coverGEMOC's research program

The research aims


• to understand how Earth's core-mantle system controls crustal tectonics, and the assembly and destruction of continents through time

• to map the spatial and temporal distribution of elements, rock types and physical and chemical conditions within this system

• to understand the processes responsible for the evolution of Earth’s chemical reservoirs

• to use quantitative modelling to simulate and understand Earth’s geodynamic evolution

• to define the systematics of element redistribution in the mantle and crust

• to define timescales of magmatic and erosional cycles

• to understand mantle melting dynamics, the influence of recycled components and their ultimate contribution to plumes and the subcontinental lithosphere

• to constrain models of the crust and lithospheric mantle from geophysical datasets, through integration of geophysical, petrological and geochemical information

• to define the tectonic and geochemical processes that have created distinct crustal and mantle domains through time

• to produce and interpret maps of lithosphere thickness and lithospheric mantle type at the present day and for selected time (and location) slices through Earth’s geological evolution

• to provide a new framework for area selection for a wide spectrum of economic deposits, by linking deep Earth models and processes to the formation of metallogenic provinces

• to define the timing of events and processes in the crust and mantle to understand crust-mantle linkages

• to develop collaborative links with international institutions and researchers relevant to GEMOC’s goals

GEMOC aims "to understand how Earth's core-mantle system controls crustal tectonics, and the assembly and destruction of continents through time."



Thermal energy transmitted from the deep earth (core and convecting mantle) provides the energy to drive lithosphere-scale processes. Mantle-derived fluids and the tectonic environment control element transfer across the crust-mantle boundary and control commodity distribution in the accessible crust. The nature of mantle heat transmission reveals information on fundamental deep Earth processes from the core-mantle boundary to the surface. The lithology of the Earth's lithosphere can be mapped using fragments of deep materials such as mantle rocks and diamonds, and the compositions of mantle-derived magmas. Timescales can be measured from billions of years to tens of years.

What drives the heat engine that powers the Earth's magnetic field and drives mantle convection? We do not clearly understand this, because we do not know the concentrations of heat-producing radioactive elements (K, U, Th) in the lower mantle and the core, and how these may have changed with Earth's evolution. Experimental studies of Earth materials at extreme conditions will provide new constraints for modelling of the mantle and the evolution of the early Earth.

The focus of GEMOC's research programs is the driving role of the convecting mantle in Earth processes and its control of element concentration and distribution in the accessible crust. This bottom-up approach involves:

•  Understanding Earth's internal dynamics and the generation of the present chemical and physical structure of our planet through time

•  Understanding the location of different types of metallogenic provinces by defining the links between:

•     mantle evolution, type and processes

•     crustal generation

•     large-scale tectonics

•     heat, fluid and element transport

•  Integration of information across disciplines, especially petrology, geochemistry, geodynamics, geophysics and tectonics



The Research Program for 2010-2010 follows the topics of the funded projects listed in Appendix 5; all contribute to the four strands (described below) that were established to achieve GEMOC’s vision and goals. Summaries of funded basic research projects are given below and some of the collaborative industry research projects are summarised in the section on Industry Interaction.

The Research Program for the first six years focussed on four strands: the current Research Program has extended the scope of these original strands and is pushing into new conceptual and technology frontiers, building on our intellectual capital from the first phase of GEMOC and the new expertise in the Earth and Planetary Evolution CoRE.

Major changes will flow from the establishment from mid-2011 of the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems which will incorporate much of the research of GEMOC.


•  Mantle Dynamics and Composition

forms the framework for advancing our knowledge of Earth’s geochemical and physical evolution. The thermal output driving Earth’s “engine” has declined exponentially through time, and the distribution of heat sources must have changed with the geochemical evolution of Earth. How has this secular cooling of Earth affected the internal driving forces, and what does this imply about changes in Earth dynamics through time? When did subduction processes begin? Novel approaches using redox-sensitive metal-isotope systems will be used to examine changes in the mantle’s oxidation state, and potentially provide, in combination with geochemical-petrological-thermomechanical models, constraints for the role and processes of subduction. These models will be used to study the evolution and stability of both oceanic and continental lithosphere.

Modelling of Earth’s thermal history, incorporating information about the present and past distribution of heat-producing elements and processes, will be used to test conceptual models for Earth’s internal dynamics through time. High-pressure experimental approaches will advance our understanding of deep Earth structure and properties, the nature of the accretion process, and the effects of core differentiation.

Lithosphere Mapping provides the fundamental data for defining lithospheric mantle domains in terms of composition, structure and thermal state. It represents the basis for any evolutionary model of the Earth, as well as for understanding the relationships between geophysical observables (e.g. electrical conductivity, seismic velocity, etc) and the physical state of the Earth’s interior. Lithosphere profiles built up from this information are interpreted in the context of geophysical datasets (especially seismic tomography) to extrapolate laterally.

Recent developments towards an internally consistent geochemical-petrological-geophysical methodology to map lithospheric and sublithospheric upper mantle domains link with the other three Research Strands and are helping to define the large-scale evolution of mantle processes through time, and their influence on the development of the crust and metallogenic provinces. The nature of mantle fluids and the mantle residence and abundances of siderophile, chalcophile and noble elements, sulfur, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen and timescales of magmatic processes are keys to understanding the transfer of mineralising elements into the crust.


