I am strongly field-based geologist, with interests in Sedimentology, Palaeontology and Geochronology.

My primary research focuses on reconstructing the sedimentary, tectonic and faunal histories of  continental basins. The areas of interest for me include: the East African Rift System, in particular the Rukwa Rift Basin in Tanzania; the Eromanga & Galilee basins in Australia; the Kaiparowits Basin in western North America; the James Ross Basin in Antarctica; the Lufeng Basin in China; the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa; and a suite of other sedimentary basins in Africa, including the Mana Pools & Mid-Zambezi basins (Zimbabwe), the Congo Basin (DRC), the Algoa Basin (South Africa) and the Taoudeni and Iullemmeden basins (Mali). My research involves facies and provenance analysis (sandstone petrography and detrital zircon geochronology) along with sequence stratigraphy, chronostratigraphy, and lithostratigraphy to interpret and reconstruct tectonic and depositional histories.  Moreover, I work in close collaboration with palaeontologists and palaeobotanists to provide geologic context to the floras and faunas preserved within these basins. This holistic basin analysis approach is critical to testing a variety of hypotheses related to past environments and climates, drainage histories, palaeobiogeography, and extinction and evolution of vertebrate and plant communities at the close of the Mesozoic and beginning of the Cenozoic in Gondwana and Laurasia. Through this research, I also maintain and foster collaborative links with industry, including ongoing projects and collaborations in Oil and Gas, coal and diamond exploration. Other research interests include: 1) vertebrate taphonomy—particularly in relation to basin-scale controls on the preservation and distribution of widespread vertebrate fossil accumulations in the sedimentary record; 2) sedimentology and taphonomy of fossil-bearing Plio-Pleistocene cave deposits in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa; 3) tectono-sedimentary evolution of the East African Rift System and implications for faunal evolution in Africa; 4) stratigraphy and palaeontology of the Upper Cretaceous strata in the Antarctic Peninsula 5) sedimentology, ichnology and taphonomy of mixed carbonate-siliciclastic systems in South Africa and the Great Barrier Reef System in Northern Queensland; 6) high-precision geochronology and correlation of Late Campanian strata and faunas in the Western Interior Basin, North America.

****I am currently 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

  • EA2110: Introduction to Sedimentology (Level 2; TSV)
  • EA2900: Introductory Field Geology (Level 2; TSV)
  • EA3650: Sedimentary Environments and Energy Resources (Level 3; TSV)
  • EV5961: Ecosystem Dynamics - Ridge to Reef (Level 5; TSV)
  • SC1101: Science: Nature, Knowledge and Understanding (Level 1; 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
  • 2015 - James Cook University Excellence Award for Research
  • Associate Editor, Frontiers in Earth Sciences
  • Associate Editor, Palaios
  • Editorial Board Member, Scientific Data (Nature)

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 77+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Eric Roberts from 2004 onwards.

Current Funding

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

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

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Life and death of Australopithicus sediba: how a potential ancestor ended up dead in a cave in world heritage site in South Africa

Indicative Funding
$256,000 over 2 years
In August 2008 the remarkable Malapa fossil site was discovered with remains of the first and only fossils of Australopithecus sediba - a potential direct human ancestor. The fossils are in an exceptional state of preservation, and excavations will start in late 2013, creating a unique opportunity to develop a detailed understanding of the chemical, physical and biological factors that led to burial and fossilisation. This research will focus on the complex interplay between termites, sediment chemistry, landscape conditions and palaeo-climate as contributing factors to fossil preservation. Results will document the environment in which sediba lived and died, and assist future exploration for hominid fossils.
Paul Dirks, Eric Roberts, Carl Spandler and Tom Blenkinsop in collaboration with Lee Berger and Zubair Jinnah (College of Science & Engineering and University of the Witwatersrand - Johannesburg)
Australopithicus sediba; Taphonomy; Geochemistry

Australia-New Zealand International Ocean Discovery Program Consortium - Research Grant

Combined U-Pb zircon geochronology & Lu-Hf analysis of Jurassic-Cretaceous volcanics and sandstones from the Lord Howe Rise and Queensland Plateau, Australia

Indicative Funding
We prosed to combine zircon geochronology on putative Cretaceous volcanics reported in the DSDP Leg 21-207 and combine this with more ambitious dual Lu-Hf isotope and U-Pb isotope analysis on detrital zircons collected from a suite of Cretaceous and Paleogene sedimentary rock samples in cores from DSDP Leg 21-206, 207, 208 and 209. This approach is designed to identify the distribution of ages and geochemical signatures associated with earlies Cretaceous-Jurassic age detrital zircons (and volcanics) in order to better understand the timing of Cretaceous-Jurassic volcanism, the possible provenance of Cretaceous-Jurassic volcanic sources and to glean a better understanding of the nature of the magmatism during the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous along eastern Australia.
Eric Roberts, Carl Spandler and Robert Holm (College of Science & Engineering)
IODP; geochemistry; Detrital Zircon; Sedimentology

Heritage Oil Rukwa (TZ) Ltd - Research Grant

Heritage Oil Rukwa (TZ) PhD Scholarship for Cassy Mtelela

Indicative Funding
$220,848 over 4 years
Heritage Oil Rukwa (TZ) to fully support a PhD scholarship and project expenses for Tanzanian Student, Cassy Mtelala. The PhD research Project will focus on investigating the relationship between sedimentation and tectonics in the deposition of the Pilocene to Recent Lake Beds strata in the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania. Heritage will support all tuition; fees; living expenses; and a small research stipend for Cassy to conduct this PhD project through the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, under the direction of Dr Eric Roberts. Heritage Oil Rukwa (TZ) will also directly pay for all field expenses, visas and travel costs.
Eric Roberts in collaboration with Cassy Mtelela (College of Science & Engineering)
scholarship; Sedimentology; Rukwa; Tanzania

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.

  • Seismic Stratigraphy of the Great Barrier Reef (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Geochemistry of Titanite Hosted Melt Inclusions from within Oligocene Aged Tuffs in the Rukwa Rift Basin, Southwestern Tanzania (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • 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 , Advsor Mentor)
  • Geological setting and mineralisation characteristics of the Pac Lang Au-W Deposits, Bac Kan province, Northeastern Vietnam (PhD , Advsor Mentor)
  • Bentonite Tephrostratigraphy and High-Precision Geochronology of Richly Fossiliferous Upper Cretaceous Continental Strata in the Western Interior Basin, North America (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Stratigraphy and Sedimentary Basin Analysis of Queensland's Jurassic to Cretaceous Basins, and the application of U-Pb Detrital Zircon Geochronology to Reconstruct Tectonic History and Palaeodrainage Evolution. (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Seismic Stratigraphy and Petroleum Systems of the Mentelle Basin, South West Western Australia (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Understanding the Genesis and Patterns of Cave Fill across the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Mesozoic Detrital Zircon Provenance of Central Africa: Implications for Jurassic-Cretaceous Tectonics, Paleogeography and Landscape Evolution. (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Cave sedimentation processes, geochronology, and the distribution of hominins at Rising Star Cave, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa (PhD , Primary 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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  • 34.149, Earth & Environmental Sciences (Townsville campus)
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