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The Australian National University

Emeritus Professor Patrick De Deckker

BA, MSc (Hons), PhD, DSc
Emeritus Professor
ANU College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Palaeoecology 060206
  • Surface Processes 040607
  • Palaeontology (Incl. Palynology) 040308
  • Quaternary Environments 040606
  • Biological Oceanography 040501
  • Palaeoclimatology 040605
  • Atmospheric Aerosols 040101
  • Inorganic Geochemistry 040202
  • Geomorphology And Regolith And Landscape Evolution 040601
  • Marine Geoscience 040305
  • Isotope Geochemistry 040203
  • Oceanography 0405
  • Physical Geography And Environmental Geoscience 0406
  • Geochemistry 0402


Patrick De Deckker did a PhD in the Zoology Department at the University of Adelaide on salt lakes, their biota and Quaternary lacustrine deposits, a field he continued afterwards during 7 years of postdoctoral positions. He obtained a DSc from the same university, this time from the Department of Geology and Geophysics, for long-term accomplishment in the fields of limnology, palaeolimnology, palaeoceanography and micropalaeontology. In 1998, Patrick joined the Australian National University and has held a full time teaching position combined with research ever since. He led the informal Australian Marine Quaternary Program that brought together many people working on many aspects of marine science and deep-sea cores.
During his entire career, Patrick’s work has always been multidisciplinary in nature with a common aim: to obtain information of relevance for the reconstruction of past marine and continental environments of importance for the understanding of global and regional climatic variability.

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Verco Medal awarded by the Royal Society of South Australia in 1992 for excellence in research in the fields of Geology and Zoology.

 Australian Society for Limnology Medal awarded publicly in December 2005 for outstanding contribution to Australian Limnology.

 Order of Australia Medal awarded in 2007 for service to science through research and teaching in the areas of palaeoclimate studies, salination and climate change, and through the initiation and support of international scientific collaboration.

 Christoffel Plantin Medal awarded in 2008 in recognition for scientific activities that have contributed to the prestige of Belgium.

  Mawson Medal awarded in 2010 by the Australian Academy of Science for outstanding achievement in the Earth Sciences.

  Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science: Elected in May 2012

  Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of London: September 2014

Researcher's projects

Geochemical and microbiological fingerprinting of Australian aeolian dust Implications for (past) climates, the environment, health and the oceans

Understanding the origin and composition of Australian dust has implications on the environment, ocean and human health. However, there is scant published information on the chemical and biological composition of airborne dust from the Australian continent. For example, an isotopic comparison of aeolian material from the southern continents with dust recovered in Antarctic ice cores listed only 5 samples for the entire Australian continent, and consequently argued for a Patagonian source during glacial periods for dust recovered at Vostok and EPICA Dome C. We now have published a paper further demonstrating the link between dust recovered in Antarctic ice cores and dust sources in the Murray Darling Basin [De Deckker, P., Norman, M., Goodwin, I. D., Wain, A., Gingele , F.X. 2010. Lead isotopic evidence for an Australian source of aeolian dust to Antarctica at times over the last 170,000 years, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 285, 205-223.]

Thus far, we have undertaken an intensive, multidisciplinary and collaborative analysis of dust from the October 22, 2002 "Canberra dust storm" event [see McTainsh et al. Atmospheric Environment 39, 1227-1236 (2005) for a description of the event]. Interestingly, DNA from 75 different microbial species was extracted from the dust by Drs R. Abed and D. de Beer from the Max-Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology in Bremen, and a great variety of organic compounds were also found by Dr E. Schefuss and Prof. Kai-Uwe Hinrichs from the University of Bremen. Dr J.-B. Stuut, from the same institution, studied the sedimentological aspect of the dust. Using a variety of geochemical and palynological [by Dr S. van der Kaars of Monash] 'fingerprinting' analyses, including investigations of Nd and Sr isotopes [made by Dr M. Norman from the Research School of Earth Sciences at ANU] linked the dust that rained down in Canberra to the Bourke area of western NSW. Investigation of the meteorological events at this time by Prof. N. Tapper and Dr T. O'Loingsigh, both from Monash, corroborated with these results. Our results were published in G-3 [De Deckker, P., Abed, R. M. M., de Beer, D., Hinrichs, K., O'Loingsigh, T., Schefuß, E., Stuut, J. W., Tapper, N. J., van der Kaars, s. 2008, Geochemical and microbiological fingerprinting of airborne dust that fell in Canberra, Australia, in October 2002, Geochem Geophys. Geosyst., 9, Q12Q10, doi:10.1029/2008GC002091]. Current investigatiosn concern the analysis of samples collected during the large dust storms that affected a large part of eastern Australia in September 2009.

Finally, preliminary investigations by Dr G. Allison, Mr C. Munday and Mr D. Stephenson [from the ANU Medical School] of the microbiological communities isolated from aerosols pumped at sea offshore Australia has commenced and the results are being prepared for publication.

For further details on our work on the Canberra dust event, visit the following web site:

Geological and biological investigations of the Murray Canyons Group and the Lacepede Shelf, offshore South Australia

We successfully completed the mapping of the some of the deep-sea canyons that was commenced during the AUSTREA and AUSCAN cruises on the L'Atalante and Marion Dufresne vessels in 1999/2001 and 2003 respectively [see other report entitled 'Deep-sea Canyons']. As a result, we now have a high-resolution map of the Sprigg Canyon. We have identified that some of the conduits [channels] in several of the canyons are definitely transporting upper slope material down to the abyss.

We found, by attempting to core the large, deep holes located at great depths [> 4.5km] below the canyons that they are not sites of substantial sedimentation. In addition, we did not find any hydrochemical anomaly that could have been generated by fluid/gas emission, although we did not manage to rest the CTD equipment on the floor of the holes.

In addition, we located the position of ancient courses of the Murray across the Lacepede Shelf and discovered the presence of an extensive estuary that would have been dammed by outcrops and possibly a large dune field.

We traced the ancient courses of the River Murray for the last glacial-interglacial period, with one possible exception that may go as far as the mid-Pleistocene. No evidence was found for much older geomorphic features, assuming either that they were eroded away or that the sub-bottom profiling equipment did not permit us to penetrate deeper into the sedimentary sequences. However, in most cases, recognised fluvial features did sit directly on the basement.

We obtained good CTD data down to great depths [>5,000m] in the canyons [perhaps the deepest CTD obtained with the Southern Surveyor] and these will prove very useful for future research on deep water.
In conclusion, we have a better understanding of the nature of the deep-sea canyons offshore Kangaroo Island. These sites are likely to be visited by cetaceans and will be of use to future biological surveys in the region. We have found ancient lacustrine deposits that have the potential, if cored, to provide information on past climatic regimes that affected Australia during a very wet period coinciding with the filling of the Willandra Lakes [e.g. Mungo] and the extensive river flows registered in the Murray Darling Basin. We have mapped possible ancient courses of the ancestral River Murray offshore Portland and discovered significant undersea slides that potentially could cause tsunamis.

We have commenced a program of filtering air at sea to determine the nature of aerosols and identify their microbiological contents.
For further details, visit,


University of the Sea. "A research training program for postgraduate students interested in any aspect of marine science in the Indo-Pacific region".
About UOS

The University of the Sea is a partnership between the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, the Australian National University, the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Tokyo, the Korean Ocean Research and Development Institute, Tongji University China, the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans Canada, the National Institute of Oceanography Goa, and the Indonesian Research Centre for Marine Technology. Together these institutions make up the Asian Neighbours Global Change Network, whose secretariat is located at the University of Sydney.

The University of the Sea programme was funded by grants from the Toyota Foundation in Japan, the Australian Earth Systems Science Network (through the ARC), and the Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research. The programme is made possible by the support of the French Polar Institute (IPEV) who host the University of the Sea onboard their research vessel the Marion Dufresne.
The University of the Sea is dedicated to building marine science capacity in the Asia Pacific region. It aims to bring together senior researchers and young local scholars to address marine science issues of direct interest to the region. The programme endeavours to give these students the opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge required for participation in the global debate on the use of the ocean.
The first University of the Sea training program took place in the Coral Sea - Arafura Sea region onboard the French research vessel Marion Dufresne between June 24 and July 8, 2005. The ship sailed from Port Moresby (PNG) to Darwin (Australia).

During this two-week period, twenty students representing ten countries [Australia, P.R. China, East Timor, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka] got "hands on" practical experience in both marine data collection and marine research problem solving. The students were under the supervision of Professor Patrick De Deckker (Australian National University) and Assoc. Professor Jock Keene (The University of Sydney).
The second University of the Sea training program took part in 2006 with the cruise departing from Auckland on February 7 and went via Noumea, to finish in Sydney on February 26. The shipboard programme was supervised by Drs Jock Keene and Julie Dickinson from the University of Sydney, Dr Greg Skilbeck from the University of Technology Sydney, and Professor Patrick De Deckker from the Australian National University. The University of the Sea students joined a research program developed by marine geoscientists from Geoscience Australia. It was part of their 'Lord Howe Rise Project' to evaluate the gas hydrates ('frozen' methane) in the sediments.

