Potential postgraduate projects

If you are interested in one of the projects below, please contact the responsible supervisor to discuss the project further. Not all staff members are represented here with projects at all times. You should therefore also browse though the Department's Research page and academic staff page to contact other supervisors whose research sounds interesting to you. 


Ryan Tucker

(1) Shark Tooth Forensics: Biodiversity survey of Miocene sediment from North Carolina, USA

(2) Radiometric age dating and analysis of the Jehol Group, Liaoning Province, China; Implications for the rise and radiation of Pygostylia (Theropod, Dinosauria)

(3) U-Pb province and basin analysis of detrital zircons recovered from the Adamantina Formation, Bauru Basin, Brazil

M Klausen

(1) "Parental magmas for the northern ring intrusion, within the Jurassic Mwenezi Complex (Karoo LIP, SE Zimbabwe)": Following upon a recent Honours thesis (Stemmet, 2016), this project focuses on the intrusion's chilled marginal zone and ten potential feeder dykes, as well as improving upon the main intrusion’s cryptic layering through SEM-analyses on previously omitted samples of additional layers.    

(2) Bimodal mafic-felsic dyke swarm extending WNW from the Angolan Serra da Neve ring complex. An Honours project on ~80 samples collected along a sampling transect in August 2018 will entail cut-crush-mill processing for bulk rock geochemical analysis by CAF. Some thin sections petrography of selected samples may also be done, together with a compilation of field relationships from Google Earth mapping, field notes and photographs. The project may also be tackled as an MSc-project, including further field work in Angola.

(3) Detailed petrography and bulk rock geochemistry of highly metamorphosed and sheared gneisses from the southern part of a regional, E-W trending and so-called “meta-gabbronorite” belt across Angola and the DRC (dividing the Kasai craton into a southern and northern block). Building on just a few samples, collected along the Kasai River in 2015 (Welgemoed, unpublished data), this Honours (or MSc) project on an addition ~40 samples, collected in August 2018; investigating whether there is a metamorphosed Archaean ultramafic, mafic and high-An anorthosite layered intrusion or not. The project will primarily be based on bulk rock geochemical analyses and petrographical thin section studies. Some samples are orientated and may thereby constrain sense of shear. Furthermore, some garnet amphibolites may be used to determine P-T conditions through the co-supervision by Prof Ian Buick.  ​

 (4) "Were the Wolkberg Group lavas, underlying basement sills and a coinciding Rykoppies feeder dyke swarm emplaced during the same igneous event?": This project uses field relationships, petrography and bulk rock geochemistry to compare and investigate links between what appears to be coeval igneous units (outcrop across the Limpopo-Mpumalanga Provincial border), emplaced during a major tectonic and stratigraphical shift from the highly volcanic Ventersdorp (predominantly erupted along a SW-NE trending rift) to the more clastic-dominated Transvaal Supergroup (predominantly deposited with an E-W trending basin).

(5) "The distribution, petrography and geochemistry of ESE-trending mafic dykes across the KZN basement inlier": This project entails a standard igneous petrology study on dykes that have already been sampled and analysed for bulk rock geochemistry. Additional field work is possible, but not prerequisite. As some of these Precambrian dykes have also been dated, it might be possible to compare and correlate these to any coeval igneous rocks on other cratons. 

You are also welcome to propose your own igneous research project, preferably supported by, e.g., a mining or exploration company, or use my co-supervision on a project that links to igneous processes.  ​


G Stevens

Gary Stevens has a diverse range of honours projects available to students interested in igneous and/or metamorphic petrology. Almost any type of project is possible including field- and/or petrography-based, experimental, modelling, analytical etc. In all cases a bursary to cover tuition costs and contribute to living costs is included in the project. Such projects will be awarded to students who are interested in continuing with an expanded version of the project as an MSc study and who have achieved good marks in the parts of the BSc course that are relevant to the study. If you are interested please contact Gary gs@sun.ac.za to discuss possible projects.


Environmental Geochemistry

A number of funded projects are available in the general field of Biogeochemistry of Trace metals in the Southern Ocean.  The projects require a strong interest in Chemistry and Analytical Chemistry as applied to biological processes in the oceans. Superior laboratory skills and careful, forward thinking personality is a must. Although, your performance in tests and exams is important, it is not the sole parameter to work on the research projects. Students who intend to go on to MSc are preferred.

  1. A suite of projects are available related to the distribution of a) nutrient-type trace metals in the  Southern Ocean, such as Fe, Cd, Cu, Zn, Mn ..  as well as b) trace metals derived from anthropogenic emissions, such as lead (Pb)
  2. Related to the above topic is a study on methylmercury in the Southern Ocean. This project is only available to students wishing to pursue at least into M.Sc. A strong interest in interdisciplinary and international work is requested for these projects as it is a collaborative work with Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography, Marseille, France.
  3. Another project is offered in 2017 related to improve understanding of the re-dissolution of trace metals (some toxic and some fertilising) from re-suspended surface sediments in the Benguela Upwelling system. Such re-suspension of surface sediment can happen naturally due to turbulences or artificially due to dredging, for instance.
  4. Furthermore, we seek students to support our study on southern hemisphere aerosols sources and trajectories, their general geochemistry and trace metal composition, and their dissolution kinetics, which leads to study their potential fertilisation and/or inhibitory effects after deposition. A student with an interest in atmospheric sciences is required for this project.
  5. Linked to project #1d is a study on aluminium (Al) distribution in the Southern Ocean as tracer of dust deposition
  6. A fourth current related topic is to support our study on algae community composition and adaptation, driving factors and the impact on biogeochemical cycles (including carbon and its impact on the global climate), and/or on marine sediment formation (siliceous ooze, vs. calcareous ooze, for instance). A strong interest in interdisciplinary work, including biological sciences, is requested for this project.

Projects can also be designed in the field of hydrogeochemistry and Mine related pollution issues if they align with student interest, particularly looking at chemical characterization of groundwater, mineral dissolution kinetics and/or transport.

Another field of studies relates to paleo-geochemistry and climate reconstructions and establishing or improving tools for paleo-reconstructions. We use organic molecules to reconstruct the climate of the past, understand natural variability to disentangle the current anthropogenic impact. This, in turn, helps to improve the projections of the future. Climate reconstructions in the marine realm (Benguela system) and in eastern South Africa (St. Lucia) are currently available.

We also seek support for our study on river pollution and the impact of rainfall events on Western Cape's river water quality. A study conducted in 2016-2018 has revealed interesting trends in the Eerste River and Lourens River and we will extend this study to other rivers of the Western Cape in 2019. 

 Students are also welcome to approach us should they have their own ideas of a project.