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                        SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR BSc Hons, MSc and PhD

This is a list of thesis and research project topics for BSc Honours, MSc and PhD studies that
staff in the Department of Geological Sciences have assembled (in alphabetical order of
subject areas). Other topics may be available. Students should consult the appropriate staff
for further information.


Recording the initiation and development of the Alpine Fault
       (BSc Hons, MSc, PhD) (KNB + ML, JRP, or JKC)

           Miocene Great Marlborough Cgl., Marlborough.

           Pliocene Bourne Cgl., Marlborough.

           Pliocene cgls. near Blenheim, Marlborough.

           Mio-Pliocene Maruia basin cgls., Marlborough.

           Miocene Otaian Welsh Formation, West Coast.

           Oligocene unconformities, everywhere, recording precursor tectonics to Alpine fault.

Developing the SEM-cathodoluminescence provenance analysis technique for quartz arenites
       (BSc Hons, MSc, PhD) (KNB + TM, JDB, or SDW)

           Brunner coal measures, West Coast.

           Papakaio coal measures, Otago.

           Other Eocene/Paleocene coal measures and related deposits.

           Leap Year Group, Northern Victoria Land, Antarctica.

           Beacon Supergroup, Southern Victoria Land, Antarctica.

Interaction between volcanic and sedimentary processes
       (BSc Hons, MSc, PhD) (KNB + JWC, SDW, ML)

           Cretaceous Gridiron Volcanics, Marlborough.

           Cretaceous Lookout Volcanics, Marlborough.

           Oligocene Cookson Volcanics, Marlborough.

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           Oligocene Oamaru volcanism: carbonate deposition and volcanism.

           Cretaceous Stitts Tuff, West Coast.

Coal-bearing basins
       (BSc Hons, MSc, PhD) (TM, KNB, ML, DCN)

           Modern peat systems of the West Coast and the influence of active tectonics.

           The role of structure on lithologic variations in the Greymouth coalfield.

           Development of an Eocene coal basin, Central Borneo, Indonesia.

           Modelling subsidence in a transtensional basin: Late Cretaceous Paparoa coal basin
           Central Kutai Basin, Indonesia.

           Maturation trends and controls in various New Zealand coal-bearing basins.

           The Pororari Group, West Coast: basin development, and structural controls.

           The Paparoa Tectonic Zone, West Coast: faulting and basin development.

           Eocene Omotumotu Breccia, Greymouth: depositional facies and paleogeography.

Antarctic Basin Analysis
        (BSc Hons, MS, PhD) (KNB + JDB, SDW, MAB)

           Provenance of the Leap Year Group, Northern Victoria Land, Antarctica.

           Provenance of the Lower Beacon Supergroup, Southern Victoria Land, Antarctica.

           Tectonic implications of the Heimdall Erosion Surface, Beacon Supergroup, Antarctica.

           Causes of a mega-slide in the Bowers Terrane, Northern Victoria Land.

           Provenance of marine sandstones, Horlick Fm., Ohio Range, Antarctica. [MAB, KNB]

           Provenance Analysis of Tasman and Southern Ocean seafloor sediments: Antarctic Ice-
                 rafted debris or local NZ source? [KS, KNB]

The evidence of sea level changes in the Quaternary record of the Canterbury Plains e.g. Kowhai
Formation and Conway Flats. (MSc or Ph.D) [DCN, KNB, JS]

Provenance and sedimentology of Lower Devonian arenites, Reefton. (MSc) [MAB, KNB, KS]

Paleozoic Takaka and Buller terrane amalgamation as recorded in the detrital compositions and
sedimentary facies distributions. (MSc/PhD) [JDB, KNB]

Comparison of the Jurassic Clent Hills Group rocks of the Mt Somers-Malvern Hills area with
contemporaneous rocks of the Pahau sub-terrane. (MSc) [JDB, KNB, SDW]
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Sedimentology and petrology of the undifferentiated Haupiri Group (old Anatoki Formation east
of the Anatoki Fault on Boulder Lake area. (MSc) [JDB, KNB, DS]

