an accuracy of five metres.

That is the system used today in car navigation systems and in smartphones.

By correcting these errors, Geoscience Australia will significantly improve the accuracy of satellite positioning in Australia.

It will achieve this through, two projects – SBAS and the NPI project.

This article was written by ProofPoint Advisory consultant, Robert Garran, and edited by AuScope communications and Geoscience Australia.

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Endless volcanic eruptions like Jupiter’s Io for early Earth?

There is a mystery in Earth’s ancient past, and the clues lie in ancient cratons of Australia and other places. What was the Earth like before the plates formed? AuScope’s Simulation and Modelling team led by Prof. Louis Moresi have a new theory.

The following article was originally published on Prof. Louis Moresi’s website and adapted for The University of Melbourne’s Pursuit article.

Recent models of the very early Earth showed that the planet could have been cooling rapidly by heat-pipe volcanism (just like Jupiter’s moon Io). Image shows the May 1954 eruption of Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. Credit: J.P. Eaton, May 31, 1954 [Public domain], via Wikicommons

Cratons are anomalously-strong regions of the continents that have largely resisted tectonic forces for billions of years. How such strong zones could be forged in a hot, low-viscosity, low stress, early-Earth has been a long-standing puzzle for geologists. Adam Beall, Katie Cooper and I have recently proposed that cratons were made by the catastrophic switching on of plate tectonics. An event in which the stresses were larger than they have ever been in the intervening 3 billion years (Beall et al, 2018).


The theory of plate tectonics describes how rigid plates move on the Earth’s surface but this really only applies to the oceanic plates. The continental crust is generally a great deal weaker and can crumple or stretch in response to movements of the oceanic plates forming mountain belts, rifts and low-lying basins.

Some of the oldest parts of the continental crust are an exception to this generalisation. These are regions that have experienced very little tectonic deformation in several billion years of existence. These cratons are thought to represent regions of greater strength and this contributes to their longevity. There is evidence that the deep lithosphere is as ancient as the crust and is anomalously thick and buoyant (e.g. Jordan,1975, O’Reilly et al, 2001, Cooper et al, 2013, 2016). We also think that the cratons formed from cool, thin lithosphere in the time before plate tectonics began and then thickened and strengthened to the point where they became effectively indestructible.

The problem with this idea has always been to explain how the hot, weak interior of the young Earth could generate enough stress to thicken strong lithosphere. Alternatively, if the lithosphere was weak too, what stopped it from falling apart by gravitational spreading while it cooled and ‘hardened’?

(A) Map of the Archean Cratonic crust (dark blue) identified from the Crust 1.0 and paleoproterozoic crust in pale blue. (B) A map of the relative thickness of crust to lithosphere (also from Crust 1.0) which tends to pick stable zones in blue shades from deforming zones in red.

New views

Recent models of the very early Earth showed that the planet could have been cooling rapidly by heat-pipe volcanism (just like Jupiter’s moon Io). Massive volcanism is enough to prevent plate tectonics from switching on, but when the Earth does cool down enough for the eruptions to slow, a catastrophic transition begins. Short, violent pulses of lithospheric foundering and overturn occur before steady plate motions take over (e.g. see Moore & Webb, 2014, Rozel et al. 2017).

We modeled what happens to the strong and buoyant material of the heat-pipe lid during these early-Earth overturn events. We found that the lid was crumpled up into large islands of thick, buckled and very strong lithosphere by the overturn of the cold, thick, stagnant boundary layer. Once the model Earth settled down to a more sedate form of steadily moving plates, the stresses never reached a level that could deform these remnants of the pre-plate-tectonic state.

Snapshots from this movie that show the initial failure of the cold lid after the heat-pipe mode stops (A), followed by repeated sloughing off of the cold boundary layer in (B) and a slow approach to steady state in (C) where the thick, crumpled lithosphere is shuffled around without deformation.

n the figure above, the green and grey stripes were initially horizontal layers at the upper surface of the planet and are folded by the foundering of the thick boundary layer. In these simulations, the boundary layer is shed in less than an overturn time. Each model craton experiences a few, closely spaced, shortening events the create a thick pile of material with intricate internal structures not unlike those seen in seismic images that have been attributed to early subduction (Bostock et al, 1998).

