PhD opportunity speleothem research group


Speleothem climate reconstruction for Northern Australia over the past 100,000 years

The climate history of northern Australia over the past 100 ka is relatively poorly known and yet this is a critical period when the peopling of Australia first took place. Cave deposits (speleothems) offer the prospect of reconstructing detailed climatic histories for this period, combining robust radiometric determinations with proxy records of temperature and precipitation, and the potential for vegetation and landscape reconstruction from entrapped pollen assemblages.

This PhD project will build on our existing work in northern Australia covering the past 20 ka to produce detailed records extending throughout the period of human occupation, documenting climatic factors that may have influenced both migration patterns and rock art styles. The PhD candidate will benefit from the ongoing collaboration between Prof. Jon Woodhead’s Laureate program (University of Melbourne) aimed at past climate reconstruction using speleothems, and two ARC Linkage Projects one led by Prof Hamish McGowan (University of Queensland), targeting the palaeoclimate of the Kimberley region in NW Australia, and another led by Prof Andy Gleadow (University of Melbourne), aimed at producing a chronology of the Kimberley rock art styles. This is a fully-funded PhD program with a standard living allowance of $30,600 per annum plus fee remission waiver. Additional relocation allowances may be applicable.

For more info contact Jon Woodhead ( or Kale Sniderman (

Caving in Australia's far West: WA!

Caving in Australia's far West: WA!

Sunday afternoon, 30th of July: with our luggage full of sample bags, photo cameras, a drone, spare batteries, pollen traps, gum boots and overalls, we got on a plane to Perth to visit some beautiful caves in WA. A really exciting area, especially for palynology, because southwest Australia has one of the most divers vegetation on Earth and it is still uncertain why!

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Field trip to Corchia Jan 2017

Tim Pollard and Russell Drysdale visited Corchia Cave (Italy) to drill some "reconnaissance minicores" in the quest to find a complete speleothem record spanning MIS11c. Tim is working on speleothem records of past interglacials for his PhD, and this is one of his target time intervals. We also drilled another ~45 mm diameter core through the subaqueous speleothem in Laghetto, a cave pool in Corchia. We were ably assisted by our Italian colleagues Gianni Zanchetta and Eleonora Regattieri from the University of Pisa.

Finding the right speleothem for a project is a precarious and potentially destructive business, so 'mini-coring' is a quick and environmentally friendly way to proceed.


Here were are using a diamond-crowned corer, 5 cm in length and with a 5 mm diameter. The corer is water-cooled using an garden water pump. We use a Makita 18V cordless drill, which has lots of grunt (don't use it in hammer mode!). The deepest part of the core is used for dating. Once we've run the dates, we will return to the cave to select the appropriate stalagmite for sampling.