Provenance studies by examination of geochemistry and petrology of igneous clasts in
conglomerates in Murihiku conglomerates, Southland and N. Island (MSc/PhD) [SDW, JDB, KNB]


Geotechnical characterization of loess deposits on Banks Peninsula and elsewhere, including
chemical stabilization studies. [DHB]

Properties of chemically stabilised soils including strength and durability assessment with
emphasis on lime applications. [DHB]

Geotechnical studies in operating or abandoned mines, including pit slope or roof stability,
waste management and mine rehabilitation. [DHB]

Acid mine drainage (AMD) investigation and remediation at abandoned or operational mine
sites. [DHB]

Rock mechanics parameters for and geophysical properties of hard and soft rock materials of
different lithologies and degrees of weathering. [DHB, DCN]

Pictorial corebook of Eocene or Cretaceous coal bearing sediments with corresponding
geotechnical properties. (MSc/PhD) [TM, DB]

Investigation and characterisation of roading aggregates, concrete materials and/or
armourstone sources in New Zealand and overseas. [DHB]

Geotechnical characterisation of fault rocks in Torlesse lithologies. (MSc) [JKC]


Geophysical mapping of the thickness and internal structure of New Zealand and Andean
glaciers and the influence of climatic variations. (MSc/PhD) [DCN & others]

Landslides and landscape evolution, Banks Peninsula. (MSc) [JRP, DHB]

Using geophysical and geological techniques to study land use changes, Maori and Colonial
early settlement patterns, agricultural patterns etc in Canterbury. (BSc Hons/MSc) [DCN,
KNB, with R Fyfe of Canterbury Museum]

Trace element environmental geochemistry in geological materials, soils, polluted water etc.

Biological and geochemical indicators of environmental change from lakes and bogs including
salination and euthrophication. [JS]

See also relevant topics listed under Structural Geology and Neotectonics.
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3-D rock fall simulations using high resolution digital terrain models.
(PhD/MSc) [Laurie Richards, DHB]

Modelling of geomorphic evolution of landscapes with deep bedrock landslides.
(PhD) [JRP]

Glacial geomorphology and glacial sedimentology in New Zealand and Antarctica.
(Hons - PhD) [JS]

Coastal evolution and clastic shallow marine stratigraphy. (Hons – PhD) [JS]

Mega-scale topographic collapse and structural geomorphology of the Maungharuru Range,
Hawke’s Bay. (PhD/MSc) [JRP]

Modelling the role of large-scale, deep-seated soft rock landslides in catchment evolution,
southern Hawke’s Bay. (MSc/PhD) [JRP]

Seismic landslides – effect of topography on location and volume. (PhD) [TRD]

Dynamics of large rapid blockslides. (PhD) [TRD]

Sediment management in Handiside Stream, SH6. (MSc Eng.Geol) [TRD]

Morphology and origin of West Coast fanheads. (MSc Geomorphology) [TRD, DCN]

Morphology of seismogenic landslide scars. (MSc Geomorphology) [TRD]

Morphology and possible seismic origin of glacial cirques. (MSc Geomorphology) [TRD]

Use of GPR to map shallowly buried soils on West Coast fanheads. (BSc Hons) [TRD, DCN]

Microscale modelling of catastrophic mountainside collapses. (BSc Hons) [TRD]

Sediment transport and bedform evolution in steep streams. (BSc Hons) [TRD, DCN, KNB]

5.         HAZARDS

Geological and geophysical studies of landslides in Canterbury and other areas, including
hard rocks, soft rock and engineering soils. [DHB, JRP, DCN]

Urban planning studies, particularly at district and regional plan level, incorporating hazard
identification and land-use zoning. Priority areas include Canterbury, West Coast and
Marlborough. [DHB]

Hazard identifications, risk assessment and appropriate mitigation measures for corridor
projects (e.g. highways). [DHB]

Landslide dam formation and stability, including failure prediction characteristics.
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Rockfall hazard investigation, analyses and/or remediation studies. [DHB, Laurie Richards]

Volcanic Hazards:
           Effects of ash on ‘lifelines’. (MSc) [JWC]