The model cratons form cold and from material that was originally crystallised at shallow depth. The formation is also a time of temperature inversion in the mantle: cool material is dumped at the core mantle boundary resulting in higher-than-average core heat flux. The phase of mobile-lid convection that follows this (analogous to plate tectonics in this kind of model) has high velocities near the surface, thin oceanic lithosphere and low stresses. In this environment the cratons are safe from harm and this remains true to the present day despite lithospheric thickness and ambient stresses gradually creeping higher.

Background Reading

The details behind the work described in this post:

  • Beall, A., Moresi, L. Cooper, C. M. Formation of cratonic lithosphere during the initiation of plate tectonics, Geology,, 2017

Papers on the longevity of the deep cratonic lithosphere:

  • O’Reilly, S. Y., W. L. Griffin, Y. H. P. Djomani, and P. Morgan (2001), Are lithospheres forever? Tracking changes in subcontinental lithospheric mantle through time, GSA Today, 11(4), 4–10.
    • Jordan, T. H. (1975), The continental tectosphere, Reviews of Geophysics, 13(3), 1–12, doi:10.1029/RG013i003p00001.

Read about the formation and structure of the ancient continental lithosphere:

  • Cooper, C. M., A. Lenardic, A. Levander, and L. N. Moresi (2013), Creation and Preservation of Cratonic Lithosphere: Seismic Constraints And Geodynamic Models, in Archean Geodynamics and Environments, vol. 164, pp. 75–88, American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.
  • Cooper, C. M., M. S. Miller, and L. Moresi (2016), The structural evolution of the deep continental lithosphere, Tectonophysics, 695, 1–89, doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2016.12.004.

Heat pipe models of the early Earth:

  • Moore, W. B., and A. A. G. Webb (2013), Heat-pipe earth, Nature, 501(7468), 501–505, doi:10.1038/nature12473.
  • Rozel, A. B., G. J. Golabek, C. Jain, P. J. Tackley, and T. V. Gerya (2017), Continental crust formation on early Earth controlled by intrusive magmatism, Nature, 545(7654), 332–335, doi:10.1038/nature22042.

The observations of structure in the ancient cratons:

  • Bostock, M.G., 1998, Mantle stratigraphy and evolution of the Slave province: Journal of Geophysical Research. Solid Earth, v. 103, p. 21183–21200,
  • Calò, M., Bodin, T., and Romanowicz, B., 2016, Layered structure in the upper mantle across North America from joint inversion of long and short period seismic data: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 449, p. 164–175,
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Seismology collaboration and support in response to PNG earthquake

On Monday 26 February, a major earthquake occurred in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, with a magnitude of 7.5 and a surface fault rupture length exceeding 100 km. The earthquake triggered many large landslides over a wide area, and resulted in a call for emergency care for around 270,000 people, and tragically over 150 known fatalities plus an unknown number missing. Many aftershocks ensued, with seven exceeding magnitude 6.0 and causing further fatalities.

Aid organisations such as CARE Australia and UNICEF continue to still seek donations.

AuScope’s Subsurface Observatory team was called to participate in Australia’s aftershock monitoring and hazard management response.

Landslides caused by PNG’s magnitude 7.5 earthquake in February 2018. Image: Gary Gibson

The earthquakes occurred along the northern boundary of the Australian tectonic plate, which is moving northward at about 70 mm per year producing the Southern Highlands Thrust and Fold Belt. The epicentral region is very remote, east of Tabubil and southwest of Mount Hagen.

Further north over the western part of PNG there is a complex series of sub-plates through the Bismarck Sea to the southern boundary of the Pacific Plate, with other similar complications in the east of PNG. The Southern Highlands plays a significant part in accommodating the relative motion between the Australian and Pacific plates.

Following the earthquake, AuScope’s Subsurface Observation Project was contacted by the Australian Earthquake Engineering Society. Having already engaged directly with PNG and Australian government agencies, AEES was seeking to assemble a mission to monitor subsequent seismic activity in the region, particularly to record strong motion from larger aftershocks, and to delineate faulting with more precise earthquake locations.

The nearest permanent seismograph providing data to the global network was typically at a distance of 500 to 600 kilometres, severely limiting location accuracy, especially earthquake depth estimates.

