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Distinguished professor honoured with Gibb Maitland Medal

Media release

Internationally recognised Curtin University organic geochemist and chemist Professor Kliti Grice has been awarded the Geological Society of Australia’s (GSA) 2016 Gibb Maitland Medal.

Professor Grice, a John Curtin Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the founding director of the WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre at Curtin, received the award in recognition of her work in organic and isotope geochemistry and its applications to fundamental geology, and for her substantial and sustained contributions to the petroleum and minerals resources sector in Western Australia and internationally.

Professor Grice’s nomination citation, delivered by John Curtin Distinguished Professor Simon Wilde, was presented at the recent 2016 GSA-WA Annual Dinner. The citation emphasized that Professor Grice was a dedicated and highly creative researcher and an internationally recognised leader in her field, with a prodigious publication record.

“Using substantial competitive grant funding, Kliti established the WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre in the Department of Chemistry at Curtin University, which has acted as an international hub for world-leading scientists in organic geochemistry,” Professor Wilde said.

Professor Grice, who has held two Australian Research Council (ARC) QEII fellowships and a Discovery Outstanding Research Award at Professorial level, has been responsible for a number of major international scientific breakthroughs.

Her research has significantly contributed to knowledge around the causes and recovery of four of the five largest mass extinction events on Earth, with special relevance to WA geology and exploration of critical resources.

She has also developed and applied sophisticated analytical biomarker and compound specific isotopes (C, H, N and S) from ‘living’ stromatolites – ancient sediments, petroleum and mineral systems including but not limited to the Devonian of the Canning Basin, Permian/Triassic of the Perth Basin, and Triassic/Jurassic of the North West Shelf to very ancient Precambrian petroleum basins.

More recently, Professor Grice has focused on organic geochemistry in Australia’s mineral deposits, including gold, lead zinc, silver, copper and uranium, through her leadership of the CSIRO Minerals System cluster. Her team’s research on the role of biomarkers, biomolecules and microbial-mediated processes has also led to novel and international ground-breaking evolutionary theories associated with exceptional preservation of fossils within ancient concretions.

“Concretions act as molecular time capsules of species that evolved or became extinct over major events including ocean anoxic events,” Professor Grice said.

Professor Grice and her team will shortly begin work analysing samples expected to emerge from the current international expedition which is drilling into the Chixculub impact crater in Mexico – the crater linked to the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end-Cretaceous. She is also chief investigator of the oceans and climate theme of a major International Ocean Discovery Program submission between Geoscience Australia and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology which is investigating the end-Cretaceous event in Australia.

In accepting the award, Professor Grice acknowledged the GSA and award committee, her Hons and PhD students and research team, collaborators from the Geological Survey of WA (including previous medalist Dr Kathleen Grey), CSIRO, Geoscience Australia (GA), her industry partners and her international collaborations in the USA, UK, Germany, Norway, China and Japan.

“Much of the research work would not be achieved without a collegial and collaborative team approach from inspiring and truly passionate interdisciplinary researchers who collaborate and profit from each other to achieve the highest goals,” Professor Grice said.

At the same dinner, Curtin Applied Geology student Amy Carlino was honoured with this year’s GSA-WA Student Medal.

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