Dr Brandon Mahan is a trace element and isotope geochemist, with a focus on trace metals and their isotope systematics in Earth Systems and in Life Sciences. He is an internationally recognized researcher across numerous fields, including aqueous geochemistry, cosmochemistry, experimental petrology and isotope metallomics. Additionally, he conducts methods development research for scalable/commercializable trace metal isotope geochemistry and its environmental applications, applications to human health and disease, and to critical minerals research and exploration. As an advocate for the use of metals and their isotopes in understanding and diagnosing human disease, and in the transition to green energy, Dr Mahan actively seeks R&D projects with external academic, government and industry stakeholders towards aligned methods development and projects.

Dr Mahan is the founding member of the IsoTropics Geochemistry Lab at JCU, and enthusiastically involved in the development of laboratory and analytical capability/capacity at JCU (such as that in the Advanced Analytical Centre, or AAC), as well as being very active in outreach/engagement in education, academic, government and industry sectors. In this role and as part of the Earth and Environmental Science (EES) at JCU, Dr Mahan applies his skillset to drive novel research agendas, while continuously building depth and breadth within the Geosciences by cultivating relationships with complementary research teams across Biomedical Science, Chemistry, Archaeology and Marine Science.

As a strong advocate for scaffolded teaching/learning, and in knowledge foundations through experience, Dr Mahan actively engages within and outside JCU to promote experiential student activities, work-integrated learning, and career guidance/placement in Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Dr Mahan completed his PhD in 2018 at l’Institut de Physique du Globe du Paris on Fellowship from La Sorbonne (Paris). From there, Dr Mahan moved to Australia to take up a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Isotope Metallomics at Macquarie University, in a split role between geo- and biomedical sciences. He joined JCU Geoscience in 2020.

If you want to keep up with goings-on with Dr Mahan and team in the IsoTropics Geochemistry Labfollow them on Twitter! @GeoChemTropics

  • Industry-engaged project development
  • PD courses for HDRs
  • Listed scientific journal reviewer
  • isotope geochemistry
  • environmental [geo]chemistry
  • element/isotope forensics
  • isotope metallomics
  • cosmochemistry
  • planetary formation
  • trace element partitioning
  • ore exploration
  • technique development
  • Scaffolded curricula
  • Experiential learning
Socio-Economic Objectives

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 27+ research outputs authored by Dr Brandon Mahan from 2017 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Geoscience Australia - Contract Research

Exploratory study of effects of sample storage/stabilisation on Cu isotope compositions of groundwater, and linkage between groundwater and proximal soil profiles.

Indicative Funding
The aims of this collaborative project between JCU and Geoscience Australia are simple. Geoscience Australia have legacy groundwater samples from active bores through their previous hydrogeochemical surveys (e.g. Northern Australia Hydrogeochemical Survey), where both acidified and unacidified samples have been kept in storage, some for up to several years. Copper concentrations measured at/near the time of sampling are variable, with some being in the sub-ppb range and others significantly higher. For some bores, proximal soil and rock samples are also available. This project will leverage all the above towards the following objectives: 1. Analyse Cu concentrations and isotope compositions for a small cohort of legacy groundwater samples (~10). 2. Analyse Cu isotope compositions in proximity-matched soil/rock samples. Where spatially matched soil and/or core rock samples are available, an additional subset of these solid samples will be processed and analysed to characterize their Cu isotope compositions and compare to that of matched groundwater samples. 3. Collate all results and jointly interpret with Geoscience Australia
Brandon Mahan, Alex McCoy-West and Dafne Koutamanis in collaboration with Ivan Schroder and Patrice de Caritat (College of Science & Engineering and Geoscience Australia)
Isotope geochemistry; Sustainable futures; Hydrogeochemistry; Trace Element Geochemistry; Ore Vectoring

Save Our Seas Foundation - Grant

Development of in situ Sr isotope analyses in shark vertebrae

Indicative Funding
$13,747 over 1 year
Accurately ageing sharks underpins sustainable harvest and population recovery. The conventional ageing technique consists of counting growth bands in vertebrae, however, this approach suffers errors associated with over- and under-counting due to misidentifying periodic features and in-complete. More recently, element-to-element ratios have been explored as complementary tools for determining age and migratory, and in this context Mn:Ca shows promise as an age-specific fingerprint, and Sr:Ca has shown promise as one of the most prominent indicators of fresh/estuarial vs. marine environment (along with Ba:Ca), because marine environments typically have significantly higher Sr (and lower Ba) concentrations. This means that Sr:Ca?alongside Mn:Ca and Ba:Ca?can potentially be used as an annual marker, in particular for female sharks that annually return to freshwater environments to pup. It is well-known from fish otoliths (a calcified part of the inner ear) that marine and freshwater environments display distinct Sr isotope signatures (87Sr/86Sr ratios), and that fresh vs marine signatures can be readily distinguished at requisite length-scales (e.g. 50 microns) using in situ (?in place?, i.e. non-destructively) laser ablation multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (or LA-MC-ICP-MS). Moreover, it is well-established that 87Sr/86Sr ratios can be determined in situ in bio-apatite (calcium phosphate or bone, such as that in fish vertebrae), and 87Sr/86Sr ratios in bio-apatite can be used to determine sub-annual mobility. And yet to date, Sr isotopes have never been investigated in shark vertebrae towards these ends. This study will combine in situ elemental compositions and 87Sr/86Sr ratios in the vertebrae of sharks to determine their ultimate viability as complementary ageing, environmental and migratory reconstruction tools.
Brandon Mahan, Alex McCoy-West and Michael Grant (College of Science & Engineering)
Sr isotopes; Isotope geochemistry; Elasmobranch/shark; Vertebrae age determination

