The ability to determine accurately the elemental and isotopic compositions of rocks, minerals, soils and waters is central to our understanding of the processes that have formed, and continuously modify the Earth. Armed with these skills it is possible to address fundamental questions from the formation of landscapes and timing of events in the remote geological past, to the nature of climate and ecosystem change. In brief, geochemical studies help us to unravel the history of our dynamic planet. These skills are applicable to a wide range of research fields and our interests are correspondingly diverse. Here are a few examples of the things that we do..


PALAEOCLIMATE RESEARCH

 

We study speleothems (stalagmites and flowstones) to obtain records of past climate variation - temperature, rainfall, and vegetation histories (through pollens trapped during speleothem growth). Our studies span many different cave systems throughout the world producing climate records for the past 20 million years of Earth history and beyond. Records from the recent past help to understand our future climate trajectory while those from the more distant past help to interpret landscape evolution and biodiversity changes through time.

If this interests you please consider visiting our sister website:

www.speleothemscience.org


Galleria delle stalattiti, Monte Corchia, Italy

Some recent publications in this area (see full Publications list for more examples):

Sniderman, K., Woodhead, J., Hellstrom, J., Jordan, G.J., Drysdale, J.J., Porch, N (2016) The Pliocene as a reversal of late Neogene acidification. P.N.A.S. doi/10.1073/pnas.1520188113 .

(this article was widely covered in the media attracting intense local (e.g., SMH, The Age, Australian Geographic) and global (e.g., BBC World Service, UK Daily Mail, Xinhua News) media interest) e.g., 

The Age article

Columbu, A., Chiarini, V., De Waele, J., Drysdale, R., Woodhead, J., Hellstrom, J., Forti, P. (2017) Late quaternary speleogenesis and landscape evolution in the northern Apennine evaporate areas, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, in press.

Frisia, S., Weyrich, L.S., Hellstrom, J.C., Borsato, A., Golledge, N.R., Anesio, A.M., Bajo, P., Drysdale, R.N., Augustines, P.C., Rivard, C., Cooper, A. (2017) The influence of Antarctic subglacial volcanism on the global iron cycle during the Last Glacial Maximum. Nature Communications 8.

Woodhead, J., Hand, S., Archer, M., Graham, I., Sniderman, K., Arena, D.A., Black, K., Godthelp, H., Creaser, P., Price, E. (2016) Developing a radiometrically-dated chronologic sequence for Neogene biotic change in Australia, from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of Queensland. Gondwana Research, 29, 153-167.

Baker, A., Hellstrom, J.C., Kelly, B.J.F., Mariethoz, G., Trouet, V (2015) A composite annual-resolution stalagmite record of North Atlantic climate over the last three millennia. Scientific Reports 5, dii: 10.1038/srep10307

Oerter, E.J., Sharp, W.D., Oster, J., Ebeling, A., Valley, J.W., Kozdon, R., Orland, I., Hellstrom, J.C., Woodhead, J.D., Hergt, J.M., Chadwick, O.A., Amundson, R (2015) Pedotherm carbonates reveal anomalous North American atmospheric circulation 79,000 to 55,000 years ago. P.N.A.S., doi/10.1073/pnas.1515478113 .


MANTLE GEOCHEMISTRY

 

Our research encompasses volcanic products from many different tectonic settings including subduction zones, intraplate basalts, mid-ocean ridges, back-arc basins and more unusual magmas such as kimberlites and carbonates. All of these help us to understand the chemical composition and evolution of the Earth's mantle through geological time.

Peridotite xenolith, Mortlake, Western Victoria 2nd year undergraduate field trip


Peridotite xenolith, Mortlake, Western Victoria 2nd year undergraduate field trip

Some recent publications in this area (see full Publications list for more examples):

Giuliani, A., Soltys, A., Phillips, D., Kamenetsky, V.S., Maas, R., Goemann, K., Woodhead, J.D., Drysdale, R.S., Griffin, W.L. (2016) The final stages of kimberlite petrogenesis: petrography, mineral chemistry, melt inclusions and Sr-O-C isotope geochemsitry of the Bultfontein kimnberlite (Kimberley, South Africa). Chemical Geology 455, 22-31.

Woodhead, J., Hergt, J., Giuliani, A., Phillips, D., Maas, R (2017) Tracking continental-scale modification of the Earth's mantle using zircon megacrysts. Geochemical Perspectives Letters. 4,1727.

Kirchenbaur, M., Maas, R., Ehrig, K., Kamenetsky, V.S., Strub, E., Ballhaus, C., Munker, C (2016) Uranium and Samarium isotope studies of the supergiant Olympic Dam Cu-Au-U-Ag deposit, South Australia, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 180, 15-32.

Rossi, P.A., Eggins, S.M., Nesbitt, R.W., Nebel, O., Hergt, J.M., Campbell, I.H., O'Neill, H.St.C., Van Kranendonk, M., Davies, D.R. (2016) Petrogenesis and geochemistry of Archean komatiites. Journal of Petrology doi: 10.1093/petrology/egw004.

 


GRANITE PETROGENESIS

 

Granites tell us a great deal about the formation and evolution of the Earth's continental crust (where we all live!). Our research concentrates predominantly on the extensive granites of the Lachlan Fold Belt of southeastern Australia using advanced geochronological methods and isotopic analysis.