•  Geodynamics

uses stratigraphic, tectonic, and geophysical data to interpret the history and causes of continental assembly and disruption, with a special focus on Australia, East Asia and major cratons (Siberia, Africa, Canada, South America, India). It provides the fundamental framework to link the research on crustal and mantle processes with the localisation and development of metallogenic provinces. State-of-the-art numerical techniques that combine realistic rheologies, metamorphic reactions, and partial melting, are being used in 2D and 3D numerical simulations to test a range of different Earth models and understand deep Earth processes.  Planetary structure within the solar systemand comparisons with Earth parameters are being explored with geophysical datsets and integrated geodynamic modelling.


•  Crustal Generation Processes

seeks to understand the large-scale processes that have created and modified continental crust, how these processes may have changed through time, and how crustal processes influence the concentration and localisation of economically important elements. The role of crust-mantle interaction in granite genesis, coupled crust-mantle formation and its influence on tectonism, and transport of elements across the crust-mantle boundary link to the Mantle Dynamics and Composition and Metallogenic Provinces strands.


•  Metallogenic Provinces

seeks to define the mantle and crustal reservoirs of economically important elements, the mechanisms by which elements can be extracted from the mantle and transported into the crust, and the mechanisms of fluid transfer in the crust and mantle. The emphasis is on understanding processes of regional scale, and relating these processes to the tectonic framework and the processes of mantle and crustal generation.



Where in the world is gemoc?



Mantle Dynamics and Composition

Lithosphere mapping: Geochemical structure and evolution of continental lithosphere and interpretation of geophysical data Research Highlights

U-series applications to timescales of lithosphere processes Research Highlights

Experimental studies of mantle minerals: high pressure partition coefficients; water in mantle minerals; role of accessory minerals in controlling mantle fluid compositions

Mantle terranes and cratonic roots: Canada, USA, southern Africa, Siberia, eastern China, Australia, Brazil, India, Spitsbergen Research Highlights

Origin of mantle eclogites

The composition of Earth’s core and timing of core formation; core-mantle interaction Research Highlights

Interpretation of deep seismic tomography Research Highlights

Evolution of oceanic lithosphere: Kerguelen Plateau, Hawaii, Crozet Islands, abyssal peridotites Research Highlights

Diamonds: origin and clues to deep mantle and lithosphere evolution and structure Research Highlights

Basalts as lithosphere/asthenosphere probes

Plume compositions, sources and origins

Thermal framework of the lithosphere: paleogeotherms, heat production, conductivity, thermal evolution

Lithosphere extension processes and consequences in East Asia: Taiwan and eastern China Research Highlights

Constraints on the timing of depletion and fluid movements in lithospheric mantle of different ages, using a range of isotopic and trace-element methods, including Re-Os in mantle sulfides

Metal isotopes as tracers of lithosphere processes and Earth evolution

Planetary Analogues Research Highlights


Crustal Evolution and Crustal Processes

Timescales and mechanisms of magmatic processes and movement (U-series applications) Research Highlights

U-series analysis of weathering and erosion processes Research Highlights

Dating lower crust domains and tracking extent of Archean crust Research Highlights

Role of oceanic plateaus in the formation of oceanic and continental crust: Kerguelen

Tracers of magmatic processes: trace elements in accessory minerals

Hf-isotopic signatures of zircons (in situ LAM-ICPMS) as tracers of crust-mantle interaction in granites Research Highlights

Integrated in situ analysis of U-Pb ages, Hf-isotopes and trace-elements in detrital zircons to characterise the magmatic history of major crustal terrains ("Event Signatures"): applications of TerraneChron® in eastern China, South America, Canada, South Africa, Australia, India, Norway Research Highlights

Studies of detrital zircons in Paleozoic sediments: origins of terranes in Lachlan Fold Belt

Formation of Earth’s first silicic crust


U-series applications to timescales of fluid movement

Metal isotope applications to ore genesis Research Highlights

Geochemistry of mantle sulfides

Area selection and evaluation for diamond exploration

Diamond trace elements as clues to diamond formation

Lithosphere domains through time and location of ore deposits Research Highlights

Effect of deep mantle processes on lithosphere evolution and structure Research Highlights

Identification of plume types fertile for Ni and PGE mineralisation

Crust-mantle interaction, granites and metallogenesis through time

In situ Re-Os dating of mantle sulfides and timing of mantle processes

Application of 186Os to geochemistry and cosmochemistry

Highly siderophile element (including PGE) concentrations in sulfides and alloys (LAM-ICPMS) Research Highlights

Stable-isotope ratios of some important commodity elements (e.g. Cu, Fe, Zn, Mo) in a range of ore minerals and deposit types

Trace elements in diamonds - source fingerprinting and genetic indicators



Influence of mantle processes on crustal geology and topography - regional geotectonic analysis: Slave Craton (Canada), Siberia, eastern China, Australia, Kaapvaal Craton, India

Tasman Fold Belt: terrane analysis

Paleomagnetic studies of the northern New England Orogen

Subsurface pluton shape: Gravity studies

The role of east Antarctica in supercontinent assembly

Antarctic seismic studies

Nature of the lower continental crust, Fiordland New Zealand

The role of the Bering Sea in climate change over the last five million years

Plate margin processes (Papua New Guinea, Macquarie Island)

Geodynamic modelling of large-scale processes, integrating constraints from 4-D Lithosphere Mapping Research Highlights

Evolution of lithospheric composition and Earth geodynamics through time

Crustal heat flow Research Highlights

Planetary Analogues Research Highlights

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Annual Report 2010