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Research at the Department of Geology

The dynamic geology of the South Island of New Zealand is regarded with fascination by earth scientists the world over. Teaching and Research carried out by staff and students in the Geology Department at the University of Otago in Dunedin emphasises process-related research tied to the fast tempo of 'active' earth science in the South Island, and to the evolution of our unique New Zealand biota.

Environmental Geology

There are three key areas of research that have been undertaken in the Department of Geology in the field of environmental geology: Metals in the New Zealand Environment, mine restoration and geomorphology.


The Department of Geology has an active geophysics research programme. The main area of reseach is in controlled source seismology, and in particular offshore geophysical surveys.


Historically, the Geology Department grew out of the Otago School of Mines which was an important part of the University of Otago during the gold rushes and subsequent gold mining industry. Today, we have an active research programme studying many aspects of Otago gold, still in close contact with the mining industry.


Paleomagnetic research at Otago is facilitated by the Otago Paleomagnetic Research Facility, a nationally available state of the art palaeomagnetic research facility.


Paleontology is an area of active research at Otago. The department hosts an extensive collection of, amongst other things, marine mammels and reptiles that enable this research.


New Zealand is an outstanding place to study igneous and metamorphic petrological processes with an extremely wide array of different rock-types and crustal levels exposed as a result of New Zealand's geological history.

Structural geology

Areas of structural geology research at the Department of Geology include the Alpine Fault, Otago Faults and geodynamics amongst other things.


Products of magmatic systems feature in work by members of the department with interests in New Zealand's crustal evolution (xenoliths in volcanic ejecta), in evolution of plutonic rocks, and in physical volcanology.

Other active research areas

The Department of Geology is also very active in other key reseach areas such as:

  • Antarctica
  • Geochemistry
  • Paleobotany
  • Experimental deformation e.g. using microcrystalline ice
  • Microstructure
  • Sedimentology
  • Paleoclimatology

See staff and student pages to find out about some of the current research undertaken at the Department of Geology.

Also check out our publications list and research links pages.