Research into ancient Fraser Island coast

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Research into ancient Fraser Island coast


Published on 16 October 2013

University of the Sunshine Coast researchers are hoping to unlock weather trends by studying evidence of past weather events in Fraser Island’s ancient coastal landforms.

Lecturer in Science and Engineering Dr Adrian McCallum and Senior Lecturer in Environmental Engineering Dr Helen Fairweather are collaborating with Coastal Geologist and Geophysicist Dr Allen Gontz from the University of Massachusetts Boston on this special project.

They are using ground-penetrating radar to gain images of ancient coastal landforms along the south-eastern coastline of the heritage-listed sand island.

Dr McCallum said by looking at the depth and structure of buried ancient landforms, the researchers hoped to estimate what the weather might have been like in the past and how it could relate to current weather patterns.

“Gathering evidence of these trends will allow us to gauge the severity of weather in the past and help us in predicting future climate or weather changes,” he said.

“The use of ground-penetrating radar equipment is a first for USC and it gives us the opportunity to know and understand more about the dynamics of our local coastal environment, both now and potentially in the future.”

The project has been made possible through a University of Massachusetts-Boston development grant and in-kind support from USC’s Engineering program.

Dr Gontz who initiated the research said the ground-penetrating radar data would be supported by careful analysis of sand coring (a method of producing a cylindrical, undisturbed sample of sand) over the next 12 to 18 months.

“The sand coring will assist us in verifying the consistency of the ground-penetrating radar data and how these ancient coastal landforms dating back more than 7,000 years ago responded to severe weather events,” he said.

“This kind of research is an important part of understanding the full impact of historical weather events and locating evidence of Holocene Sea Level Regression, otherwise known as the fall in sea levels over time.”

Dr McCallum said the iconic landscapes of Fraser Island were set to feature in an upcoming edition of the Australian Journal of Environmental Management.

— Jessica Halls

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