My primary research focuses on reconstructing the geologic histories of important vertebrate fossil-bearing continental deposits. My research involves sedimentary facies and provenance analysis (heavy mineral geochronology), coupled with taphonomy, ichnology and geochronology. A key aspect of my research is to provide geologic context to the vertebrate and hominin faunas preserved within these basins and karst settings. This holistic approach to sedimentology is critical to testing a variety of hypotheses related to past environments and climates, uplift and drainage histories, palaeobiogeography, and extinction and evolution of vertebrate and plant communities.

I also maintain close links with industry on a varitety of projects ranging from diamond exploration to petroleum geology to helium exploration.

My primary research themes include:

1) geological characterisation & dating of vertebrate records, including hominins, from rift deposits of the East African Rift System & karst systems of South Africa (e.g. Rising Star Cave)

2) Geological and palaeontological investigation of Jurassic & Cretaceous basins throughout Gondwana (esp., Australia; Africa; Antarctica).

3) Stratigraphy, palaeontology & high-precision geochronology of Upper Cretaceous dinosaur-bearing strata of Western Interior Basin, North America (esp., Kaiparowits Basin, Utah).

4) Industry-linked research collaboration in economic geology and exploration.

****I am always seeking students interested in conducting PhD research that integrate tectonic, sedimentologic (detrital geochronology) and palaeontologic data for reconstructing Mesozoic-Cenozoic sedimentary basins in Australia, China, North America, and Africa. James Cook University offers competitive PhD scholarships to well-qualified applicants. Please email me for details (eric.roberts@jcu.edu.au).****

Go to my research group website for more information.  http://www.gravelmonkeys.org

  • EA1110: Evolution of the Earth (Level 1; ONL)
  • EA2110: Introduction to Sedimentology (Level 2; CNS & TSV)
  • EA3110: Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • EA3120: The Fossil Record: Dinosaurs and Vertebrates Through Time (Level 3; TSV)
  • EA3640: Advanced Environmental and Marine Geoscience Technologies and Applications (Level 3; TSV)
  • EA3650: Energy Resources and Basin Analysis (Level 3; TSV)
  • EA5120: The Fossil Record: Dinosaurs and Vertebrates Through Time (Level 5; TSV)
  • EA5640: Advanced Marine Geoscience Technologies and Applications (Level 5; TSV)
  • EA5650: Energy Resources and Basin Analysis (Level 5; TSV)
  • 2001 to 2005 - PhD, University of Utah
  • 1997 to 1999 - MSc, University of Montana
  • 1992 to 1996 - BA, Cornell College
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2017 - James Cook University Excellence Award for Research (awarded to the entire Geosciences Group at JCU)
  • 2015 - James Cook University Excellence Award for Research
  • Associate Editor, Frontiers in Earth Sciences
  • Editorial Board Member, Scientific Data
  • Associate Editor, GSA Bulletin
  • Associate Editor, Palaios

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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 112+ research outputs authored by Prof Eric Roberts from 2004 onwards.

Current Funding

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

United Kingdom Falkland Islands Trust - The Shackleton Scholarship Fund

The Wandering Falklands: Insights from New Geologic and Fossil Discoveries

Indicative Funding
$8,757 over 1 year
This project seeks to shed new light on the enduring geological mystery of where and how the Falkland Islands fit back into the plate-tectonic jig-saw puzzle of ancient Gondwana, while at same time unravelling new information about the evolutionary origins of early jawed fish from the southern hemisphere, whose humble beginnings may be linked to islands. To achieve this, we propose to spend two weeks collecting new Devonian fish fossils and searching for the presence of elusive (unmapped) volcanic rocks along the wave-cut beaches and platforms of Pebble Island and northern end of West Falkland.
Eric Roberts (College of Science & Engineering)
Falklands; Detrital zircon; Plate Tectonics; Gnathostomes

Noble Helium Limited - Contract Research

Helium prospectivity analysis of the north Rukwa Rift Basin.

Indicative Funding
$199,641 over 1 year
The goal of the project is to construct a comprehensive database characterising the reservoir and seal properties in the Rukwa succession. This work will involve compilation of legacy results compiled from past literature, theses and unpublished data, along with a focused analytical campaign on targeted samples designed to fill in gaps developing a robust property distribution database. The analytical campaign will be focus on a combination of techniques to analyse prospective reservoir sandstone samples and mudstone and bentonite seal units.
Eric Roberts in collaboration with Cassy Mtelela and John McClelland (College of Science & Engineering, University of Dar-es-Salaam and GMEX)
Helium; Critical Resources; Exploration; Clean Energy

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Jurassic Arc? Reconstructing the Lost World of Eastern Australia

Indicative Funding
$284,390 over 3 years
This project aims to resolve a long-standing enigma about the geological formation of the Great Artesian Basin ? Australia?s most important onshore reservoir for groundwater and hydrocarbon resources. Specifically, the project will integrate sedimentological and geochemical studies to investigate the geodynamic configuration of Eastern Australia during the Jurassic Period of basin formation. The intended outcomes are an improved understanding of the evolution of the Australian continent and better knowledge of the formation of intercontinental sedimentary basins, which includes better assessment of their potential to contain hydrocarbon resources.
Carl Spandler, Eric Roberts, Anthony Kemp and Bob Henderson (College of Science & Engineering and The University of Western Australia)
Jurassic; Great Artesian Basin; Zircon; Tectonics

De Beers Group Services Pty Ltd - Contract Research

Understanding the Stratigraphy, age, and provenance of the diamondiferous Calonda Formation in North-Eastern Angola: Implications for regional magmatism and paleo fluvial drainage evolution

Indicative Funding
$68,000 over 2 years
The pilot research, based on four Calonda Formation Core Samples, has identified a suite of unexpected Permian-Late Cretaceous magmatic detrital zircon populations, which have the potential to improve our understanding of the age and provenance of the Calonda Formation, as well as the tectonic history of this region. The pilot research identified a suite of Cretaceous detrital zircons that form three discrete age clusters, which we hypothesis may have been produced during kimberlite or other alkaline volcanism; perhaps synchronously with deposition of the Calonda Formation or other Cretaceous cover sequences. However, due to the small number of grains discovered in the pilot study and lack of systematic sampling, robust conclusions cannot be drawn at present. However, the results demonstrate that it should be possible to significantly refine the age of these sedimentary sequences, including the Calonda Formation, through detrital zircon geochronology, as well as to study the geochemistry of these grains to better understand the regional tectonics of this area during the Cretaceous, possibly including better dating of the timing of kimberlite volcanism.
Eric Roberts and Prince Owusu Agyemang (College of Science & Engineering)
Angola; Detrital Zircon; Sedimentology; Diamond

The Leakey Foundation - Research Grant

Dating hominin fossils in the East African Rift, Malawi

Indicative Funding
$25,787 over 1 year
This project will use detrital zircon geochronology to date the Paranthropus boisei and Homo rudolfenisis hominin fossils from the northern Malawi Rift. These fossils are remarkable, as they represent a co-occurrence of these two species in southwestern Africa, the meeting point for endemic faunas of both southern and eastern Africa. The location of the fossils in the volcanic East African Rift System is a perfect depositional setting in which to apply detrital zircon geochronology to precisely date P. boisei and H. rudolfensis, to test hypotheses about faunal exchange between the two 'cradles' of humankind, in south and east Africa.
Hannah Hilbert-Wolf, Eric Roberts, Timothy Bromage and Friedmann Schrenk (College of Science & Engineering, New York University and Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitat)
Hominin; Sedimentology; Geochronology; Geology; Malawi; Palaeoanthropology

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.

  • Cenozoic Seismic Stratigraphy of the Great Barrier Reef (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Spatial modelling of saucer scallop distributions within the southeast Queensland scallop fishery. (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Using Experiments to Understand Stable Isotope Fractionations in Banded Iron Formations (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Understanding the geologic connection between Cape York and Zealandia: Insights from the Laura Basin (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Understanding the Genesis and Patterns of Cave Fill across the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Paleoenvironmental and Paleoclimatic Analysis of Selected Cretaceous, Oligocene and Miocene Palesols from the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Establishing a Tectonic Framework for the Cretaceous break-up of Eastern Gondwana: Insights from Papua New Guinea and Offshore Geology of the Coral and Tasman Seas. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Provenance, Sedimentology and Geomorphology of Coastal Dune Fields in Queensland (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Jurassic Arc? Reconstructing the Lost World of Eastern Australia (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)

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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  • 34.149, Earth & Environmental Sciences (Townsville campus)
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