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Researcher biography

Jonathan is a Professorial Research Fellow in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) at The University of Queensland. Originally from New Zealand, he grew up on an active plate boundary where the rocks and types of landscapes he studies are generated. After graduating with a BSc Hons and MSc at the University of Otago and a stint in Antarctica, he studied in Japan as a Monbusho Schol at Niigata University. Following that he came to Australia where he undertook PhD studies at UNE focussing on the tectonic evolution of the New England orogen using radiolarian microfossils to determine the ages of marine rocks and constrain the timing of tectonic events. On completion of his PhD, he participated in the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Expedition 126 to the Izu-Bonin-Marianas system as a micropaleontologist to investigate intra-oceanic island arc development. He then returned to Japan to take up a JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) postdoctoral fellowship at Kochi University examining radiolarians in subduction complex rocks on the island of Shikoku. After spending five years during the early 1990s at the Department of Geology and Geophysics of the University of Sydney, he moved to the University of Hong Kong in 1995. At HKU he led the HKU Tibet Research Group and has now worked for over two decades on the India-Asia collision system. Most of his work involves using microfossils to constraint the ages of different rocks and thereby deduce the timing of tectonic events. We was Head of the Department of Earth Sciences at HKU from 2003-2009. In 2011, he returned to Australia and the University of Sydney after accepting the Edgeworth David Chair of Geology. Professor Aitchison commenced with UQ as Head of the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management in February 2015 until the end of 2016 when this school was merged with Earth Sciences to become the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He was busy with duties and responsibilities as head of this very large school from 2017 through 2021. Now free to get on with his research, Jonathan maintains active programs in both micropaleontology and tectonics including: Early Paleozoic radiolarian evolution and development of microCT imaging techniques for microfossils, the India-Asia collision system, tectonics of eastern Gondwana, as well as paleobiogeography in Galapagos and the Indian Ocean. He has recently commenced an exciting investigation into deep recycling of organic carbon and the possibility that 'biodiamond's might occur in ophiolites of the SW Pacific region.

Areas of research