Field sampling (granites are hard!), Lachlan Fold Belt, N.S.W., Australia

Field sampling (granites are hard!), Lachlan Fold Belt, N.S.W., Australia

Some recent publications in this area (see full Publications list for more examples):

Iles, K.A., Hergt, J.M., Sircombe, K.N., Woodhead, J.D., Bodorkos, S., Williams, S. (2015) Portrait of a reference material: zircon production in the Middledale Gabbroic Diorite, Australia, and its implications for the TEMORA standard. Chemical Geology, 402, 140-152.

Maas, R., Grew, E.S., Carson, C.J. (2015) Isotopic constraints (Pb, Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd) on the sources of Early Cambrian pegmatites with boron and beryllium minerals in the Larseman Hills, Prydz Bay, Antarctica. Canadian Mineralogist, 53, 249-272.


ANALYTICAL TECHNIQUE DEVELOPMENT

 

Investigation of the fundamental processes behind inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS) and development of innovative and robust methodologies for both bulk and in situ geochemical analysis by laser ablation is one of our key analytical development research goals.

Ablation pit in NIST glass measured using laser confocal scanning microscopy. See Marillo-Sialer et al. (2014) Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry

Ablation pit in NIST glass measured using laser confocal scanning microscopy. See Marillo-Sialer et al. (2014) Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry

Some recent publications in this area (see full Publications list for more examples):

Woodhead, J., Horstwood, M.S.A., Cottle, J. (2016) Advances in isotope ratio determination by LA-ICP-MS. Elements 12, 317-322.

Paul, B., Hare, D.J., Bishop, D.P., Paton, C., Nguyen, V.T., Cole, N., Niedwiecki, M.M., Andreozzi, E., Vais, A., Billings, J.L., Bray, L., Bush, A.I., McColl, G., Roberts, B., Adlard, P.A., Finkelstein, D.I., Hellstrom, J., Hergt, J.M., Woodhead, J.D., Doble, P.A. (2015) Visualising mouse neuranatomy and fucntion by metal distribution using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry imaging. Chem. Sci. 6, 5383.

Creech, J.B., Paul, B (2014) IsoSpike: Improved double-spike inversion software. Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research, 39, 7-15.

Marillo-Sialer, E., Woodhead, J., Hergt, J., Greig, A., Guillong, M., Gleadow, A., Evans, N & Paton, C (2014) The zircon ‘matrix effect’: evidence for an ablation rate control on the accuracy of U-Pb age determinations by LA-ICP-MS, Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 29, 981-989.


ARCHAEOMETRY

 

Isotopic and trace element analysis can be used to indicate the provenance of many archaeological artefacts such as stone tools, metallic objects (coins, nails, lead weights), and ochres. We have strong collaborations with a number of archaeology groups, and are actively developing new provenance methodologies and software solutions in this area.

The Croatian Appoxiomenos, see Mudronja et al. (2010) Journal of Archaeological Science 

The Croatian Appoxiomenos, see Mudronja et al. (2010) Journal of Archaeological Science 

Some recent publications in this area (see full Publications list for more examples):

Green, H., Gleadow, A., Finch, D., Hergt, J., Ouzman, S (2017) Mineral deposition systems at rock sites, Kimberley, Northern Australia -  Field observations. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 14, 340-352.

Michel, V., Shen, C-C., Woodhead, J., Hu, H-M., Wu, C-C., Moullé, P-E., Khatib, S., Couche, D., Moncel, M-H., Valensi, P., Choiu, Y-M., Gallet, S., Echassoux, A., Orange, F., de Lumley, H. (2017) New evidence of the early presence of hominids in Southern Europe. Scientific Reports. 7: 10074

Hellstrom, J., Pickering, R. (2015) Recent advances and future prospects of the U-Th and U-Pb chronometers applicable to archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Science, 56, 32-40.

Swift, J., Cupper, M.L., Greig, A., Westaway, M.C., Carter, C., Santoro, C.M., Wood, R., Jacobsen, G.E., Bertuch, F (2015) Skeletal arsenic of the pre-Columbian population of Caleta Vitor, northern Chile. Journal of Archaeological Science 58, 31-45.

 


SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

 

'Iolite' is a software package originally intended for deconvolution of data obtained by laser ablation ICPMS (although now also used for TIMS and solution ICPMS data too). Developed over a period of many years by our research group, the code is now available commercially and is used in research labs worldwide. Visit the Iolite website here.

We are also working on two new software projects, one for the biosciences (3D imaging) and another for archaeological provenance studies. Watch this space!

Laser ablation map of an alkali gabbro from Tahiti, see Paul et al (2014) Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research.

Laser ablation map of an alkali gabbro from Tahiti, see Paul et al (2014) Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research.

Some recent publications in this area (see full Publications list for more examples):

Paul, B., Woodhead, J.D., Paton, C., Hergt, J.M., Hellstrom, J., Norris, C.A. (2014) Towards a method for quantitative LA-ICP-MS imaging of multi-phase assemblages: mineral identification and analysis correction procedures. Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research, 38, 253-263.

Paul, B., Paton, C., Norris, A., Woodhead, J., Hergt, J., Greig, A (2012) CellSpace: a module for creating spatially registered laser ablation images within the Iolite freeware environment. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 27, 700-706.