In addition to support from Geoscience Australia, Seismology Research Centre (SRC) and the Seismological Society of Australia, AEES were provided with extensive “in-country” assistance, including helicopter access by Oil Search (PNG) Ltd, and support from the Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory. This support proved crucial to the successful deployment of monitoring instruments throughout the region.

Landslides caused by PNG’s magnitude 7.5 earthquake in February 2018. Image: Gary Gibson

Seismologists Gary Gibson (University of Melbourne) and Kevin McCue (Aust. Seismological Centre) planned a temporary seismograph network, with sites north, east, south and west of the aftershock region, plus two within that region. They contacted a number of possible hosts in PNG and selected suitable sites that included a regional hospital, nearby villages and sites within OSL’s oil and gas fields.

Site selection and access was particularly challenging due to the extensive surface disruptions in a steep terrain frequently emphasised by major landslides. Despite the difficult terrain, the team were able to utilise concurrent aid flights, and even managed to locate one of the instruments to within 20km of the apparent mainshock epicentre.

The AuScope Subsurface Observation Project provided six high dynamic range triaxial accelerometers, which are well suited to aftershock monitoring applications. Three high resolution digital recorders were provided by AuScope and three were hired from SRC. To simplify deployment, solar panel power and telemetry of data were not used.

Subsequently, the response team has made a return visit to recover data from the recorders. Aftershock activity has diminished significantly, and some recorders will be removed on the next visit. There is a likelihood of a more permanent array with data telemetry being installed, and local operators are being trained in routine operation.

For more information please contact Gary Gibson.

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A new 3D extension for the AuScope Discovery Portal

AuScope Grid’s Informatics Platforms team at CSIRO Mineral Resources have developed a new website extension to the AuScope Portal ecosystem. With this, researchers will soon be able to discover and communicate 3D geological models that have been developed by researchers and government geological surveys of Australia.

Showing the AuScope Portal’s 3D modelling extension.

One of the main purposes of the website is to allow the user to unlock all the information that is held within the model. Not only can the user visually explore the model in three dimensions using WebGL technology, but the data collected as part of the modelling process can be revealed by querying a part of the model. In this way, the user can view borehole data, magnetics or gravity data, for example.

The model links to the AuScope portal and geoscience information services with the user able to, say, follow boreholes into the NVCL to obtain more detailed information about the geology. To complete the set of linkages, the 3D geological model website will be accessible from a data layer within the AuScope portal.

The team is currently working to realise the first part of the project: releasing the website with 3D visualisation capability in beta mode into the AuScope Portal ecosystem in 2018. Stay tuned on Twitter for announcement of its release.

The team will next realise the second part of the project: linking points in 3D space back to borehole data. This represents the main challenge, as borehole data must be first be findable. The team will work with geological surveys and working groups across the geoscience community to ensure that respective data will integrate to facilitate this linkage.

But this challenge also represents most exciting part of the project since it offers the most impact for researchers: a smooth workflow between making interpretations in 3D and then re-interrogating data. The team will undertake this work in the coming financial year, 2018/19.

For more information on this project please contact Program Director – Dr. Rob Woodcock.

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Testing new passive seismic techniques in South Australia

In April 2018, ANU seismologists headed to remote northern South Australia to test an exciting proof of concept in seismic surveying: a new and cheaper approach to producing detailed, crustal-scale cross sections of the Earth.

Field crew–left to right: Armando Arcidiaco, Rajesh Erigela, Dr. Michelle Salmon and Geoff Luton at the last seismic station at the eastern end of the array. Image: Dr. Michelle Salmon

Field manager, Dr. Michelle Salmon led the small team of four to install a 230km-long, dense passive seismic line in South Australia from Marla (west) to Oodnadatta (east), with seismic stations approximately every 3.5 km in places following the Oodnadatta Track.

This location targets an area where the team have previously identified a change in crustal thickness in seismic array data, from thick (48 km) at Marla to thin (28 km) at Oodndatta.

Map showing the locations of the seismic array. The Stuart Highway is shown in yellow, the Oodnadatta track is shown in magenta and the seismic stations are shown as blue squares.

The team aims to use seismic signals from both ambient noise and earthquakes to look at the lithospheric structure in detail. They hope that this project will be able to fill the gap between expensive active source seismic lines and larger aperture arrays to provide a detailed crustal scale cross section.

For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Michelle Salmon.

