Current research

Integrating deep-earth and surface processes for frontier-basin exploration

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This industry-funded ARC project aims at investigating the interplay between plate kinematics, eustasy and mantle-driven topography in order to develop predictive models for frontier basin exploration.

Sea level has changed by up to 300m through geological time. These fluctuations, caused by plate tectonics and convection in the Earth's mantle, have created vast sedimentary basins and associated resources such as petroleum, natural gas and coal. In this project, we propose to bring together global 4D databases with cutting-edge 3D numerical simulations to reconstruct how mid-ocean ridge creation and the recycling of old, cold oceanic plates into the mantle have driven surface topography and sea-level change globally since the break-up of the super-continent Pangaea.

Linking lithosphere extension and plate kinematics

South Atlantic

[under construction] Focus on the evolution of the South Atlantic and associated African and South American intraplate rift systems. Developed a new plate kinematic model for the evolution of the pre-breakup evolution of the South Atlantic rift.

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GPlates-related research and development

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I am involved with the development of the open-source plate tectonic modelling software GPlates, partly contributing to the implementation of lithosphere deformation in plate tectonic models as well as to the information architecture for the XML/GML-based GPlates Information Model (GPGIM), and GPlates Markup Language (GPML).

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Formation of sedimentary basins, plate kinematics and basin evolution

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Broad intraplate basins often show a component of anomalous tectonic subsidence that is usually vaguely attributed to heterogenous basement ("accretionary crust") and which does not conform to the current understanding of rift basin evolution. In order to resolve the driving force and geodynamic framework for these long-term depositional regions, I am analysing a global set of more than 250 basins using various large scale geophysical data sets. The available crustal structure data is used to compute differential extension factor and quantify the amount of anomalous subsidence.

By integrating the crustal structure data into the EarthByte plate tectonic model and a global mantle convection framework I am able to analyse the long-term influence of dynamic topography on intra-continental basin evolution. So far, results indicate that most of the typical intracontinental basins experience a downward "mantle-drag" over the last 100 Ma, resulting in increasing negative dynamic topography and thus the creation of additional sediment accomodation space, which can not be detected with conventional basin modelling tools. Periods of basin inversion may also be linked to major changes in the dynamic topography gradient. This clearly indicates that the effects of mantle convection need to be considered in regional basin modelling studies.

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Completed projects

Plate kinematics, dynamic topography and Australian Palegeography

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It is well documented that the Cenozoic progressive flooding of Australia, contemporaneous with a eustatic sea level fall, requires a downward tilting of the Australian Plate towards the SE Asian subduction system. We combine plate kinematics with a global mantle backward-advection model based on shear-wave mantle tomography, paleogeographic data, eustatic sea level estimates and basin stratigraphy to reconstruct the Australian flooding history for the last 70 Myrs on a continental scale. We compute time-dependent dynamic surface topography and continental inundation of a digital elevation model adjusted for sediment accumulation. The overall, long-wavelength spatio-temporal pattern of Australia's inundation record is well captured by combining our modelled dynamic topography with a recent eustatic sea level curve. Our model suggests that today's geography of Australia is strongly dependent on mantle forces. Without mantle convection, which draws Australia down by up to 300 m, nearly all of Australia's continental shelves would be exposed. We conclude that dissecting the interplay between eustasy and mantle-driven dynamic topography is critical for understanding hinterland uplift, basin subsidence, the formation and destruction of shallow epeiric seas and their facies distribution, but also for the evolution of petroleum systems.

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Geology of a large submerged continental block: The Kenn Plateau
(RV Southern Surveyor cruise 05/2004)

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The Kenn Plateau region off northeast Australia in the northern Tasman Sea is a large submerged continental block that rifted off the eastern Australian margin during the opening of the Tasman Sea. The Southern Surveyor Cruise objective was to acquire geophysical and geological data from the Kenn Plateau to improve the understanding of the geological evolution and modern environmental setting of this poorly known area.

Tectonic evolution of the Northwest Shelf of Australia

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Magnetic anomalies preserved in the Argo and Gascoyne Abyssal Plains document a rifitng event on the Australian Gondwanaland margin in the late Jurassic, preceeding the India-Australia breakup. I have re-interpreted the magnetic anomalies off the Australian Northwest Shelf and derived a new plate tectonic model for the eastern Tethys and the Indian Ocean. This model explains the evolution of the Argo and Gascoyne Abyssal Plains, showing that the West Burma Block is the enigmatic Argo-Land. This work was my German Diploma-Thesis (Ruhr-Univ. Bochum; see link below for PDF).


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