           Effects of eruptions on damsites. (MSc/PhD) [JWC]

           Evacuation planning for large eruptions. (PhD?) [JWC]

           Recovery of land from different thicknesses of ash fall. (MSc) [JWC]

           Impact on volcanic ash on roofs. (MSc) [JWC]

           Reafforestation after a major eruption. (PhD) [JWC/Forestry]

           Fine ash in stormwater and sewerage systems. (MSc) [JWC]

Hazard zoning for landslide dambreak-induced river aggradation. (MSc Natural Hazards)


Hydrogeological studies involving catchment investigations, water resource quantification,
and groundwater contamination/waste disposal investigations (anywhere within reason).

Location of subsurface volcanic ridges and their influence on local hydrogeology, Banks
Peninsula (BSc Hons/MSc) [DCN]

Determination of the extent of seawater incursion into coastal aquifers (a number of
locations are possible). (BSc Hons/MSc) [DCN]

Investigate the hydrological-hydrogeological connections between the Lakes Rerewhakaaitu,
Rotomahana and Tarawera. (BSc Hons/MSc) [DCN, JWC]

Influence of clay mineralogy on the ground-penetrating radar response: Lab and field
studies. (PhD) [DCN with J. Tealby of EEE & others]

Ground-penetrating radar for mapping change in river depth and bedform for hydrological
studies. (MSc/BSc Hons) [DCN, KNB, with C. Doscher of Lincoln & others)

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General petrological/field mapping projects in Fiordland in conjunction with the IGNS QMAP
1:250,000 revision. [SDW, IGNS staff]

Petrology and geochemistry of Nelson–S.Westland–E.Fiordland granitoids.
(BSc Hons/MSc/PhD) [SDW, DS]

Andesite petrogenesis, Tongariro Volcanic Centre : particular studies of older volcanics and
crustal xenoliths within the andesites on Ngauruhoe etc. (MSc/PhD) [SDW, JWC]

Quantitative clay mineralogy using X-Ray diffraction (many applications). (MSc/PhD) [SDW]

Geochemical comparison of Greenland Group sediments with those of Swanson Formation
and Robertson Bay Group, Antarctica. (MSc./PhD) [SDW, JDB]

Age and origin of West Coast mylonites. (PhD) [SDW, DS]

Petrology and discrimination of Cretaceous (Separation Point) and Paleozoic Riwaka Complex
intrusions in the Wangapeka-Baton area. (MSc) [JDB, MAB, SDW]

Geochemistry of peat related to climate change. (MSc/PhD) [TM and CRL staff]


The paleoecology and evolutionary systematics of the brachiopod-rich Everett's Quarry
Limestone, Oamaru. (BSc Hons/MSc) [DM]

New Zealand Devonian brachiopod studies. (MSc/PhD) [DM]

Systematics and paleoecology of selected Devonian invertebrates, Reefton (echinoderms –
[crinoids, carpoids, blastoids etc] tentaculitids, conularids, trilobites, corals, gastropods).
(MSc/PhD) [MAB]

Evolutionary studies of Cenozoic brachiopods. (MSc/PhD) [DM]

Shell (SEM) ultrastructural studies of Recent brachiopods. (MSc/PhD) [DM]

Morphologic adaptative response to environmental change in New Zealand Cenozoic marine
invertebrates. (BSc Hons/MSc/PhD) [DM]

Biological studies (histological) of Recent NZ brachiopods (in conjunction with Zoology Dept).
(BScHons/MSc/PhD) [DM]

Investigations of evolutionary, paleoecological and sequence stratigraphic interrelationships
in South Island Cenozoic sedimentary basins. (PhD) [DM, KNB]

The application of palynomorph studies to Jurassic - Cretaceous stratigraphic and structural
problems in Canterbury and Marlborough. (MSc/PhD) [DM, KNB]

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Palynofacies studies of South Island coal measure sequences. (MSc/PhD) [DM, KNB, TM]

Early Cretaceous angiosperm palynology in the Clarence River area, Marlborough.
(MSc/PhD) [DM]

