Tag Archives: WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre


Curtin home to new geochemistry equipment that unlocks geochemical secrets

AuScope supports the purchase, upgrade and maintenance of geochemical research infrastructure at Curtin and has recently received $5 million in Federal Government funding. The investment will be used on a new replacement Sensitive High-Resolution Ion Microprobe (SHRIMP) age-dating geochemistry instrument, which will be installed at the John de Laeter Research Centre at the University’s Bentley Campus.

Funded through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, the new SHRIMP will enable continued geochemistry research and innovation at the world-leading zircon geochronology facility at the centre.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry congratulated the John de Laeter Research Centre team for presenting a strong case for funding to upgrade the existing 25-year-old SHRIMP.

“A quarter of a century ago, Professor John de Laeter led a proposal to commission a new SHRIMP ion microprobe at Curtin, which would subsequently bring about new understandings of the Australian continent, the Earth’s tectonic plates and the age of the Solar System, among other breakthroughs,” Professor Terry said.

“This new SHRIMP instrument will enable the continuation of the important research that has been demonstrated over many years as having tremendous benefit to government, industry and academia.

“The funding allows our researchers to remain working at the forefront of a science that shapes our collective understanding of the Earth and its place in the Universe.”

John de Laeter Research Centre Director Professor Brent McInnes said the SHRIMP instrument had played a huge role in the advancement of geoscience and geochemistry research in Australia and around the globe, enabling new scientific discoveries and reshaping the geological map of Australia.

“The new funding will allow industry, government and academic researchers to undertake new Earth and planetary research, such as those related to deep drilling projects and asteroid sample return missions,” Professor McInnes said.

The John de Laeter Research Centre has strong links with the Geological Survey of Western Australia and Geoscience Australia, and provides geochemistry, geochronology and isotope geoscience data critical to their missions of mapping and understanding the Australian continent and its resources.

AuScope’s SHRIMP instrument forms part of the Earth Composition and Evolution infrastructure  located at Curtin University, The University of Melbourne and Macquarie University.

This article was originally published by Curtin University.

mass extinction

Molecular detective studies mass extinction events

When the Earth warmed and the oceans turned toxic with hydrogen sulfide about 250 million years ago, up to 95% of marine life and 70% of terrestrial species were wiped out – the largest of five mass extinction events in Earth’s history. Much of what we know about these is thanks to research by John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice – organic and isotope geochemist and founder of Curtin’s WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre within the Institute for Geoscience Research and the John De Laeter Centre for Isotope Research. Grice studies the molecular signatures of chemicals that have been made by micro-organisms, plants and animals, and deposited in lakes and oceans, thousands or even hundreds of millions of years ago.

Her work requires a deep knowledge of biochemical pathways, geology, chemistry, ecology, stable isotopes within organic molecules, and cutting edge analytical techniques in order to interpret clues left behind in rocks and determine which organisms lived in certain aquatic regions and when.

“I look at everything from about 2.3 billion years ago, through to the present day, including recovery after the mass extinction events,” she says. “Most people know about the dinosaur mass extinction, which was unique because it was due to a meteorite impact,” she says. But the other mass extinctions were caused by changes in the atmosphere and oceans.

Grice is working on the Triassic-Jurassic extinction, which occurred about 200 million years ago when supercontinent Pangaea began to break up. “There was a lot of carbon dioxide and flood basalts from volcanic eruptions. We established that the same conditions existed in the oceans then as they did in the largest mass extinction event 50 million years earlier,” she says. These events were biochemically driven, with environmental events leading to high carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide in bodies of water.

Grice’s research is also relevant to petroleum and mineral exploration, as well as to modern day climate and environmental changes. “We work with people across disciplines including geologists, engineers, mathematicians, biologists and geographers,” she says.

Grice is passionate about working with PhD students and early and mid-career scientists and helping them develop. “I like sharing my enthusiasm and ideas – seeing young scientists grow, helping them with their research and providing opportunities, including visits to different parts of the globe.”

Michelle Wheeler