AuScope travel bursaries take flight

In 2016, AuScope awarded three $10,000 travel bursaries to researchers for their outstanding contribution to science using AuScope infrastructure. We caught up with Dr. Simon Johnson, Associate Prof. Hrvoje Tkalčić, and Gary Johnson to learn about the ongoing impact of their travels.

Dr. Simon Johnson of the Geological Survey of WA: Application of Science Award

Outcrop of Cretaceous-aged high-grade magmatic paragneiss (Swakane Gneiss) within the North Casacades crystalline core, with geologist for scale. Image: Dr Simon Johnson.

Outcrop of Cretaceous-aged high-grade magmatic paragneiss (Swakane Gneiss) within the North Casacades crystalline core, with geologist for scale. Image: Dr Simon Johnson.

Dr. Simon Johnson was awarded for his role in leading the seven-year, Deep Crustal Structure of the Capricorn Orogen program, a successful, collaborative project that combined diverse expertise and geological datasets which resulted in enhanced mineral resource prospectivity for the region (Johnson et al., 2013; Fielding et al., 2017). With this bursary, Simon was able to present program results at the Geological Society of America conference (GSA2017) in Seattle, Washington in late October 2017.

The multi-themed, multi-disciplinary GSA2017 conference bought together over 4000 delegates, presenting at 393 technical sessions, running concurrently over four days. And it catered for the widest range of topics possible from hard and soft rock geology of the Hadean to the present-day, through hydro and environmental geology to lunar, Martian and extra-terrestrial geology.

The work presented by Dr Johnson was well received with particular interest from exploration geologists and geophysicists who were amazed at how many different datasets had been produced and integrated to provide such an unprecedented view of the Capricorn Orogen crust. The datasets included both active and passive seismic, magnetotelluric, magnetic and gravity data as well as extensive geochronological, isotopic and geochemical data.

The funding also allowed Dr Johnson to attend a three-day pre-conference field trip through the North Cascades volcanic arc to examine how sedimentary rocks are incorporated into the mid-crustal portions of active arc systems.

This trip was particularly relevant to the geological history of the Capricorn Orogen as it provided a well-exposed, well-studied Phanerozoic equivalent to the Paleoproterozoic Dalgaringa Arc that also contains abundant metasedimentary enclaves, some containing over a million ounces of gold (Roche et al., 2016).

Although the weather was cold and particularly wet, with some snow at altitude, the field trip was extremely well run and provided a great insight into the living dynamics of active arc systems.

The trip provided answers to some long-lived questions about the regional-scale geological evolution of the Capricorn Orogen that previously could not be answered due to the strongly deformed and deeply dissected nature of this part of the orogen. In particular it highlighted how apparently inconspicuous faults may in fact be major crustal structures that have accommodated thousands of km’s of transpressional displacement during active arc magmatism.

Dr Johnson greatly appreciates the funding provided by AuScope in order to attend and present at GSA 2017 and hopes that the ‘Team Australia’ collaboration can continue for many years to come.


Fielding, IOH., Johnson, SP., Zi, J-W., Rasmussen, B., Muhling, JR., Dunkley, DJ., Sheppard, S., Wingate, MTD and Rogers, JR. 2017. Using In Situ SHRIMP U-Pb Monazite and Xenotime Geochronology to Determine the Age of Orogenic Gold Mineralization: An Example from the Paulsens Mine, Southern Pilbara Craton. Economic Geology 112, p. 1205–1230.

Johnson, SP., Thorne, AM., Tyler, IM., Korsch, RJ., Kennett, BLN., Cutten, HN., Goodwin, J., Blay, O., Blewett, RS., Joly, A., Dentith, MC., Aitken, ARA., Holzschuh, J., Salmon, M., Reading, A., Heinson, G., Boren, G., Ross, J., Costelloe, RD and Fomin, T. 2013. Crustal architecture of the Capricorn Orogen, Western Australia and associated metallogeny. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 60, p. 681–705.

Roche, LK., Korhonen, FJ., Johnson, SP., Wingate, MTD., Hancock, EA., Dunkley, DJ., Zi, J-W., Rasmussen, B., Muhling, JR., Occhipinti, S., Dunbar, M and Goldsworthy, J. 2017. The evolution of a Precambrian arc-related granulite facies gold deposit: Evidence from the Glenburgh deposit, Western Australia. Precambrian Research 290, p. 63–85.

