Developed in response to the 2018 Review of the Earth Composition and Evolution (ECE) Program and the 2018 AuScope Vision Workshop (Adelaide), the proposed project represents a significant restructure of ECE activities in order to produce greater coordination, visibility and impact of the existing laboratory partner nodes at Curtin, Macquarie and Melbourne universities. These changes will foster the creation of a national network of geochemistry laboratories that will jointly utilise the Discovery Portal as a central repository of multiple isotopic data sets of international scale. This project will form part of the isotopic mapping of Australia as set out in UNCOVER, the AMIRA Undercover Roadmap, and the AAS Decadal Plan 2018-2027 (p. 26). The Australian geoscience community will be able to access this “isotopic atlas” to create derivative maps useful in quantitatively understanding Earth system processes that have shaped the formation and evolution of the Australian continent and its resources. This is a significant value-add to the ongoing provision of the range of geochemical analytical infrastructure made nationally accessible at each node.
Coordination of the Laboratory Network will be enabled through the establishment of a Project Office at Curtin University (rotated through nodes), with new EMCR appointments to include a Laboratory Network Coordinating Scientist and a Coordinating Data Scientist. Laboratory Data and Geochemical Development Scientist positions will also be established at Macquarie and Melbourne University. The Data and Geochemical Development Scientists will be responsible for organizing laboratory data collections, working with the AVRE team to publish these collections as data layers in the Discovery Portal, and engaging with NCRIS ARDC to ensure a systematic collection of samples (e.g., IGSN) and accessibility of AuScope data sets, and participating in related geochemical analytical initiatives and delivery. Support levels for geochemical infrastructure network laboratory operations will be maintained and productivity levels monitored so that the AVRE team can design data management infrastructure to accommodate future growth of the laboratory network. These operations include the AuScope designated laboratories at the John de Laeter Centre at Curtin University, the Thermochronology Laboratories at the University of Melbourne and use of MQGA (Macquarie Geo-Analytical) laboratories for geochronology, trace-element and isotope characterisation including TerraneChron®.
The Project Office will also be responsible for coordinating the procurement and commissioning of a new ion probe facility at Curtin following the January 2019 announcement of $5M in new capital funding to AuScope. Curtin has agreed to support the Project Office with new funding for a senior ion probe specialist as Facility Leader. This development provides a unique opportunity to incorporate a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) into the Facility design to facilitate the automated publication of publicly funded data that is compliant with FAIR data standards.
The project will also provide ongoing support for technical support salaries and operational costs as in previous years.