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SEMINAR: Exploring Sea Country through high-resolution 3D seismic imaging of Australia’s NW Shelf: resolving early coastal landscapes and preservation of underwater cultural heritage

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Today's date is Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Exploring Sea Country through high-resolution 3D seismic imaging of Australia’s NW Shelf: resolving early coastal landscapes and preservation of underwater cultural heritage Other events...
Abstract

Almost 2 million square km of Australia’s continental shelf was flooded following the termination of the last glacial maximum, and with it the cultural heritage of the first arrival and coastal occupation of Australia beginning some 65,000 years ago. In order to prospect for this missing cultural record, we must first identify submerged coastal landscapes and landforms which likely provided favourable environments for occupation and potential settlement by aboriginal groups. However due to the sheer size of the Australian continental margin, it has proven challenging to locate and identify prospective submerged cultural sites. In order to improve the chances of success, we take a novel approach using industry 3D seismic datasets, which cover vast areas of Australia’s continental shelf, to map seafloor bathymetry at high resolution (10 to 25 m). Our study focuses on the mid/outer shelf regions proximal to Barrow Island where there is evidence of Aboriginal occupation as far back as 50,000 years BP. The 3D seismic bathymetry, which covers an area of 6,500 square km, revealed a highly complex and geomorphically mature coastal landscape preserved at depths of −70 to −75 m, including coastal barrier dunes, lagoonal systems, tidal flats and estuarine channels, each are highly productive and understood as preferred habitation sites for Aboriginal groups. Based on the seabed depth of the submerged shorelines and reconstructed sea level curves we determine that these coastal landforms likely formed during a sustained interval of stable sea level spanning Marine Isotope Stage 3 (57 to 29 ka).

Biographical information

Dr Michael O’Leary is Senior Lecturer in Climate Geoscience at the School of Earth Sciences, UWA, with research expertise in the fields of tropical coastal geomorphology, coral reef and reef-island evolution, and climate change. His research focuses on (1) sea level reconstructions during periods of known climate instability, a metric that speaks directly to the stability of the Polar ice sheets, and (2) tropical coastal response, in particular, low reef-island response to future sea level rise. He is currently undertaking investigations into the Quaternary evolution of the NW Shelf, and in particular, reconstructing the physical and cultural environments that relate to the shelf's remnant submerged landscapes.
Speaker(s) Michael O’Leary
Location Law Lecture Room 1, G.31
Contact Martin Porr <martin.porr@uwa.edu.au>
Start Thu, 24 Oct 2019 16:00
End Thu, 24 Oct 2019 17:00
Submitted by Karen Eichorn <ss@uwa.edu.au>
Last Updated Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:47
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