Professor Martin Van Kranendonk
Plenary Speaker

Martin is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the geology of the early Earth, when our planet was just beginning to form a stable crust that could harbour life. As Director of the NASA-affiliated Australian Centre for Astrobiology and the Big Questions Institute at the University of New South Wales Sydney, he and his team research the earliest signs of life in rocks more than 3 billion years old, and use this to search for life on Mars and investigate the conditions necessary for the origin of life itself. His work has featured in numerous television and radio documentaries around the world, including a currently showing IMAX film called The Story of Earth.

Presentation: Searching for life on Mars in our own backyard; the quest for a second genesis

Murray Hitzman
Plenary Speaker

Murray Hitzman holds an SFI Professorship in the School of Earth Sciences at University College Dublin and is also the Director of the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG).  He served as Associate Director for Energy and Minerals at the U.S. Geological Survey (2016-17) and was the Charles Fogarty Professor of Economic Geology at Colorado School of Mines from 1996-2016 where a primary research focus was the geology of the Central African Copperbelt (Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia).  Dr. Hitzman served in Washington, D.C. as a policy analyst in both the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1994-96) during the Clinton Administration and the U.S. Senate (1993-94) for Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT).  He worked in the petroleum and minerals industries from 1976 to 1993 primarily conducting mineral exploration worldwide and was largely responsible for Chevron Corporation’s Lisheen Zn-Pb-Ag deposit discovery in Ireland (1990).  Hitzman has B.A. degrees in geology and anthropology from Dartmouth College (1976), an M.S. in geology from University of Washington (1978), and a Ph.D. in geology from Stanford University (1983).  He has previously served on the boards of a number of mineral exploration and mining companies and currently serves as technical advisor for the private company KoBold, focused on utilizing machine learning for cobalt exploration. He has received a number of awards including the Chevron Chairman’s award for the Lisheen discovery (1992), the Society of Economic Geologists Silver Medal (1999), the Daniel C. Jackling Award by Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration and the Des Pretorius Award by the Geological Society of South Africa (both 2015), and the Haddon Forrester King Medal by the Australian Academy of Sciences (2016).

Presentation: The Energy Transition: Implications for Geoscience – a View from the North

Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas
Plenary Speaker

Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas is a Transdisciplinary Researcher and Knowledge Broker with CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere. Her research background is in mathematical modelling and Antarctic climate change science and she was a Lead Author for the recent IPCC Special Report on the Oceans & Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. Jess co-founded the Homeward Bound project, which took the largest ever all female expedition on a leadership journey to Antarctica in 2016. She was one of Australia’s first 30 Superstars of STEM and was named Tasmania’s Young Tall Poppy of the Year in 2015 for her excellence in research, science communication and policy engagement. Jess was the 2020 Tasmanian Australian of the Year.

Presentation: Engagement, diversity and interdisciplinarity to tackle future challenges

Dr Megan Clark
Plenary Speaker

Dr Clark is currently Head of the Australian Space Agency and a director of Rio Tinto and CSL Limited. She is a member of the Australian advisory board of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Dr Clark recently chaired the Expert Working Group into the Review of Australia’s Space Industry Capability. She was Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) from 2009 to 2014.  Prior to CSIRO, she was a Director at NM Rothschild and Sons (Australia) and was Vice President Technology and subsequently Vice President Health, Safety and Environment at BHP Billiton from 2003 to 2008.

Dr Clark holds a BSc from the University of Western Australia and a PhD from Queen’s University, Canada and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, a Fellow of the AusIMM and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.  In 2014, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia.

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Presentation: Planetary Geology, Australia’s involvement in Moon to Mars

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.