Associate Prof. Hrvoje Tkalčić of ANU: Excellence in Research Achievement Award

Excerpt from the cover of Associate Prof. Hrvoje Tkalčić’s The Earth’s Inner Core book, which culminates his recent years of work. Image: Associate Prof. Hrvoje Tkalčić.

Excerpt from the cover of Associate Prof. Hrvoje Tkalčić’s The Earth’s Inner Core book, which culminates his recent years of work. Image: Associate Prof. Hrvoje Tkalčić.

Last year, we learned of Associate Prof. Hrvoje Tkalčić’s Massachusetts-Madrid-Zagreb-Seoul trip to communicate and promote his award-winning work on Earth’s core, and conduct collaborative research on the same topic. Hrvoje will soon wind up from his travel circuit with research presentations in Kobe and Perth this year.

Funded travel opportunities, such as these, are critical for scientists, explains Hrvoje. Researchers must “receive feedback from their fellow researchers and help maintaining reputation of their and their’s group research.”

Additionally, he says these opportunities to promote Australian research are invaluable. “I am sure that helped contribute to informing the world’s geophysical community that there is a program in Australia that is unique but at the same time similar in scope to EarthScope and other initiatives worldwide.”

Since his trips, Hrvoje has noticed an increased number of high-quality PhD applications from overseas, and also an increased interest of international colleagues to visit his ANU research group in Australia.

“…it is highly likely that the Award contributed significantly in increasing my national and international reputation.” Hrvoje remarks.

Awards like AuScope’s help Hrvoje to continue pursuing blue skies research, which, he says “is extremely important in today’s project-driven environment and universities adopting corporate management models.”

“Risk taking fundamental research in global seismology and tackling big unanswered questions is what I attribute most success of my career in geophysics to so far” he says.

“AuScope with its facilities and seismological data, recorded and collected, goes hand-in-hand with my research in global seismology.”

Hrvoje’s research has led to a recent discovery of Earth’s correlation wavefield, which provides a new view of the Earth’s seismic wavefield, and will have major repercussions for the field of seismology and Earth imaging. Be sure to stay tuned for updates on this topic of great international interest.

Next, he hopes to deploy an onshore-offshore seismic experiment near the MacQuarie Ridge Complex in the Southern Ocean, which would include recently purchased, AuScope Ocean Bottom Seismometers.

The newly collected data will elucidate the processes generating the world’s largest submarine earthquakes not associated with active subduction, and illuminate exhumation of normal oceanic lithosphere.

Project outcomes will impact earthquake and tsunami hazard assessment, benefitting policy-makers and at–risk communities along the southeast Australia coastline. Furthermore, the global Earth science community will benefit from insights on how plate boundaries evolve.

Discover Hrvoje’s career research achievements here.

Gary Johnson of Geoscience Australia: AuScope Collaboration Award

Attendees at Geoscience Australia’s GNSS workshop in 2017. Image: John Dawson.

Attendees at Geoscience Australia’s GNSS workshop in 2017. Image: John Dawson.

Gary Johnson was awarded with the AuScope Collaboration bursary for work on the GNSS Network, which provides the geodetic framework for the spatial data infrastructure in Australia and its territories. Geoscience Australia use the AuScope award funding to host a 2-day workshop on Australia’s GNSS infrastructure.

Attendees from State and Territory land and survey agencies were funded to come to Canberra to meet with Geoscience Australia, private sector positioning service providers and GNSS researchers. The workshop enabled some reflection on the progress and the successes of the AuScope GNSS project, identify future challenges and opportunities, and plan for the future of Australia’s National Positioning Infrastructure (NPI).

The Workshop reviewed implementation details of Australia’s new national datum which was underpinned by AuScope’s GNSS array. This national datum update will help ensure all spatial and mapping data in Australia remains current for the foreseeable future. 

The attendees learnt how the AuScope GNSS array is finding wide application in positioning applications particularly in the agricultural sector where it used for machinery guidance and the operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

The group also discussed the future challenge of using the AuScope GNSS array for applications in automated and intelligent cars, and learnt about how the GNSS array is being used to support the Australian and New Zealand government’s testing of a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS).

This project has already improved the performance of GPS for all Australians from 2-5 metres accuracy to around 0.5 metre accuracy. At the time of writing (with plans to test a 10cm accurate positioning service in the coming months.

Jo Condon