Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

About the Department of Geology

This Department is recognised internationally for the quality and breadth of its research and its graduates. The Department has a high ranking for research amongst earth science departments in New Zealand (New Zealand Universities' 2012 Performance-Based Research Funding assessment).

Our research is linked strongly to the dynamic geology of New Zealand. In particular, we emphasise process-related research tied to the "active" geology of the South Island, and to the evolution of our unique New Zealand biota.

History of the department

A number of very influential people such as W.N Benson and D.S. Coombs have moulded the history which has led to the success of this department.

The department has its beginnings within the School of Mines formed in 1878; it then gained independence within the School of Mines and then eventually found independence as a Department.

In around 1927 the Department moved to its current location in the building across from the clocktower/registry building.

Professor Benson and the Benson Fund

William Noel Benson, DSc, FRS, 1885-1957, was Professor of Geology at the University of Otago from 1916 to 1949. For many years, he ran the Department of Geology single-handedly.

He was an accomplished practical geologist: a field mapper, petrologist, stratigrapher, geomorphologist, paleontologist and more.

Benson’s legacy lives on at Otago, both intellectually and through the Benson Fund which was started by a bequest from Benson’s Estate to support field-based research.

Geology Museum

The Geology Museum, which is open to the public (9am-5pm Monday to Friday), is in the south end of the historic geology building. Our Geology Museum contains large and scientifically important collections of rocks, minerals and fossils - the largest such collection in the South Island.

Image gallery

Our image gallery has Department group photos, usually taken on the registry lawn and photos from the Annual Geology photo competition run by the Department and Otago Students' Geological Society (OSGS)