I began my career at Indiana State University (Indiana, USA), focusing on macro-structural geology, where I also conducted biogeochemical research on the eolian (wind-blown) iron and phosphorus flux record of the Southern Ocean over roughly the past twenty million years. From there, I carried on at Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri, USA), where I continued working in structural geology, and added an experimental component to this by conducting rock deformation experiments, characterizing their seismic properties and relating this back to seismic signatures in subduction zones. From there, I moved to l'Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, where the majority of my research combined experimental petrology (metal-silicate differentiation), planetary and cosmo-chemistry, examined through the lens of trace element and isotope geochemistry. Here, I focused mainly on volatile elements—those easily vaporized, like Zn and Cu—and their isotopes.

At this time, I also began working in the emerging field of Isotope Metallomics - the application of element and isotope geochemistry techniques to medical research, which aims to use such tactics to identify metabolic pathways and potential diagnostics for diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Just prior to arriving at JCU, I conducted similar research at Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia), where I began actively pursuing the research and development of rapid and/or automated trace element and stable isotope geochemistry protocols and workflows.

As part of the Earth and Environmental Science (EES) research team at JCU, I apply all these skills and experiences towards building and cultivating such research initiatives within the University, while also expanding along new horizons, such as developing the use of stable metal isotopes as source/process tracers in ore exploration as a part of the Economic Geology Research Unit (EGRU).

My ethos is to develop a high impact and immensely multi-disciplinary research portfolio along with students, postdoctoral researchers, colleagues and collaborators.

--> I am currently growing my research group and looking for Honours, Master's and PhD candidates. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. <---

  • EA2404: From Icehouse to Greenhouse (Level 2; CNS & TSV)
  • EA3800: Earth and Environmental Geochemistry (Level 3; TSV)
  • EA5046: Earth and Environmental Geochemistry (Level 5; CNS & TSV)
  • EA5404: From Icehouse to Greenhouse (Level 5; CNS & TSV)
  • trace element partitioning isotope geochemistry isotope metallomics cosmochemistry planetary formation ore exploration technique development
Research Disciplines
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 20+ 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.

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 Understand Stable Isotope Fractionations in Banded Iron Formations (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Fluid Characterisation of Hydrothermal Mineralisation in the Eastern Fold Belt, mt Isa Inlier, NW Queensland, Australia (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • The alteration paragenesis, trace element and isotope composition of pyrite associated with the Pb-Zn-Cu mineralization at Mt Isa deposit. (Masters , 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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  5. Dr Ioan Sanislav
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