Scientist with a deeper view

19 August 2003

Looking into the depths of the Earth is part of a normal day at the office for Geoscience Australia scientist Leonie Jones. From the surface of the earth, to the very bottom of the crust some 60km below, Leonie is at the forefront of research using seismic profiling to identify complex geological structures that in the past have been too difficult to map using this method.

In seismic profiling, sound waves are sent into the ground and the return echoes are analysed to provide a picture of the subsurface. It has been used for decades to explore for oil and gas deposits in sedimentary basins, where the rocks occur in layers, much like a pancake stack.

"We are now applying the method to very complex geological areas outside of sedimentary basins - areas that people have traditionally thought were 'beyond the view' of seismic profiling", said Leonie.

"Mapping the occurrence of very steep structures, such as faults, has always been an enormous challenge for geologists, but these are the areas that are often related to mineral deposits so it is an important field of study for Australian industry, especially in areas where the rocks are very old - they may be folded and faulted, really deformed - yet at the surface everything might appear flat with no indication of the inner landscape buried below."

Although her original interests lay in the stars, having studied astrophysics as an undergraduate, Leonie turned her sights 180 degrees, completing a PhD investigating how seismic waves travel through rocks and minerals within our own planet.

After many years' experience working in industry and academia, Leonie is considered by her peers as a world leader using seismic profiling to study these more difficult geological areas. Even after working with this seismic research method for many years, she is still impressed by the ability of seismic profiling to create an image of the layers and structures that lie beneath the ground we walk on.

"It is amazing to think we can 'see' what it looks like deep below the Earth's surface. No other technique can really give us such a clear picture of the Earth's interior in the way that seismic profiling can".

Leonie is part of the Australian National Seismic Imaging Resource (ANSIR), a Major National Research Facility funded by the Commonwealth Government and operated as a joint venture between Geoscience Australia and the Australian National University which supports world-class research and education in seismic imaging of the Earth.

To hear more about Geoscience Australia's work, come and visit us on Open Day, 10am to 4pm on Sunday 24 August, when we celebrate National Science Week.

Activities will include science demonstrations, volcanic eruptions, gold panning and rock story telling. Bring in your pet rock and have it identified by Geoscience Australia's experts, join one of the geothermal heating tours of the building or enjoy our science stories.

Geoscience Australia is located at the corner of Jerrabomberra Avenue and Hindmarsh Drive, Symonston.

Topic contact: Last updated: October 4, 2013