Auscope - Contract Research

AuScope Geochemistry Laboratory Network (AGN) ? IsoTropics Partnership

Indicative Funding
$50,000 over 1 year (administered by Curtin University)
Curtin has received funding from AuScope Pty Ltd for a research project entitled AuScope Geochemistry Laboratory Network (AGN). As part of the project, Curtin is looking to collaborate with new partners to expand its AusGeochem data repository to allow it to become a key resource in quantitatively understanding the evolution of earth system processes that have shaped the Australian continent and its resource endowment. In 2021, AuScope released additional funding to Curtin to allow an expansion of the AGN through a Data Partnerships Expansion (DPE) project. Expectations of new AGN Data Partner institutions will be to: (1) manage the employment contract for the AGN Data Scientist; (2) register and upload a minimum of 150 geochemical datasets obtained from rock or mineral samples to AusGeochem. At JCU, AUD$50,000 (excl GST) is being provided to support the costs of employing an AGN Data Scientist. The funding will be paid upon invoice to be accompanied by a statement of expenditure.
Brandon Mahan (College of Science & Engineering)
Geochemistry; Isotopes; Data Science

Minotaur Exploration Ltd - Contract Research

Cu isotope characterization of waters in the Mt Windsor Sub-Province, NE QLD

Indicative Funding
$86,500 over 1 year
Minotaur Operations has received funding through the Geological Survey of Queensland (GSQ) for copper isotope characterisation of groundwater sampled from active bores in the immediate vicinity of its Windsor Project in NE Queensland. The Mount Windsor Subprovince terrane covers significant Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits and prospects, and VMS deposits in the district all contain New Economy Minerals including Cd, Cu, Au, In, Ag, and Zn. Building on existing JCU research findings, this collaborative project will characterize up to 50 water bores for major/trace elements and Cu isotopes, towards determining elemental/isotopic anomalies which may indicate mineralization and therefore aide Minotaur?s exploration program.
Brandon Mahan and Ioan Sanislav in collaboration with Ryan Mathur (College of Science & Engineering)
Ore vectoring; Stable Isotope Geochemistry; Trace element geochemistry

Department of Natural Resources and Mines - Contract Research

Waters of Jericho Part 2: Refining the Cu isotope characterization of waters overlying IOCG-style deposits in the Mt Isa Block (Jericho and Eloise deposits)

Indicative Funding
The Department and JCU have an ongoing Project Schedule under the existing Umbrella Research Agreement ("Waters of Jericho: Characterizing the Cu isotope composition of waters overlying IOCG-style deposits in the Mt Isa Block (Jericho and Eloise deposits"). This project has produced significant initial results for ~40 borehole water samples that indicate a clear Cu isotope anomaly (higher 65Cu) proximal to known ore deposits within the field area (which drops off distal to deposits). These findings have led The Department and JCU to pursue an expansion of this investigation by re-sampling approximately 60-90% of the same boreholes as previously sampled (depending on field sampling availability/viability), and to characterize their Cu isotope composition, in order to test potential influences on Cu isotope compositions in groundwater by changes in season (e.g. late dry season vs post wet season).
Brandon Mahan in collaboration with Helen Degeling and Ryan Mathur (College of Science & Engineering, Geological Survey of Queensland and Juniata College)
Ore vectoring; Stable isotope geochemistry; Trace element geochemistry

Department of the Environment and Energy - Strategic Resources Exploration Program

Waters of Jericho: Characterizing the Cu isotope compostition of water overlying IOCG-style deposaits in the Mt Isa block (Jericho and Eloise deposits).

Indicative Funding
$47,500 over 1 year
This project is a pilot study that aims to characterize the Cu isotope compositions of borehole waters in 10 km radius around the Jericho and Eloise IOCG type ore deposits. Cu isotopes can act as an ore vectoiring. However, few studies have focused exclusively on natural water samples as a ameans to vector under cover. Novel, efficient techniques are needed as the demand for Cu increases with population and our transition to green energies. A second aim of the project is to stream line the purification of Cu (needed for analysis) to make this more time and cost efficient, and thus more accessible to industry partners.
Brandon Mahan in collaboration with Helen Degeling and Ryan Mathur (College of Science & Engineering, Geological Survey of Queensland and Juniata College)
Ore Vectoring; Stable Isotope Geochemistry; Trace Element Geochemistry

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Using experiments to constrain stable isotope fractionation in banded iron formations (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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