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Connecting at EGU 2018 and C3DIS

AuScope’s Grid team made a splash at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2018 in April, presenting new science and ideas on the VLBI radio-telescope array, internationally integrated data, and the virtual research environment for Earth Sciences.

This week it’s C3DIS in Melbourne, for a co-facilitated workshop with ESIP on fostering Australian and US collaboration in Earth and Environmental Sciences Informatics.

EGU 2018

Observations of the APOD satellite with the AuScope VLBI network
Andreas Hellerschmied (1), Lucia McCallum (2), Jamie McCallum (2), Jing Sun (3), and Johannes Böhm (1)

(1) Technische Universität Wien, Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, Vienna, Austria, (2) University of Tasmania, Australia, (3) National Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

The Chinese APOD (Atmospheric density detection and Precise Orbit Determination) satellite, launched in September 2015, is the first LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite co-locating three space-geodetic techniques including VLBI. Being equipped with a dual-frequency GNSS receiver, an SLR retro-reflector and a VLBI beacon transmit- ting DOR tones in the S and X band it can be considered as a first prototype of a geodetic co-location satellite in space. With the focus on VLBI observations we present a series of experiments carried out by the AuScope geodetic VLBI array in November 2016. We describe all steps integrated in the established process chain: the experiment design and observation planning, the antenna control and satellite tracking scheme, the correlation and derivation of baseline delays. In the subsequent data analysis which includes – for the first time – the estimation of reasonable satellite orbit offsets in the Vienna VLBI and Satellite Software (VieVS) post-fit residuals on the decimeter-level were found. These experiments represent the first end-to-end realizations of VLBI observations of a tie satellite on a LEO orbit, and are a valuable resource for future more sophisticated space tie satellite missions such as GRASP or E-GRASP/Eratosthenes.

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First steps towards internationally integrating data and services in the solid Earth sciences and beyond

Lesley Wyborn (1), Ben Evans (2), Kerstin Lehnert (2), Tim Rawling (3), Jens Klump (4), Kirsten Elger (5), Simon Cox (6), Helen Glaves (7), Mohan Ramamurthy (8), Erin Robinson (9), and Shelley Stall (10)

(1) Australian National University, National Computational Infrastructure, Acton, Australia (,, (2) Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbvia University, New York, USA (, (3) AuScope Ltd, Melbourne, Australia (, (4) Mineral Resources, CSIRO, Kensington, WA, Australia (, (5) GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany (, (6) Land and Water, CSIRO, Clayton, Vic, Australia (, (7) British Geological Survey, Nottingham, UK (, (8) EarthCube, UCAR, Boulder, USA (, (9) Earth Science Information Partners, Boulder, CO, United States (, (10) American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C., United States (

Globally, solid Earth science data are collected by large numbers of organizations across the academic, government and industry sectors. Spatially, the data collected covers multiple domains extending from the crust, through the lithosphere and mantle to the core. In all, many observed phenomena cross-national, if not continental, boundaries, and increasingly require international networks of researchers to address growing global challenges such as scarce non-renewable resources, risk reduction for natural hazards, and fundamental research on the nature of the planet.

The last decade has seen a dramatic growth in the number of online solid Earth science datasets and in online computational power, particularly utilising Cloud or HPC hosted data and compute resources. However, data in many of these online resources have inconsistent and incompatible data descriptions and formats, and as much as 80% of data processing effort is spent on discovering, cleaning and converting pre-existing data. Software is often developed locally around specific applications and data sources, with the side-effect of a multiplicity of software providing similar and overlapping functions.

To be able to address growing global research challenges, more attention needs to be paid to harmonising multiple metadata/data standards to enable globally discoverable and accessible data, and to enhancing standards that make data programmatically actionable from robust data platforms. Knowing that data and the data access meets agreed standards means that the software community can focus on developing better algorithms, rather than creating a myriad of ways of accessing the same data type in multiple formats. It will also be easier to create workflows for those outside of the more specialised research community.

Currently, there are established national efforts creating infrastructures that help connect solid Earth researchers. In the US these include the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) and the NSF’s EarthCube program, whilst in Australia, there have been rapid advancements in supporting e-Infrastructure with investments such as AuScope and the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI). In Europe equivalent, Horizon2020 projects are the Environmental Research Infrastructure Plus (ENVRIplus) and European Plate Observing System (EPOS). All are linking data, cyberinfrastructure and research developments across the academic and government sectors. Furthermore, more generic software from standards bodies now support many of the core requirements directly (e.g., W3C’s DCAT metadata vocabulary, W3C/OGC’s SOSA/SSN observations and sampling ontology, DataCite identifier and metadata systems).

