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We work all over the world

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Since the inception of our group, we have worked all across our planet investigating the thermal and tectonic evolution of continental crust.

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Featured Publication

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Low-Temperature Thermochronology of Arabia and northeast Africa

Thermo-tectonic imaging of the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea rift systems and Afro-Arabian hinterland

Samuel C. Boone, Maria-Laura Balestrieri and Barry Kohn

Earth-Science Reviews, Volume 222 (2021)

Low-temperature thermochronology has long been utilised in the Red Sea-Gulf of Aden rift systems and adjacent hinterlands to examine exhumation cooling histories of basement blocks, particularly where datable syn-tectonic strata and/or markers are often absent. Such data have provided insights into the spatio-temporal evolution of rift basins, morphotectonic rift shoulder development and timing and rate of surface uplift. However, the relatively limited number of samples and confined areas involved in many individual case studies have precluded insights into the longer wavelength tectonic and geodynamic phenomena responsible for the latest Eocene-Oligocene to Recent separation of the Arabian plate from African and its subsequent collision with Eurasia.

We present a synthesis of a large array of titanite, zircon and apatite fission track and (U-Th-Sm)/He analyses (12 TFT, 12 THe, 32 ZFT, 392 ZHe, 465 AFT and 267 AHe) from across northeast Africa and Arabia, which provide novel insights into the Phanerozoic thermo-tectonic evolution of the Arabian plate that were previously difficult to decipher from an otherwise cumbersome and intractably large dataset. Eocene to Recent cooling-heating maps have been constructed through a regional interpolation protocol of standardised thermal history models generated from the thermochronology data coupled with burial histories produced from vitrinite reflectance and well data. The interpolations, referred to here as thermo-tectonic images, record a series of pronounced episodes of upper crustal thermal regime fluctuation related to development of the latest Eocene-Oligocene-Recent Gulf of Aden and Red Sea rift systems and Cenozoic formation of the Al Hajar Mountains of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. They also provide insights into the inherited tectono-thermal histories of these regions, which controlled the spatial and temporal distribution of subsequent strain. Integration of the thermo-tectonic images, compiled with paleogeographic reconstructions and the regional igneous and strain history, offer a fresh regional perspective allowing the interrelationship between tectonism, geodynamic activity and exhumation history of the land surface to be visualised and explored on a plate scale.

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Key Methodological Advances

The Melbourne Thermochronology Group has led, or been closely involved in, many key advances in the development and application of fission track dating and thermochronology methods since the 1970s. In addition to numerous geological application studies, these have included:

  • Development of routine analytical procedures for ~100µm scale grains of apatite, zircon and titanite (1970s)

  • First recognition of the influence continental rifting on regional fission track age patterns (1978)

  • Standardization of fission tack data reporting (1979)

  • Universal adoption of the External Detector Method for all mineral systems (1981)

  • Applications to basin analysis and hydrocarbon maturation (1981, 1983, 1989)

  • Establishing the statistical basis for track length distribution studies (1982)

  • Developing the fundamental principles of fission track interpretation that combined fission track ages with track lengths (1983)

  • Development of the first computer-controlled microscope stage systems for mirror image matching of mineral grains and eternal detectors (1985)

  • Demonstration that horizontal confined track length measurements are crucial indicators of past fission track annealing (1986)

  • Adoption of empirical calibrations for fission track methods against age standards (1983)

  • First identification of composition control on fission track annealing in apatite (1985)

  • Identification of uplifted Partial Annealing Zones in mountain ranges (1987)

  • Development of the first practical thermal annealing models for routine reconstruction of rock thermal histories (1987, 1989)

  • Integration of approaches as ‘Fission Track Thermochronology’ (1990-1991)

  • Applications to the evolution of metamorphic core complexes (1993)

  • Constructing the first continental-scale thermo-tectonic image of Australia (2002)

  • Routine integration of apatite fission track (AFT) and (U-Th)/He (AHe) thermochronology methods (2004)

  • Development of the first practical image analysis routines for the automatic counting of fission tracks (2006, 2009)

  • Optical detection of apatite grains and orientations for fission track analysis (2009)

  • integration of laser-ablation ICP-MS and automated fission track analysis (LAFT) methods (2010)

  • First comprehensive system for Automated Fission track Imaging and Analysis (AFTIA) (2016)

  • First studies of three-dimensional measurements of confined fission tracks in apatite (2018)

  • Development of automated methods for measurement of semi-track lengths and orientations (2018)

  • Development of monazite as an ultra-low temperature thermochronometer (2019)

  • Development of major cloud-based data systems for fission track thermochronology (2019-20)

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Read our work

Find the conference proceedings, research articles, textbook chapters and books that we have published pertaining to methodological and applied studies on our Google Scholar profile.

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