Catherine Wheller

A career in Earth Sciences has the potential to be incredibly diverse, and I am excited and motivated for the future.

Catherine has received the John and Allan Gilmour Research Award and The Professor Kernot Research Scholarship (Earth Sciences) with the J.H. Harvey Award.

My research seeks to extend our knowledge in the field of metamorphic geology – the study of rocks formed deep in mountain belts – in light of new methods for studying these rocks and advances in understanding metamorphic processes. The aim of the work funded by the John and Allan Gilmour Scholarship was to discover the processes involved in the formation and evolution of rocks collected from Madagascar. These rocks are important in the study of earth processes as they were found to have formed in the final collision of tectonic plates forming the super continent Gondwana around 520 million years ago. Globally, we can piece together areas of rocks formed in similar conditions and time periods to discover past configurations of continents.

After collecting 72 rock samples from the remote areas of southern Madagascar, these were shipped to Germany for analysis at The Johanes Gutenberg University in Mainz. Notable findings include: literally finding the right rocks in the field and identifying high-temperature mineral assemblages including the key assemblage sapphirine + quartz; developing a new way to model domainal rocks when the traditional method did not work and a new temperature and pressure constraint on the area which is lower than previously estimated. I presented my findings at the conference “Granulites and Granulites” in Windhoek, Namibia in August 2015.

I have caught the fieldwork bug, so I would like to explore many more field areas as a postdoctoral researcher.  I also enjoy the teaching opportunities I have had within my department, and would like to develop these further and one day lead my own students into the field. A career in Earth Sciences has the potential to be incredibly diverse, and I am excited and motivated for the future.

Visit Catherine Wheller’s blog to find out more about her, or see a Pursuit article about her research here.