Funded PhD in geochronology

A collaborative research project between Geoscience Australia, the Geological Survey of Western Australia and Curtin University.

Project background

Thick salt deposits may act as important containment for underground energy storage (hydrogen, hydrocarbon gas, compressed air). Australia has notable salt development in the Officer, Canning, Northern Carnarvon, Southern Carnarvon and Amadeus Basins (Western Australia), the Bonaparte Basin (Northern Territory) and in the Adavale Basin (Queensland). However, the age and local environmental conditions of salt formation in many of Australia's basins are unknown, or only indirectly constrained. Recent work has highlighted the potential of using either authigenic or volcanic / detrital apatite within salt to directly constrain the timing of salt growth or provide depositional age constraints and provenance information. Such geochronology may provide an important tool for stratigraphic correlation across regions and help to better understand basin genesis.

Thick evaporites may be bedded with an internal stratigraphy of co-precipitated evaporitic layers such as sulphates and carbonates, or sequences may lose their internal organisation due to deformation caused by diapiric and tectonic processes. Thus the stratigraphy of evaporites can be challenging to constrain due to the difficulty in imaging salt with geophysical tools and the ability of salt to move and act as a decollement layer. The precise age of salt, its internal stratigraphy, and its burial and exhumation history is often poorly constrained.

Apatite is rare in evaporites but has been observed to be present in evaporitic environments in specific layers. However, what constitutes favourable conditions for the presence of apatite remains unclear. This work will involve applying advanced quantitative mineral fingerprinting, apatite chemical and isotopic characterisation and dating (U-Pb, U/Th-He, /Lu-Hf) to better understand datable authigenic and detrital mineral phases from salt and related units in significant Australian sites.

Specifically, this project will contribute to a federally and state government funded research project. In addition to the PhD stipend, support for fieldwork, analytical and travel costs, publications, etc. will be fully covered by the project. The geological survey research partners will provide access to an extensive archive of sample material.

Applicant requirements

  • Must have a BSc Hons (first class) or Masters (by research) in geoscience (ideally related to geochemistry / isotope geology, sedimentology, geochronology or thermochronology) by the time of appointment.
  • We expect a solid background in geological processes and sedimentology or geochronology/geochemistry (LA-ICPMS U-Pb geochronology and/or (U-Th)/He/fission-track thermochronology expertise is especially valuable).
  • The candidate requires the ability to work both independently and with a broad range of people from diverse backgrounds, as well as evidence of strong oral and written scientific English language competencies.
  • The candidate requires a demonstrated commitment to publish results in scientific journals. Evidence of research experience, academic awards/publications/presentations at conferences is desirable.

Application details

Further information about the project and the specific application requirements may be found through the Curtin Scholarships website -

The deadline for complete applications (note specific requirements of endorsements on the scholarships webpage) is 25/05/2022 (Western Australia time, GMT+8). Preferably, applicants would start as soon as practically possible but we recognise arranging visas and travel may impact this (where relevant).

Applications via email with the email titled "Salt geochronology PhD" to

Applications failing to use the correct email title may not be considered.

Applications should contain a CV and a motivation statement.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an online interview.

Recommended applicants will be provided with further information on the PhD enrolment process at Curtin University (including upload of certified transcripts and demonstration of English language requirements).

About Curtin University and the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Curtin is a dynamic, research-intensive University consistently ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide. Curtin was recently ranked 34th in the world for Geology in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022. The disciplines of Geology and Geochemistry have both been awarded the maximum ranking of 5 in the recent federal government's "Excellence in Research for Australia" assessments.

The successful candidate will join a rapidly expanding dynamic research group - Timescales of Mineral Systems - within the highly ranked School of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

These factors, coupled with excellent analytical facilities (Ion Microprobe, Laser Ablation Split Stream Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometers, various petrographic and electron microscopes, etc.) ensures that candidates will be hosted within a vibrant and dynamic research environment and will receive exceptional research training.

posted: 26 April 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.