What is needed now are mechanisms to internationally link these major infrastructures to provide not only efficiencies in funding but also an environment where the research efforts can create globally interoperable networks of solid Earth science data, information systems, software, and researchers. Furthermore, the solid Earth community also needs to understand how to build its data networks to be compatible with those of other communities. Data of similar forms are being collected ‘above Earth’ in the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, and pedosphere. To prepare for the future transdisciplinary science challenges, these data will be more valuable when linked with equivalent activities in data and services for environmental, atmospheric, climate and marine research.

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The AuScope Virtual Research Environment – a data-enhanced virtual laboratory for the solid earth sciences

Tim Rawling (1), Lesley Wyborn (2), Ryan Fraser (3), Ben Evans (2), and Carsten Friedrich (4)

(1) AuScope Ltd, Melbourne, Australia (, (2) NCI, ANU, Canberra, Australia, (3) CSIRO, Perth, Australia, (4) Data 61, Sydney, Australia

AuScope has been delivering physical, software and data research infrastructure to the Australian Solid Earth research community for over a decade. In that time, many new data products have been developed across the geophysics, geochemistry and geodesy sectors, along with related software tools to enable value-adding data manipulation through simulation and modelling. The data discovery, interoperability and delivery components of the infrastructure system have been provided by traditional portals and grid-based technologies such as the Spatial Information Services Stack (SISS) with Virtual Laboratory based tools developed somewhat independently.

A broad change in usage requirements and the international move towards Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) data principles has provided AuScope with an opportunity to develop a new Data Enhanced Virtual Laboratory (DEVL) that will provide much closer integration of data products, analytics and simulation tools, as well as mechanisms for delivering FAIR and linked data. The DEVL will form part of the broader AuScope Virtual Research Environment (AVRE) which will be developed over the next 5 years.

Funding from Australia’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) partners at the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NECTAR) and Research Data Services (RDS) will be utilised with co-contributions from AuScope to develop this new platform.

In the first instance, the DEVL component of the AuScope Virtual Research Environment will deliver geophysical datasets, passive seismic and magnetotellurics from AuScope’s AusLAMP and AusArray programs to support linked data workflows for laboratory information management systems for the Australian geochemistry and geochronology communities.

Subsequent development of the complete AuScope Virtual Research Environment will provide additional support for new data assimilation to enhance observational control on a prior model, as well as rapid three- dimensional geological model development, for Australia’s simulation, analytics and modelling communities.

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At the C3DIS Conference in Melbourne (28 – 31 May 2018), AuScope will help to present the E2SIP workshop:

Earth and Environment Science Information Partners – an Australia-US collaboration in Earth and Environmental Sciences Informatics

Simon Cox1, Lesley Wyborn2, Erin Robinson3, Siddeswara Guru4, Adrian Burton5, Jens Klump1, Tim Rawling6, Miles Nicholls7, Jonathan YuŒ

1 CSIRO, 2 NCI, 3 ESIP, 4 TERN, 5 ANDS, 6 AuScope, 7ALA

Addressing research problems in Earth and Environmental science commonly requires combining data from multiple sources. This is facilitated by the use of common practices, and with clear crosswalks between standard systems. However, earth and environmental science information is collected and maintained through many initiatives, agencies and projects, following a variety of application or domain specific practices, structures and formats. In Australia, multiple federal and state agencies, NCRIS facilities, Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) and other institutions are involved.

The Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) has addressed the issue in USA over the last 20 years, by building a formal community of practice, through regular meetings, workshops, and forums to discuss emerging technologies. Education and training are a key aspect of ESIP’s contribution. ESIP has been supported by NASA, NOAA, USGS and various foundations and scholarly organizations. Conventions, practices and standards developed through ESIP have also been influential internationally.

This workshop aims to facilitate the development of a similar community of practice in Australia, and transfer some of the technical and social techniques and achievements of ESIP into the Australian context. The program builds on a symposium on Linking Environmental Data and Samples hosted by CSIRO in Canberra, May 2017, and following that will be highly interactive, composed primarily of a set of thematic breakouts in which presentations are designed primarily to initiate a facilitated discussion, collaboration, shared view on future development and to explore international linkages with equivalent projects in ESIP.