Geoscience Australia's survey was primarily involved in the collection of six giant CALYPSO piston cores over areas of possible gas hydrate (bottom simulating reflectors, BSRs) on the northern Lord Howe Rise. In addition to the coring program, swath, sub-bottom profiler, gravity and magnetometer data were collected on transits to and from the sampling sites. These data provided detailed information on the bathymetry and structure of the seafloor and underlying geology, particularly of the continental margin of central and northern New South Wales and of the eastern flank of the Lord Howe Rise. Also, a small number of dredge hauls were taken during the swath mapping on the eastern flank of the Rise.
For further details, visit the following site describing the 2 cruises held so far in 2005 and 2006.



Past student projects



  • Dr M. Ayress, now micropalaeontological consultant
  • Dr T. T. Barrows, now Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter
  • Dr F. X. Gingele,  now polar explorer
  • Prof. I. Martinez,  now Professor at University of Medellin, Colombia
  • Dr A. Rathburn, Associate Professor Indinana State University
  • Dr Jessica Reeves, now Lecturer AT Ballarat University, Victoria
  • Dr P. Wells [lost touch with her, was with Australian Government Petroleum & Energy]
  • Dr S. Winkler- Nees,  now with DFG, Germany

Dr Chikara Hiramatsu, Japex Japan
The late Dr Jean-Jacques Pichon, CNRS France


  • Armand, L. 1997. The use of diatom transfer functions in estimating sea-surface temperature and sea-ice in cores from the southeast Indian Ocean. Ph D. thesis ANU, Now Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University
  • Corrège, T. 1993. Late Quaternary palaeoceanography of the Queensland Trough (Western Coral Sea) based on Ostracoda and the chemical composition of their shells. PhD thesis, ANU, Now Professor of Oceanography, University of Bordeaux I.
  • Nicolas Darrenougue. 2013. The geochemistry of rhodoliths as proxies for palaeoenvironment changes in shallow water.
  • Gouramanis, C. 2009. High-resolution Holocene palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic changes recorded in southern Australian lakes based on ostracods and their chemical composition. PhD Thesis, ANU. Now Research Fellow, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
  • Hesse, P.P. 1993. A Quaternary record of the Australian environment from aeolian dust in Tasman Sea sediments. PhD thesis, ANU, Now Reader, Macquarie University.
  • Lewis, S. C 2011. Climatic influences on stable water isotope variability in palaeo-precipitation . Now at Universit of Melbourne
  • Magee, J.W. 1997 Palaeohydrology of Lake Eyre. Now Researcher at Geoscience Australia.
  • Martinez, I.J. 1993. Late Pleistocene Palaeoceanography of the Tasman Sea. PhD thesis, ANU, Now Professor University of Medellin, Colombia.
  • Ogden, R. W. 1996. The impacts of farming and river regulation on billabongs of the southeast Murray Basin, Australia. Now Principal Scientist, E-water, University of Canberra
  • Passlow, V. 1994. Late Quaternary history of the Southern Ocean offshore southeastern Australia. PhD thesis, ANU, Was Researcher at Geoscience Australia, retired.
  • Radke, L.C. 2000. Solute divides and chemical facies in southeastern Australian salt lakes and the response of ostracods in time [Holocene] and space. Now Researcher at Geoscience Australia.
  • Rogers, J. 2009. Modern and Late Quaternary Radiolaria from the Indian Ocean. PhD thesis, ANU. Visiting Fellow, ANU.
  • Sadekov, A. Yu. 2008. Advancing planktonic foraminifera Mg/Ca thermometry: a microanalytical perspective. PhD thesis, Now University of Cambridge.
  • Sinclair, N. 2011. Oxfordian palynostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy of the Jansz gas field, North West Shelf, Australia PhD thesis recently completed. Privte consusltant.
  • Spooner, M.I. 2006 The dynamics of the Leeuwin Current during the middle and late Quaternary.  PhD thesis, ANU. Now  works for CO2 sequestration company in Sydney.
  • Swanson, K. 1993. Late Quaternary and Recent benthic Ostracoda, from the eastern Tasman Sea. MSc thesis, ANU. Now Senior Manager, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
  • Young, M. 2006. The distribution of organic- and calcareous-walled dinoflagellate cysts from the eastern Indian Ocean; a proxy for late Quaternary palaeo-oceanographic reconstructions. PhD thesis, ANU. Now Researcher Petroleum Branch, CSIRO.
  • Wilkins, D. 2009. Optical Spin Luminescence and radiocarbon dating of marine and lacustrine cores. PhD thesis, ANU. Now Researcher Australian Antarctic Division.


Patrick De Deckker has been acting as advisor to numerous PhD students at ANU in the following departments: Geology, Research School of Earth Sciences, Geography, Archaeology and Natural History.

Patrick De Deckker also supervised, as well as co-supervised, numerous Honours theses at ANU from several departments at ANU. .


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  17 July 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers