Geology, Tectonics, Stratigraphy (incl. Biostratigraphy and Sequence Stratigraphy), Structural Geology, Archean tectonics, early life, global geodynamics.
Field of Research (FoR)
I am a Professor of Geology, with 28 years of mapping and research experience in a variety of structurally complex Precambrian terrains. My main interest is on the early history of the Earth and I have developed an international reputation for my work on Archean tectonics and the geological settings of early life on Earth. More recently, as Chair of the Precambrian Subcommission of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, I have commenced...view more
I am a Professor of Geology, with 28 years of mapping and research experience in a variety of structurally complex Precambrian terrains. My main interest is on the early history of the Earth and I have developed an international reputation for my work on Archean tectonics and the geological settings of early life on Earth. More recently, as Chair of the Precambrian Subcommission of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, I have commenced a wholescale review of Precambrian stratigraphy with the aim of revising the Precambrian timescale. My particular skills are mapping and the ability to integrate a wide range of geological data into 4-D models, from the craton to micrometre scale.
My research on early life has established a connection between the earliest putative fossil remains and low-temperature hydrothermal systems, and recognised that life in the early Archean was already diverse, occupying different niches. Through mapping and collaborative laboratory research, I have developed new and comprehensive geological models for the environments of Earth’s oldest fossils. This research has also helped to establish the biogenicity of ancient fossils, through a wide variety of tests based on field and laboratory studies in collaboration with experts from around the globe. The results have been widely published in major journals and have been used to refine models for the search for life on Mars.
My research in the Pilbara and Yilgarn cratons of Western Australia has placed me at the forefront of Archean tectonic studies, culminating with the recent publication of a book on “Earth’s Oldest Rocks” (Elsevier, 2007). I have also been guest editor for two special volumes of Precambrian Research (2004), and have authored more than 60 publications in international journals. Specifically, I have helped develop a comprehensive tectonic model for the Archean Pilbara craton over 800 Ma of crustal evolution, and recognised a fundamental change in tectonic processes on earth at c. 3.2 Ga, from vertical-dominated to horizontal-dominated tectonics, including modern-style plate tectonics.
I am also the Assistant Director of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, co-leader of IGCP-SIDA Project 599 “The Changing Early Earth”, and Core Member of the International Precambrian Research Centre of China. I am on the editorial boards of Precambrian Research, Geology, Astrobiology, and Episodes.
I have presented numerous talks at a variety of international specialist and general meetings, both as an invited and keynote speaker, most recently at the European Union of Geosciences meeting in Vienna, and at Goldschmidt2011 in Prague. In 2005, together with Prof. Malcolm Walter (Director, Australian Centre for Astrobiology), I co-organised a field and laboratory workshop on early life on Earth for the international astrobiology community, which was filmed to make a NASA public education outreach program that is available for schools in the USA, UK, Australia, and is online and presented in musea. I have led numerous fieldtrips through the Pilbara Craton for a variety of groups, including the 34th IGC in 2012, 5th International Archean Symposium 2010, and Goldschmidt 2006.
I have contributed to public outreach through public lectures and contributions to several television documentaries on early Earth, including programs for National Geographic Channel (“Birth of the Earth” in 2005; “Was Darwin Wrong?” in 2006), the BBC (“Atmosphere”, 2008), History Channel (“How life began” in 2007), Discovery Channel (“Making of Continents” in 2006; “Inside Planet Earth” in 2008), and Spanish television.