Professor Penelope (Penny) King

Ph.D. Arizona State University, USA
Professor, Research School of Earth Sciences
ANU College of Science
T: 61-2-6125-0667

Areas of expertise

  • Geology 0403
  • Geochemistry 0402
  • Surface Processes 040607
  • Volcanology 040314
  • Extraterrestrial Geology 040302

Research interests

Professor Penny King's research group examines how volatile species – carbon-oxygen-hydrogen-sulfur compounds that prefer to be in a gas phase – are distributed on planets.  Tracking the sources and sinks of volatile elements lies at the heart of understanding how life originated, how planetary atmospheres develop, how ore deposits form, and how climate is regulated. 

Our approach is unique in applying a combination of methods to track volatiles including petrology, high to low temperature experiments, geochemistry, thermodynamics, field sampling, and new analytical approaches (e.g., synchrotron, micro-analysis, and a remote X-ray spectrometer on Mars’s Curiosity rover).



Assoc Dean (Research) – College of Science – ANU 2021-2023

Prof/Snr Fellow/Fellow – Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES) – ANU 2012-

Snr Res Sci III/Res Prof – Inst. Meteoritics / Earth Planet Sci – Uni New Mexico 2007-2011

Assoc (Tenured)/Asst Prof – Dept. Earth Sciences – Uni Western Ontario (UWO) 1999-07


Fellow, Geochemical Society 2023

Fellow, American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2019

Fellow, Mineralogical Society of America (MSA) 2019

AGU Joanne Simpson Medal for Mid-Career Scientists in Earth & Space Sciences 2019

Australian Research Council Future Fellow 2014-18

Clare Burton Award for Equity & Diversity (ANU VC's Staff Excellence & Service Award) 2017

Snr Fellow, Advance HE 2017

NASA Gp Award to MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) team 2013, 2015

Adjunct Prof/Spec Grad Faculty – Guelph-Waterloo Physics Inst/Schl Environ Sci Uni. Guelph – Canada 2011-15

Science Co-Investigator for the APXS team on the MSL mission 2007

MSA Distinguished Lecturer 2005

Advisory Panels

Aust Acad Science, Space Sci Rev, Planet Sci 2020

NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return End-to-End Internat Sci Anal Gp 2010-11

USA Nat Res Coun, Space Studies Board, Decadal Survey – Mars Science 2009-10

USA NASA & NSF Panels & Canadian Space Agency Advisory Comms


Principle Editor – Rev Mineralogy & Geochemistry v84 2018

Contrib Editor – A Life in Science – Elements 2012-17

Assoc Editor – Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 2012-14

Principle Editor – Mineralogical Assoc Canada Short Course v33 2004


International & national conferences – instigator/lead for >dozen conferences in research & teaching

Lead - Australasian Uni Geosci Educators’ Network 2015

Councilor - MSA & Mineral Assoc Canada

Fellows committes – AGU (member), Geochem Soc–Eur Assoc Geochem (chair)

Awards committees – AGU, Geochem Soc, MSA, Mineral Assoc Canada

Panel & graduation speaker

Available student projects

Our research group is accepting applications from Honours and PhD students for projects on gas-solid reactions.

  • Adsorption of methane on materials simulating volcanic, impact and volcaniclastic basalts on Mars (with Dr. John Moores)
  • Reactions between SO2 and minerals
  • Volatile cycles on planets

Contact if you are interested.  Applicants with a background in Geology, Chemistry or Chemical Engineering are encouraged to apply.


Current student projects

Analytical & Field-based Projects

  • Oxygen isotopes of sapphires (with Aurelia Duncan, Colin Price & Janaina Avila)
  • Volatiles in volcanic tephra from the Izu-Bonin-Marianas arc (Janaina Avila)
  • Development of non-destructive, field-based reflectance infrared techniques to recognise mineral coatings on rock art, with application to finding datable coatings (with Dr. Tristen Jones)

Laboratory Projects

  • Carbon capture in cements and rocks (Emily Robson & Anna Herring)

Planetary Geology Projects

  • Origin of unusual iron meteorites with silicate inclusions (Rachel Kirby)
  • Element fractionation in impact events recorded in meteorites (Rachel Kirby)
  • Volatiles on the terrestrial planets (Riley Baile)
  • Evolution of exoplanet atmospheres (Sarah McIntyre & Frank Brink)

Past student projects

ANU Analytical & Field-based Projects

  • Minerals in 2018 Kilauea Volcanic ash (Emily Oborski)
  • Hornblendes in I-type granites from the Bega Batholith (Katie Robb)
  • How swelling clays interact with land use (Prue Merriman)
  • Do carbonate tufas provide climate proxy data? (Aly Weirman)
  • Petrology and unusual chemical features of altered rocks from the Grasberg Deposit, Indonesia (Melanie Sieber, Dick Henley)

ANU Laboratory Projects

  • Reaction of volcanic gases with glasses and mobilisation of trace elements (Andrew Palmi)
  • Reaction of SO2 with basaltic glasses prepared at different oxygen fugacities (Christian Renggli)
  • Reaction of SO2 with glasses in the Anorthite-Albite-Diopside system (Christian Renggli)
  • Development of a glass thermometer using the effect of temperature on the mid-infrared spectra of glasses (Leo Pure, Andrew Palm)

ANU Planetary Geology Projects

  • Formation of calcium sulfate minerals on Mars (Tim Hunt)
  • Distribution of metals on the Moon's surface (Christian Renggli)
  • Mid-infrared studies of organic materials in meteorites (Shannon McConachie)


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Updated:  20 May 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers