AusGeochem and the Future of Big Data in Low-Temperature Thermochronology

Boone, Samuel C1, Kohlmann, Fabian2, Theile, Moritz2, Noble, Wayne2, Kohn, Barry1, Glorie, Stijn3, Danišík, Martin4 and Zhou, Renjie5

1University of Melbourne, School of Earth Sciences, Melbourne, Australia, 2Lithodat Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, Australia, 3University of Adelaide, Centre for Tectonics, Resources and Exploration, Department of Earth Sciences, School of Physical Sciences, Adelaide, Australia, 4Curtin University, John de Laeter Centre, Perth, Australia, 5University of Queensland, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Brisbane, Australia

The AuScope Geochemistry Network (AGN) and Lithodat are developing AusGeochem, a novel cloud-based platform for Australian-produced geochemistry data from around the globe. The open platform will allow laboratories to upload, archive, disseminate and publish their datasets, as well as perform statistical analyses and data synthesis within the context of large volumes of publicly funded geochemical data aggregated by the AGN. As part of this endeavour, representatives from four Australian low-temperature thermochronology laboratories (University of Melbourne, University of Adelaide, Curtin University and University of Queensland) are advising the AGN and Lithodat on the development of low-temperature thermochronology (LTT)-specific data models for the relational AusGeochem database and its international counterpart, LithoSurfer.

Adopting established international data reporting best practices, the LTT expert advisory group has designed database schemas for the fission track and (U-Th-Sm)/He techniques, as well as for thermal history modelling results and metadata. In addition to recording the parameters required for LTT analyses, the schemas include fields for reference material results and error reporting, allowing AusGeochem users to independently perform QA/QC on data archived in the database. Development of scripts for the automated upload of data directly from analytical instruments into AusGeochem using its open-source Application Programming Interface are currently under way.

The advent of a LTT relational database heralds the beginning of a new era of structured Big Data in the field of low-temperature thermochronology. By methodically archiving detailed LTT (meta-)data in structured schemas, intractably large datasets comprising 1000s of analyses produced by numerous laboratories can be readily interrogated in new and powerful ways. These include rapid derivation of inter-data relationships, facilitating on-the-fly age computation, statistical analysis and data visualisation. With the detailed LTT data stored in relational schemas, measurements can then be re-calculated and re-modelled using user-defined constants and kinetic algorithms. This enables analyses determined using different parameters to be equated and compared across regional- to global scales. Indeed, Australian thermochronologists are already using the new AusGeochem LTT data model as a novel research tool to perform intra- and inter-laboratory experiments and continental-scale tectono-thermal imaging of the upper crust.


Dr. Samuel C Boone is a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne and a Data Scientist within the AuScope Geochemistry Network.

His research concerns improving our understanding of the thermal and tectonic evolution of Earth’s crust through low-temperature thermochronology, geochemistry and structural geology.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.