School of Earth Sciences - Theses

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    The Permian glacial sediments of central Victoria and the Murray Basin: their sedimentology and geochemistry
    O'Brien, Philip Edward ( 1986)
    This study investigates the sedimentology and geochemistry of Permian glacial sediments cropping out in the Bacchus Marsh and Derrinal areas in central Victoria and in the subsurface beneath the Cainozoic Murray Basin in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. Facies analysis of the Bacchus Marsh Formation, based on a critical review of literature on glacial sedimentary processes and environments, identifies the following major facies groups: 1. Subglacial tillites deposited beneath wet-based ice. Some of these tillites exhibit structures indicative of a number of subglacial processes such as frictional lodgement of large clasts, subglacial bed deformation, subglacial meltwater flow and subglacial size sorting of clasts. Other subglacial tillites are essentially structureless. 2. Bedded diamictites to sandstones deposited predominantly by ice-rafting of debris into standing water. 3. Fluvial outwash sandstone and conglomerate facies that are finer-grained than typical proglacial outwash facies. 4. Deltas and subaqueous outwash fans vary from sandy sediments deposited by proglacial and subglacial streams to coarse, poorly sorted complexes deposited as debris aprons close to the ice front. Abundant underflow deposits suggest that less than normal marine salinities prevailed in these water bodies, even if they were arms of the sea. 5. Supraglacial tillites consisting of sandy diamictites to pebble conglomerates. Facies in the thickest sequence in the Bacchus Marsh area suggests that the area was covered by a major ice mass at least 8 times. Minor glacial advances took place during predominantly ice-free periods. The Derrinal Formation consists of a basal unit of predominantly subglacial tillite deposited in shallow glacially excavated valleys overlain by a complex of subglacial and supraglacial facies deposited by about 8 minor advances of a small ice tongue. Facies relationships in this part of the sequence are confused by intense deformation of the sediment pile during the melting of buried ice and dewatering of saturated diamictons. A major ice advance then overwhelmed the area depositing thick subglacial tillite. The Urana Formation, beneath the Murray Basin, is dominated by marine ice-rafted diamictite and mudstone. Rhythmically bedded siltstone and claystone, sediment gravity-flow deposits, traction-current deposits, and, possibly, subglacial tillites are also present. Facies assemblages in some drill holes indicate areas that were never covered by grounded glacial ice. Sedimentological and palaeontological evidence suggests that the Urana Formation was deposited towards the end of the glaciation. Ice motion indicators and ice sheet limits inferred from the facies assemblages in the Urana Formation are used to estimate the thickness of the ice over central Victoria during glacial maxima. These estimates support the conclusion drawn from the facies analysis that the ice was a large ice sheet. Comparisons of ice movement directions for central Victoria and formerly adjacent parts of Gondwana suggest that a large ice sheet was centred in North Victorialand. Major and some trace elements analyses of the clay component of marine and non-marine diamictites were used to test a number of methods of distinguishing marine from nonmarine glacial diamictites. None of the methods were clearly successful because sediment detrital mineralogy dominates the geochemical composition though V/Cr ratios may be useful in some circumstances.
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    Transport, attenuation, and degradation of organic chemicals in a basaltic aquifer system near Melbourne, Australia
    Finegan, James Michael ( 1996)
    Groundwater in the Pliocene to Pleistocene fractured and jointed Newer Volcanics basaltic aquifer system beneath Melbourne's industrialised western suburbs is extensively contaminated by a wide variety of organic and inorganic compounds. Groundwater in Tertiary sediments underlying the Newer Volcanics is probably also contaminated by the same sources. The main objectives of this research were 1) to assess the types, concentrations, and distribution of contaminants in the Newer Volcanics aquifer system in Melbourne's western suburbs and at a selected contaminated site and 2) to determine contaminant transport, attenuation, and degradation processes affecting organic contaminants in this aquifer system. Contaminants detected in the Newer Volcanics aquifer system during this research include phenols, volatile organic compounds, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, metals, and inorganic anions. The groundwater flow system in the study area comprises a single heterogeneous and anisotropic unconfined aquifer, and includes both the Newer Volcanics and underlying sedimentary units (the Brighton Group and the Werribee Formation), although hydraulic connection of these units to the volcanics is irregular. Groundwater flow in the Newer Volcanics is through vesicular and/or scoriaceous lava flow tops and bottoms, in intercalated fluvial deposits, and through the fractured and jointed lava flows. Locally (scale of less than I km square), the basaltic aquifer system may consist of hydraulically separated shallow and deep aquifer zones that are connected on a larger scale. The deep aquifer zones may be semi-confined to confined. Groundwater in the study area is recharged via throughflow from upgradient and infiltration of rainfall. Discharge from the Newer Volcanics in the study area is primarily to underlying sedimentary formations, but also to surface water features and directly to Port Phillip Bay. Several mechanisms which reduce contaminant concentrations are possible in the Newer Volcanics aquifer system. These include volatilisation, dispersion and diffusion, transient storage, matrix diffusion, sorption, hydrolysis, and biodegradation. However, the nature of porosity in the Newer Volcanics may significantly extend the lifetime of contaminant plumes via the processes of transient storage and matrix diffusion. The primary mechanisms of attenuation and degradation of organic contaminants in the Newer Volcanics aquifer system are probably biodegradation, matrix diffusion, sorption, and dispersion (for non-reactive contaminants) in order of decreasing effect. Biodegradation at the water table and discharge areas will also be significant because of atmospheric contact and increased dissolved oxygen concentrations. Because of the relative lack of organic carbon in the basaltic aquifer system, sorption will occur mainly to mineral surfaces in clay-rich zones and within the rock matrix (concurrent with matrix diffusion). In some cases, relatively undiluted contaminants may be transported along preferred flow paths to discharge locations where they may pose a potential threat to the environment prior to degradation or attenuation. It was found, at least with phenols and volatile organic compounds in groundwater at a study site, that contaminants are degraded and/or attenuated rapidly, probably via biodegradation, matrix diffusion, and sorption. Biodegradation testing of groundwater at this study site confirmed the existence of microorganisms in the aquifer system capable of aerobic degradation; indirect evidence may indicate the presence of anaerobes.
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    The geology, petrology and geochemistry of the Otway formation volcanogenic sediments
    Duddy, Ian Ross ( 1983)
    The geology, petrology and geochemistry of the Early Cretaceous Otway Formation have been investigated in detail and used to determ ine the nature of the source rocks and to develop a model for the diagenetic and low-grade metamorphic readjustments. The fluviatile Otway Formation was deposited in continental rift grabens that stretched some 1000 km along the southern coast of Australia during the Early Cretaceous. The main areas of deposition in the Otway, Gippsland and Bass Basins contain an estimated 100,000 cubic kilometres of detritus. The major part of this detritus was derived from pyroclastic material which has been shown by the fission track dating studies to have been derived from contemporaneous volcanism. The pile of volcanogenic material comprising the Otway Formation is at least 3 to 4 km thick in the main basins. The sediments are entirely non-marine and were deposited by large scale multichannel streams cut in extensive floodplains. The streams deposited thick multistorey channel sandstones in sheet-like bodies and a diverse spectrum of overbank mudstones and fine-grained sandstones. The complex channel sandstones fine upwards but have numerous erosional breaks indicating repeated flood cycles. Whereas the channel deposits have internal features consistent with braided stream channels the overall system has a large proportion of floodplain which was been considered in the past to have been a feature of meandering channels. The oversupply of volcanogenic detritus is considered to have been responsible for the development of the multiple channel depositional system in a climate of high seasonal rainfall. Whole rock chemical analyses of all lithologies in the sedimentary suite, recalculated i.nto a set of normative minerals, have proved useful in the distinction and description of sedimentary rocks in general. P20S was found to be useful for the identification of Early Cretaceous soil forming processes. The study of the chemical composition of detrital minerals has demonstrated the usefulness of this approach in the identification of the nature of the source magmas of volcanogenic sediments. For the Otway Formation, analyses of clinopyroxenes, amphiboles, feldspars and sphene in particular, have shown that high potassium dacitic to shoshonitic volcanism dominated during Early Cretaceous rifting. The new data on the geology and mineralogical and chemical features of the Otway Formation have application to the study of diagenesis and low-grade metamorphism in volcanogenic sediments in general. (From Abstract)
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    Tectonic geomorphology of the Bogong and Dargo High Plains region, east Victorian highlands, Australia
    Orr, Meredith Lee ( 1999)
    The Australian Alps, a sub-region of the Australian Eastern Highlands, have enigmatically high elevations of relief for a highland belt renowned for its ancient origins and landscapes. In debates over the Eastern Highlands history, the development and significance of the Alps have been under-represented. This study defines the morphological extent of the Australian Alps and investigates their tectonic and erosional development. The focus of investigation is the Bogong and Dargo High Plains area and the broader surrounding highlands region. The Cainozoic history of this area has not been investigated in detail since last century. The geological record of the region has substantial gaps, and the erosional history is the main indicator of tectonic change. A methodological structure different to traditional approaches is devised for this study. Cause and response are compared on a process geomorphology basis. Causes investigated are (1) intra-highland tectonics and (2) basin tectonics and sea level change. Denudational relief change is the main response investigated. Spinal and temporal comparison of quantitative results enables relationships to be determined. Peak height distribution and relief observations are used to define the morphological context of the Australian Alps. Within the Alps, the high plains area is used as a case study. Tectonic constructional morphology is investigated using peak height distributions, lineament analysis, tectonic landforms and lava offsets. A Cainozoic fault block is identified, and reactivated fault displacements are determined for bounding and intra-block faults. The erosional development of the area is determined and compared with the constructional morphology results. The sub-volcanic relief of the Bogong Volcanic Province is mapped and compared with post-volcanic stream incision. Guidelines are established for interpreting strath terraces and strath terrace long profiles are used to reconstruct the post-volcanic stream erosion development. Sources and magnitudes of oversteepened stream reaches in the present rivers are identified. Spatial and temporal relationships between fault reactivation and stream incision are determined, and the relative roles of active and passive tectonics are assessed. The tectonic and erosional development of the fault block is reconstructed in cross-sectional form. Finally, the proportion and nature of highland margin-derived stream incision is identified. This study finds that the Australian Alps were substantially affected by fault block uplift during Oligocene, with more minor phases in the Miocene and Pliocene. Broader highland margin warping accompanied fault block uplift. Uplift amounts varied between 150m and over 1000m according to proximity to major faults. Stream incision was upstream-increasing and periodic, with three incision phases during the Oligocene and Pliocene. The later phases include a possible isostatic rebound component. An additional incision phase unrelated to uplift occurred in the Gippsland Basin catchment during the Quaternary. The Australian Alps is delineated here as a separate entity within the Eastern Highlands, with its own tectonic history. Cainozoic uplift created the higher elevations and greater relief of the Alps. This history is not representative of the Eastern Highlands generally, and it should not be used as a guide to a ‘united’ Eastern Highlands uplift. The highlands consist of a ‘patchwork’ of landscape evolution scenarios, rather than a single tectonic province. More definable tectonic histories can be derived from erosional regions of geologically unrecorded time using a process geomorphology perspective. This study provides a suggested step towards redressing interpretation problems recognised in landscape evolution studies generally.
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    The geology and petrology of the Lower Devonian Buchan Group, Victoria
    Husain, Farhat ( 1981)
    This study is devoted to a detailed examination of the stratigraphy and petrology of the late Lower Devonian (Emisan) Buchan Group, an essentially carbonate sequence. The Buchan Group begins with the lenticular Spring Creek member of the Buchan Caves Limestone. This consists of terrigenous clastic sediments derived from erosion of the underlying Snowy River Rhyodacites. Lithologies range from conglomerates and breccias with rhyodacite pebbles, through arkosic sandstones to quartz sandstones and shales. Pyroclastics, previously identified in this unit, are absent. The Spring Creek member changed from non-marine to marine as the main transgression became established and was followed by a change to carbonate deposition.