Australia, Travel, School, Blog, University, Graduate, Grad School, PhD, MSc, Research, Geology, Tasmania, Ocean, Granite, East Coast, Mega Crystic, Crystals, Feldspar

Starting graduate school and research overseas; Introducing Tasmania

Intro: After graduating from university with a Bachelor of Science, and working in mineral exploration for a couple years, I decided to go back to school again and aspire toward a Masters of Science. I really do love the school/university environment and have always wanted to broaden my education and take on a research based project in the form of a MSc or PhD in Earth Science. Therefore, with now having some work experience under my belt, and time off in-between to travel, I felt as this was the right time to start a research degree.

Having lived for all my life in Canada, I took this as an opportunity to go overseas to pursue higher education. After lengthy consideration over universities in Europe, I finally found a great fit with a project, professor, and school in the “down under” country of Australia.

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Sunset on the ocean in Australia

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Map of Australia and the state of Tasmania

And so, I am now living in Tasmania, Australia, attending school, and fleetingly into my (hopefully successful) MSc candidature. Wish me luck!

I definitely plan on keeping up this blog, and I hope to share my travel and science/research, whether it be with school or recreational, and hopefully keep on educating on all the fantastic nature wonders of the earth

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“Fighting” already with other PhD students, at the Tasman Peninsula (southern coast of Tasmania), Australia

Anyways, enough about me. I plan on going into more detail on my research in the future (hint: it’s to do with volcanoes, gold, and the South Pacific). But for now, here is just a tidbit of where exactly Tasmania is, and a brief, broad overview of its pretty spectacular geological formation, accompanied with photographs from some early hikes and field trips I have partaken in.

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Breathtaking geology in Tasmania – East Coast, Tasmania, Australia

Science Spheel: Heart Breaking (Geology, Plate Tectonics, & Geomorphology)

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Tasmania as part of Australia and Antarctica on the continental crust, prior to the opening of the Tasman Sea in the Cretaceous (Solomon 1981, Modifited after Griffiths 1974)

Tasmania is a heart-shaped island 240 km south of Australia. As the most southern state in Australia, it’s climate is closer to south island New Zealand than (stereo)typical, outback northern Australia. The devil-shaped island may be small, but its foundations are some of the oldest. Rocks have been dated to the Precambrian (greater than 542 million years ago). However, Tasmania was still part of mainland Australia and Antarctica at this point, and would remain so the next ~500 million years.

Over the 600 to 400 million year ago (mya) time frame (Cambrian and Ordovician), Tasmania experienced a range of tectonic activity, where earthquakes and extensional lead to chains of volcanoes. This was followed by quite times and flooding of the land, resulting in erosion of mountains and rocks, and the emergence of abundance early life-form organisms just starting to invade land.

The Devonian and Jurassic (400 to 160 mya) encompassed a major collisions of two continental plates, known as the Great Dividing Range through most of south east Australia. This generated extensive mountain building and heat production, which consequently lead to magma production and crystallization at depth, resulting in spectacular granite batholiths that are seen in the north east of Tasmania.

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Granites with red lichen on the east coast of Tasmania, Australia

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Mega crystic feldspar phenocrysts in granites on the east coast of Tasmania, Australia

And again, these mountains were subjected to long, slow periods of erosion, flooding, basin formation, and glacier erosion.

Finally, around 260 mya (Jurassic) things start to get interesting again and the break up of a supercontinent known as Gondwana, and subsequently the opening of the Tasman Sea, resulted in a major surge of dolerite magma as dykes and sills into the crust of the earth below Tasmania.

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Hot, molten dolerite intruded into the upper sandstone layer, leaving vivid crumpled and concertina patterns at the interface – Remarkable Cave, South Tasmania, Australia

Since this dolerite cooled from extremely hot temperatures, it crystallized and contracted in the distinct columnar jointing pattern that riddles the south coast. These are the famous dolerite cliffs on southern Tasmania. Tasmania (and mainland Australia) broke free from Antarctica about 45 mya (Tertiary), exposing these vertical dolerite cliffs as a scare on the edge of the landmass.

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Famous polygonal pillars of dolerite rock, formed during as molten rock cooled under the surface, and exposed on the south coast (Cape Raoul) during the separation of Tasmania/Australia from Antarctica

The rest of the story is the result of glaciations carving and sculpting the land until what is currently present day Tasmania (Tasmania Gov Parks 2010) (Solomon 1981)

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Keyhole-shaped sea cave on the southern coast of Tasmania, Australia

Final Thoughts:

The formation of this no-so-little island is nothing short of impressive, and I’ve grossly simplified its history, but I hope to get the message across of how diverse and geologically interesting it is. I can’t wait to explore more of Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, and wherever else my education and travels take me in the coming time. If there is a lag time between blog posts, it is probably going to equate to myself stressing and working on my thesis, so bare with me. Cheers!

-Stephanie

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View of Shipstren Bluff on the Tasman Peninsula, Australia

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South coast on the Tasman Peninsula, Australia

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6 Comments

  1. Rick OzTown

    Very nice photos!
    Might I suggest “spiel” vs “spheel”?

  2. Rick OzTown

    Very nice photos!
    Might I suggest “spiel” vs “spheel”?

  3. Thanks! Yes it really is a beautiful place that seems a bit enigmatic to the world and even the rest of Australia sometimes. Glad to hear you enjoyed your time whilst you were here, and thank you for reading my blog 🙂

  4. Thanks! Yes it really is a beautiful place that seems a bit enigmatic to the world and even the rest of Australia sometimes. Glad to hear you enjoyed your time whilst you were here, and thank you for reading my blog 🙂

  5. Tasmania was my favourite part of our trip to Australia and I would love to spend an entire month exploring it in detail. How lucky you are to be living there! I like your take on the science behind the beauty.