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CEO’s Update 21/05/18

Dear community,

It has been an exciting couple of months for AuScope and our peers with the announcement of $1.9B of new funding for research infrastructure in Budget 2018.

Further afield, two devastating natural disasters have unfolded. In February, remote Papua New Guinea was hit with a magnitude 7.5 earthquake, high magnitude aftershocks, and extensive landslides, killing 150 people and placing 270,000 more in need of emergency care. Our researchers were called to monitor hazards in the region. And in May, Hawaii’s Kīlauea erupted from a new fissure, threatening livelihoods, property, and aviation.

New Funding

NCRIS’ new Commonwealth funding adds to the existing operational funds committed under NISA to bring the total investment to $4.1B over 12 years.

We would like to congratulate and thank the NCRIS team for their tireless work over recent years attempting to secure this funding which will benefit all Australian researchers.

AuScope is pleased to announce that $1.5M of new capital funding was allocated to the earth and geospatial sciences and that $40M of NISA funding will be available to support our program over the next five years.

Continuity of operational funding for AuScope over this period will ensure that Australia’s earth and geospatial science research infrastructure facilities continue to support the outstanding research that is being undertaken in the Earth’s most unique natural laboratory – the Australian Continent.

AuScope would also like to congratulate its Geospatial team at Geoscience Australia who were able to secure additional new funding for a number of programs under the National Positioning Infrastructure Program.  This is an outstanding result that highlights the impact of various iterations of AuScope investment, from both NCRIS and EIF programs, in the national geospatial capability managed by Geoscience Australia. A statement from GA’s CEO, Dr. James Johnson on Budget 2018 is available here.

AuScope’s latest plans for investment in substantial, new infrastructure and technologies that will underpin world leading industries in mining, energy, water and environment will continue to be developed in order to be implemented when additional funding becomes available toward the end of the current 4-year investment cycle.

To this end, and together with the nation’s Earth and Geospatial Sciences community, AuScope will now prepare to secure the next stage of investment over the next 18 months, starting with an independent review of its programs in June 2018, and community-wide Strategy Workshop in October 2018.

We look forward to engaging with all interested parties over the coming 6 months to ensure that the resulting investment plan will define a research infrastructure investment strategy that strongly supports the Australian earth and geospatial research community.

Cheers, Tim

Dr. Tim Rawling
CEO, AuScope Limited

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AuScope Announcement 17/05/18

AuScope receives new funding in Budget 2018 to support medium-term infrastructure operation

AuScope congratulates NCRIS on $1.9B of new funding that was announced under the Australian Government’s new Research Infrastructure Investment Plan this week. This brings the total government investment to $4.1B over a twelve year period. Of this, AuScope welcomes $1.5M of new capital funding to join $40M of pre-existing funding for operations across its current portfolio in the next five years.

“Continuity of operational funding for AuScope over the next five years will ensure that Australia’s earth and geospatial science research infrastructure facilities continue to support the outstanding research that is being undertaken in the Earth’s most unique natural laboratory– the Australian Continent” says Dr Tim Rawling, CEO of AuScope Limited.

This investment in Earth and Geospatial Sciences research infrastructure over the medium-term provides AuScope with an opportunity to review its infrastructure programs, and to develop a strategic investment plan to meet Australia’s Geoscience research infrastructure needs of the coming decade.

AuScope’s latest plans for investment in substantial, new world-leading infrastructure and technologies that will underpin world leading industries in mining, energy, water and environment, will continue to be developed in order to be implemented when additional funding becomes available toward the end of the current, five year investment cycle.

To this end, and together with the nation’s Earth and Geospatial Sciences community, AuScope will now prepare to secure the next stage of investment over the next 18 months, starting with an independent review of its programs in June 2018, and community-wide Strategy Workshop in October 2018.

As always, AuScope is committed to creating a sustainable and equitable future for all Australians by understanding and innovating with the precious resources and Earth systems of the Australian continent.


For press enquiries, please contact Jo Condon, AuScope Marketing Manager ––––– 0435 218 480


Download the PDF version here:

AuScope Budget 2018 Announcement – 17052018

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