Biostratigraphic subdivision of the Haumurian stage (late Cretaceous) using spores/pollen
and/or dinoflagellates. (MSc/PhD) [DM]

Temporal variations in Krithe (Ostracoda) vestibule morphology – an important
palaeoceanographic signal? (MSc) [KS]

Are the effects of land-use change recorded in deep-sea sediments – Core GR6/2, Hokitika
Canyon, South Westland. (MSc) [KS]

Foraminiferal shell growth patterns: possible ramifications for O/C isotope studies. [KS, KNB]

Are deep-water species of Cytherella (Ostracoda) adapted to survive depletion of dissolved
oxygen in bottom-water? (MSc) [KS]

Systematics and paleoecology of a Permian flora and invertebrate fauna, Mt Glossopteris
Formation, Ohio Range, Antarctica (based on Canterbury Museum Collections). (MSc) [MAB]

The role of flora in controlling coal bed composition. (MSc/PhD) [TM, KNB, DM]

Evolutionary controls on mire vegetation in New Zealand – the Cretaceous through to the
Holocene. (MSc/PhD) [TM, KNB]

Quaternary vegetation histories from New Zealand especially NW Nelson. (Hons/MSc) [JS]

Development of biological proxies for paleoclimate and paleoenvironmental work (PhD) (e.g.
beetles, phytoliths). [JS]


Deformation processes in accretionary rocks. Cretaceous of the Kaikoura-Clarence
Area. (PhD) [JDB]

Structures around Rameka Gabbro, N.W. Nelson. (MSc) [JDB, DS]

U. Cambrian sediments and the problem of the Anatoki Formation. (MSc/PhD) [JDB]

Structures of Waingaro schist belt. (PhD) [JDB, DS]

Geology of the Triassic Teatotal Group, Nelson. (BSc Hons/MSc) [JDB]

Composition and provenance of the Christmas Conglomerate and the Salisbury
Conglomerates: pre-Lockett conglomerates in the Takaka terrane. (MSc) [JDB]

Tectonics of selected faults defining the tectonic slices of the Takaka terrane and the early
tectonic events in NW Nelson. (MSc/PhD) [JDB, DS]

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Structural history of selected sections north of Hanmer Basin. (MSc) [JDB, JKC, JRP]

Detailed investigation of structure, metamorphic petrology and geochronology in Alpine
Schists in the Waitaha-Whitcombe sector to investigate suggestion in M. Hawkes' thesis
1981. (MSc/PhD) [JDB]

Internal structure and contact relationships between Monotis and Torlessia bearing
sequences of the St. Arnaud Range. (MSc) [JDB, JKC]

Polyphase metamorphism and Alpine Fault related deformation in the Alpine Schists. (PhD)

Neotectonic evolution and paleoseismicity of the Cheviot Basin and adjacent coast.
(PhD and/or several MSc/BSc Hons) [JRP, JKC]

The Esk Fault zone, inland Canterbury. (PhD or 2 MSc) [JKC, JRP]

Computer modelling of drainage profiles on active folds to determine gradient index
characteristics, for application to neotectonic mapping. (MSc) [JKC]

Fault structures in Upper Kowai River area. (BSc Hons) [JDB, JKC]

Esk Head Melange north of Clarence Fault. (MSc/PhD) [JDB]

Structure and evolution of releasing and restraining bends on transpressive faults-modelling
and field observation. (MSc/PhD) [JKC, JRP]

Structure and mechanics of reversal of facing direction in thrust systems at the southern limit
of the Hikurangi Subduction System-Hurunui area N. Canterbury. (PhD) [JKC, JRP]

Interaction and morphology of the Alpine Fault in the fluvial and alluvial gravels of Westland.

