Tectonic-mantle-climate interactions in the Southern Ocean


The Cenozoic (past 65 million years) has undergone general cooling from a warm “Greenhouse World” climate to an “Icehouse World” climate, characterised by the start of glaciation around 34 million years ago (Ma). Two key factors believed to strongly influence earth’s long-term climate include the opening of oceanic gateways (narrow, shallow connections between ocean basins), and the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. In this project, you will investigate the key tectonic and mantle processes operating at these oceanic gateways and plateaus, reconstruct their elevations and assess their role in influencing ocean circulation patterns throughout the Cenozoic.


Dr Maria Seton

Research Location

School of Geosciences

Program Type



Throughout the Cenozoic, Earth’s climate has changed from a warm “Greenhouse World” to an “Icehouse World”, characterised by the start of significant Antarctic glaciation at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, around 34 million years ago (Ma). This glaciation has been linked to the thermal isolation of Antarctica due to the inception of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), which has previously been linked to the opening of Southern Ocean gateways, including the Drake Passage and Tasman Seaway. However, controversy surrounds the timing of deep-water flow at these oceanic gateways, and also on the relative role of oceanic gateways on earth’s climate compared to the numerically modelled role of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. To assess these controversies, you will investigate the key tectonic and mantle processes operating at these oceanic gateways, reconstruct their elevations and assess their role in influencing ocean circulation patterns throughout the Cenozoic. In addition, you will reconstruct the shape and depth of key oceanic plateaus in the southern Indian and Atlantic Oceans to investigate their role as barriers to deep-water flow throughout the Cenozoic. This project is multidisciplinary, involving tectonic, geodynamic and ocean circulation modeling. While you are not expected to be an expert in all these fields, you must have an interest in global-scale problems and a willingness to learn new techniques. You will be supported by a team of scientists from around the world with expertise in each key area and overseas travel will be required as part of the project.

Additional Information

There is the potential for research travel money through the Edgeworth David Travelling Scholarship, which is offered to several students per year within the School of Geosciences, and through a funded ARC project in this research area.

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Tectonics, mantle convection, oceanic gateways, paleogeography, paleoclimate, ocean circulation, Southern Ocean, Cenozoic

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2351