Rukwa Rift Basin Project (RRBP), Western Branch of the East African Rift System, South Western Tanzania.
(Funding: NSF, National Geographic, JCU, Heritage Oil)
(Current Students: Leigh Lawrence, Theresa Orr; Former students: Hannah Hilbert-Wolf, Cassy Mtelela, )
Eric has spent much of his career working on the Rukwa Rift Project, which he helped establish with Patrick O'Connor, Nancy Stevens and Mike Gottfried in 2002. Since that time, he has returned yearly to this region of southwestern Tanzania with his students, and collaborators from the USA, Tanzania and South Africa to study this little known segment of the East African Rift System. PhD students Hannah Hilbert-Wolf and Cassy Mtelela, as well as several MSc and Honours students, are working with him in the rift to better understand this important sedimentary and tectonic archive and help place the spectacular fossil discoveries into geologic context.
Jurassic Arc Project, Reconstructing Jurassic-Early Cretaceous sedimentary basins and tectonics of eastern Australia.
(Funding: JCU; ARC Discovery Funded Project)
(Students: Christopher Todd, Kelly Heilbronn, Elliot Foley; Former Students: Mason Baty; Tylah Drochmann)
This is a new collaborative project with JCU colleagues Carl Spandler, Bob Henderson, and Tony Kemp (U. Western Australia). The goal of this project is to investigate the expansive Jurassic and Cretaceous strata preserved from Papua New Guinea and throughout eastern Australia in the various sedimentary basins that together form the Great Artesian Basin. We are compiling sedimentary data, including detrital zircon records to reconstruct the tectonic evolution of eastern Australia during this time period.
Life and death of Australopithicus sediba: how a potential ancestor ended up dead in a cave in the Cradle of humankind, South Africa.
(Funding: ARC Discovery Funded Project)
(Students: Jelle Wiersma, Jess Robbins; Former Students: Marama)
Eric is co-chief investigator on this project led by Paul Dirks, in collaboration with Lee Berger. Together with Co-CI Carl Spandler, Zubair Jinnah, Tom Blenkinsop, Jan Kramers, Joao Babo and many others, they are investigating the taphonomy the Malapa hominin site in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. This project combines detailed facies and geochemical analysis of the site, along with actualistic investigations to understand the role of termites and other insects in fossil preservation at the site and elsewhere throughout the Cradle.
Rising Star Expedition, Geological and taphonomic context of the newly discovered Rising Star cave hominin site, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa.
(Funding: National Geographic Society, James Cook University)
(Students: Jelle Wiersma, Jess Robbins)
Eric is working with Paul Dirks, Hannah Hilbert-Wolf, Jan Kramers, Christa Placzek, and Marina Elliot (Wits) on a new hominin fossil site discovery led by Lee Berger in the Cradle of Humankind. This exciting new project involves technical caving to reach the site, deep in the belly of the Rising Star Cave System. This project involves detailed geologic mapping and sedimentary facies investigation to understand the complex cave stratigraphy, in order to understand the context of this important fossil site.
Antarctic Peninsula Paleontology Project (AP3), Antarctic Peninsula Late Cretaceous biotas and Stratigraphy of Antarctica
(Students: Harry Gardner [former])
Since 2011, Eric has worked with a team of vertebrate paleontologists led by Matt Lamanna (Carnegie Museum of Natural History, USA), Patrick O'Connor (Ohio University, USA) and many other collaborators on a project focused on discovery of new latest Cretaceous vertebrate faunas from the Antarctic Peninsula. In 2011 and 2016, Eric participated in two Antarctic expeditions, which included many weeks on Vega Island (pictured to the left) and resulted in the recovery of numerous new vertebrate fossils and a revised stratigraphy for the island and identification of a possible K-T boundary section. They are currently working on Sr-isotope stratigraphy and taphonomic investigations of vertebrate fossils and petrified wood using synchrotron-based FTIR to understand the age and patterns of preservation.
The Mana Pools Project: Paleontology and Taphonomy of a Spectacular Late Triassic-Early Jurassic Theropod Bone Bed ("Syntarsus" rhodesiensis) from the Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe. Fossil exploration and basin analysis in the Jurassic-Cretaceous strata of the Zambezi Rift, Zimbabwe
(Funding: National Geographic Society)
(Students: Prince Owusu Agyemang)
Since 2007, Eric has organised three expeditions to the Zambezi Valley to work with the Tim and Trish Broderick, Darlyington Munyikwa (National Museum of Natural History and team of other local scientists (U. Zimbabwe) and collaborators to study fossil sites throughout the Zambezi Valley. This project also involves the collaboration of other international scientists, including Patrick O'Connor (Ohio U.), Paul Dirks (JCU), Matt Carrano (Smithsonian), Zubair Jinnah (Witwatersrand) and Nancy Stevens (Ohio U.).
Kaiparowits Basin Project (KBP). Paleontology and Stratigraphy of Upper Cretaceous strata on the Kaiparowits Plateau, Southern Utah.
(Funding: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, NSF National
(Students: Tegan Beveridge, Jelle Wiersma)
This project represents a continuation of Eric's PhD research and involves close collaboration with many researchers, but in particular Jahan Ramezani, Leif Tapanila, