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Department of Geology News and events

Whale family tree catalogued (ODT Article)

Friday, 17 April 2015 10:35am

New University of Otago research is providing the most comprehensive picture of the nearly 40million year-long evolutionary history of baleen whales, which are the largest animals ever to live on Earth. The study also reflected the importance of ancient marine mammal research being undertaken at the university, Prof Ewan Fordyce, of the Otago geology department, said.

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Underwater volcano research excites scientists (ODT Article)

Friday, 17 April 2015 11:38am

A world-first international expedition, including University of Otago researchers, is ending, after scientists gained striking new views of an underwater volcano in the Kermadec Islands.
The research expedition was investigating the biggest recorded explosive eruption of a submarine volcano in history, which in 2012 produced a floating pumice island the size of Israel.
Otago University geology researcher Associate Prof James White said this ''very exciting cruise'' had also been the first time ''anywhere on Earth'' that a remotely operated undersea vehicle had been used to investigate a ''large explosive submarine eruption''.

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Otago research details 40 million-year-old family tree of baleen whales

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 4:37pm

New University of Otago research is providing the most comprehensive picture of the evolutionary history of baleen whales, which are not only the largest animals ever to live on earth, but also among the most unusual.

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Otago scientists funded to study effects of warming on Antarctic ice cover

Monday, 2 March 2015 9:11am

Two new research projects led, and another co-led, by University of Otago scientists are set to improve the understanding of how Antarctica’s ice cover will change as the world warms.

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New Zealand’s first Princeton Instruments Vibrating Sample Magnetometer (VSM)

Friday, 27 February 2015 3:56pm

Just installed in the paleomagnetic research laboratory: New Zealand’s first Princeton Instruments Vibrating Sample Magnetometer (VSM). The new VSM will allow us to conduct new paleomagnetic and environmental magnetic studies that normally required travel to foreign laboratories.

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Missing fossil link connection exciting (ODT article)

Thursday, 19 February 2015 2:58pm

University of Otago geology student Bobby Boessenecker still vividly recalls the ''eureka moment'' when he realised he had just stumbled across the world's oldest fur seal fossil. The small fossil mandible bone is 15 million to 17 million years old, about five million years older than the previously oldest-known fur seal fossil.

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Oldest fur seal identified, ending 5-million-year ‘ghost lineage’

Thursday, 12 February 2015 10:24am

The oldest known fur seal has been discovered by a University of Otago Geology PhD student, providing a missing link that helps to resolve a more than 5-million-year gap in fur seal and sea lion evolutionary history.

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Deep Fault Drilling Project 2 News

Wednesday, 14 January 2015 8:45am

The Deep Fault Drilling Project (DFDP) is an international science experiment studying the Alpine Fault in western South Island. “DFDP-2” refers to the second phase of the Deep Fault Drilling Project and to the 1.3 km-deep borehole that is intended to be drilled during this phase of the project.

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Otago researchers find new whale genus (ODT article)

Thursday, 20 November 2014 4:48pm

Painstaking detective work by University of Otago paleontologists has led to the discovery of a previously unknown genus of ancient baleen whales. Otago geology department PhD student Robert Boessenecker and his supervisor, Prof Ewan Fordyce, have named the new genus Tohoraata, a Maori word translated as ''Dawn Whale''.

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Ancient NZ ‘Dawn Whale’ identified by Otago researchers

Wednesday, 19 November 2014 11:06am

University of Otago palaeontologists are rewriting the history of New Zealand’s ancient whales by describing a previously unknown genus of fossil baleen whales and two species within it.

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Marsden Fast-Start awarded to Steven Smith to study why some faults creep and others rupture producing earthquakes

Friday, 7 November 2014 9:54am

Catastrophic earthquakes occur when active faults move abruptly, but many active faults also slip or creep slowly without causing damage. Understanding why some faults creep slowly and others rupture quickly has significant implications for assessing ground-shaking potential in plate boundary regions.

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Marsden grant awarded to Daphne Lee to study ancient Kauri amber

Friday, 7 November 2014 11:51am

We have known about the abundant brownish-yellow resin/kauri gum in NZ coal deposits for well over a century. However, because it is typically opaque and full of bubbles, no-one had ever been able to see any fossils in it. Our colleague Alexander Schmidt in his amber laboratory in Goettingen developed a technique for making NZ amber translucent, and our pilot study on Miocene Central Otago amber has revealed a huge diversity of exquisite 3-dimensionally-preserved organisms.

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Dr Matthew Sagar awarded Rutherford Foundation New Zealand Postdoctoral Fellowship

Friday, 7 November 2014 10:17am

Dr Matthew Sagar has been awarded Rutherford Foundation New Zealand Postdoctoral Fellowship to study “Alpine Fault “Big Bend”: Evolution and earthquake hazard” at Victoria University of Wellington starting in 2015

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Funds for look into lost world (ODT Article)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014 9:35am

An $810,000 Marsden Fund grant will help University of Otago geologist Associate Prof Daphne Lee gain revolutionary new insights into a lost world of ancient insects, preserved in kauri amber.

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Royal Society honours four Otago researchers (ODT article)

Thursday, 30 October 2014 9:24am

Four University of Otago researchers, Profs Catherine Day, Ewan Fordyce, Neil McNaughton and Iain Raeburn, have been elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Prof Fordyce, of the geology department, was ''New Zealand's leading vertebrate palaeontologist and a world leader in research on the evolution of whales, dolphins and penguins''.

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Otago academics elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand

Wednesday, 29 October 2014 2:16pm

Four leading University of Otago academics are among the 12 top New Zealand researchers and scholars in basic and applied science and the humanities newly elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

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Alpine drilling fault project moves into new phase

Monday, 20 October 2014 10:17am

The multi-national Alpine Fault drilling project has moved to a new phase with a new drilling rig positioned over the borehole to take the probe to its target depth of 1.3km

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Scientific drilling project underway on Alpine Fault

Monday, 6 October 2014 12:39pm

An international team of scientists, including Otago researchers, has started drilling a 1.3km-deep borehole into the Alpine Fault in the South Island to find out more about the nature of the fault and the earthquakes it produces.

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Geologists study cliff face for cause of second slip (ODT Article)

Saturday, 20 September 2014 11:50am

An engineering geologist was lowered down a Kakanui cliff face along Beach Rd south of Oamaru yesterday morning to inspect the site of a second slip of limestone into the sea.
Waitaki District Council assets group manager Neil Jorgensen said Geosolve senior engineering geologist Mark Walrond and geologist James Griffiths examined the cliff face to check its stability following the early-September slip.

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'Unique' porpoise washes up on peninsula (ODT Article)

Friday, 19 September 2014 11:18am

A 2.15m-long male spectacled porpoise, one of the world's most rarely seen marine mammals, was found on Pipikaretu Beach by Penguin Place guide Tama Taiti on Wednesday morning.
University of Otago geologist Prof Ewan Fordyce said fewer than 10 spectacled porpoises had washed ashore on New Zealand's coast and it was the first his research team had seen.

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Answers being sought for whale strandings (NZ Herald Article)

Thursday, 18 September 2014 11:16am

The ear bones from two whales stranded in the Far North are being examined by an expert to see if seismic testing caused the marine mammal deaths.

The bones were sent to Professor Ewan Fordyce, from the geology department at Otago University, who was to examine them to see if there was any sign of seismic, sonar, or other human intervention that might have caused the deaths. Professor Fordyce said he could have answers by today.

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Predicting the next Big One (ODT Article)

Sunday, 17 August 2014 2:59pm

University of Otago geologist Dr Virginia Toy is keen to shed new light on the likely effects of a predicted huge earthquake on the Southern Alps fault system.

Dr Toy, a senior lecturer in structural geology, is one of three co-leaders in a major international scientific venture, the Deep Fault Drilling Project, at the Southern Alps.

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Giant penguin in mint condition (ODT Article)

Saturday, 9 August 2014 11:25am

An extinct giant penguin species discovered by University of Otago geologist Prof Ewan Fordyce has been emblazoned on a collectable coin recently issued by New Zealand Post.

It is believed to be the first time the research findings of an Otago University academic have been featured in this way.

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Otago scientists part of planned deep drill probing of Alpine Fault

Wednesday, 25 June 2014 11:08am

A New Zealand-led international science team that includes University of Otago geologists is planning to drill a 1.3km-deep hole into the Alpine Fault in the South Island later this year to find out more about the nature of the fault and the earthquakes it produces.