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Geology and Geography

17 August 2023

UC's geology and geography researchers are focusing on Geoarchaeology and forensic geology, Tectonics and landscape evolution, Engineering geology and hydrogeology, and Geothermal energy. Learn more.


Much of the research in the department is of a collaborative nature involving staff or groups of staff working with postgraduate students, senior fellows and research associates within and outside the Department. There is significant external collaboration with international colleagues, local and federal government agencies, and other research institutions. 

This pattern of working has come about from the recognition that a multifaceted or multidisciplinary approach provides a more powerful tool for geological research. The pattern has also been strongly influenced by the change in funding mechanisms available in New Zealand and the trend towards programme-orientated research.

What is Geography?

Geography is the study of human behaviour, the environment we live in, and the relationship between both. It combines science and humanities, and it also has links to Law, Engineering, Computer Science and Health Sciences.

Geography focuses on finding innovative solutions to our society’s most pressing issues and debates, and the human response to these challenges, such as climate change, poverty, sustainability, health, and inequality.

Studying Geography will allow you to take an informed and analytical view of our changing world, and of your place in it. The relationship between people and their environment is a key geographical theme, as is the way in which this relationship can be made more sustainable for the future. This puts Geography at the core of many important current debates.

Geographers are able to examine an issue holistically by looking at both the physical factors that affect the problem and also the human responses to the challenges experienced.


Research strengths

Tectonics and Landscape Evolution

Areas of current research in tectonics and landscape evolution include:

  • Earthquake Processes
  • Structural Geology
  • Sedimentology and basin analysis in tectonically active margins, particularly convergent margins and terrane accretion (Kari Bassett)
  • Application of geomorphology to prediction of landform response to disturbance, in particular in the context of natural hazard and disaster management. (Tim Davies)
  • Dynamics of large silicic magma systems; interplay between magmatism, tectonism and volcanism, with particular reference to the Taupo Volcanic Zone. (Darren Gravley)
  • Volcanic Hazards - effects and mitigation of volcanic ash on infrastructure, housing, and machinery. Volcanic processes, reconstruction of volcanic systems, volcanic stratigraphy, and volcano-tectonic relationships. (Samuel Hampton)
  • Field-based and experimental volcanology, petrology, geochemistry of igneous rocks. Lava dome and explosive volcanism. Caldera formation, supervolcanic eruptions and magma chamber dynamics. Hazards and monitoring of active volcanoes. (Ben Kennedy)
  • Active tectonics and structure along the New Zealand (North Canterbury and east coast North Island) and southern California (western Salton Trough) plate boundary zones. (Jarg Pettinga)
  • Natural hazard and risk assessment, with special interest in volcanic eruptions. Impacts of natural hazards to critical infrastructure and primary industries. Community resilience to natural hazards. (Thomas Wilson)


Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology

Research in engineering geology and hydrogeology include multidisciplinary projects in:

  • rock and soil mechanics
  • hydrogeology
  • site investigation
  • geomorphology
  • natural hazards
  • natural resource extraction
  • environmental studies


Geothermal Energy

Research in geothermal energy is focused on:

  • gaining insights into the characteristics of geothermal reservoirs (heat source, waters) 
  • surface expression of geothermal features 
  • exploration of new geothermal fields / areas of production  
  • geothermal power generation.


Geoarcheology and Forensic Geology

Research Groups


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