Three-dimensional imaging of faults, South Island. (MSc) (A number of sites are possible)
[DCN & others]

Junction of the Clarence and Alpine Faults. (MSc) [JKC, JRP, JDB]

Cretaceous structural patterns, Marlborough. (By analysis of Cretaceous dike orientations and
faults: isopachs on lava flows: study of syndepositional faulting). (BSc Hons/MSc) [JDB, ML]

Torlesse Fault Zone. (BSc Hons/MSc) [JRP, JKC]

Neotectonics and structure of the fault system in the Ant Hill area, inland Canterbury. (MSc)

Active Rangefront Faulting, Mt Somers Area. (MSc) [JRP/JKC]

Tectonic Geomorphic Mapping, Porters Pass Fault Zone, North of Waimakariri River. (MSc)

Demonstration by mapping of intrusive nature of Riwaka rocks into folded Paleozoic rocks.
(MSc) [JDB, DS]
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Delineation of Banks Peninsula buried shore platform. (BSc Hons/MSc) [DCN, JRP]

Structural styles in the Buller terrane: the origin of the Greenland and Waiuta structural
styles and their possible relationship to core complex development. (MSc/PhD) [JDB, DS]

Tectonic geomorphology of the Malvern Hills. (PhD) [JKC, JRP, JM]

Geology of the ?Permian Torlesse rocks of the Selwyn River gorge: extent and relationship to
surrounding Triassic rocks. (MSc) [JDB]

Structure and provenance of the Clent Hills Group in the upper Ashburton River area. (MSc)

Fault zone deformation processes: physical, petrological and geochemical processes in
relation to surface deformation behaviour of active faults. (MSc/PhD) [JKC, SDW, DS]

Tectonic geomorphology and seismic hazard associated with the inner Canterbury Plains
fault-related fold system Oxford to Glentui. (MSc) [JKC]

Tectonic geomorphology and seismic hazard associated with the inner Canterbury Plains
fault-related fold system, Benmore Range front to the Rakaia River (MSc) [JKC].

The Cust Anticline, structure from seismic reflection data and late Pleistocene growth of a
fault-related fold under the Canterbury Plains. (BSc Hons/MSc) [JKC, JRP]

Structure, geomorphology and active ground deformation Toaroha and Kokatahi Rivers area
on the Alpine Fault. (MSc) [JKC, JRP, DCN].

Recent displacement history on the Hope Fault near Kaikoura. (BSc Hons) [JKC, JRP]

Recording the initiation and development of the Alpine Fault (BSc Hons, MSc, PhD) (KNB +
ML, JRP, or JKC)
       Miocene Great Marlborough Cgl., Marlborough.

           Pliocene Bourne Cgl., Marlborough.

           Pliocene cgls. near Blenheim, Marlborough.

           Mio-Pliocene Maruia basin cgls., Marlborough.

           Miocene Otaian Welsh Formation, West Coast.

           Oligocene unconformities, everywhere, recording precursor tectonics to Alpine fault.

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10.        VOLCANOLOGY

Banks Peninsula:
           Trachyte extrusive bodies, Lyttelton Volcanic Group. (BSc Hons/MSc) [JWC, DS,

           Strombolian-Surtseyan deposits of Scenery Nook, Akaroa volcano. (BSc Hons) [JWC]

           Lushington Bay Breccias, Akaroa volcano. (BSc Hons) [JWC, SDW]

           Orton Bradley Formation. (BSc Hons) [JWC, DS, KNB]

           Port Levy Formation, Mt Herbert Group. (BScHons) [JWC]

Taupo Volcanic Zone:
           Huka Falls Formation TVZ. (PhD) [JWC, KNB]

           Waiora Formation TVZ. (MSc) [JWC]

           Ohakune basalts. (BSc Hons) [JWC]

           Distribution and petrology of a member of the Rotoaira Formation, Tongariro Volcanic
           Centre. (BSc Hons/MSc) [JWC]

  Interaction between volcanic and sedimentary processes
        (BSc Hons, MS, PhD) (KNB + JWC, SDW, ML)
           Cretaceous Gridiron Volcanics, Marlborough.

           Cretaceous Lookout Volcanics, Marlborough.

           Oligocene Cookson Volcanics, Marlborough.

           Oamaru volcanism: interrelations between carbonate deposition and volcanism
           Cretaceous Stitts Tuff, West Coast.

July 2004

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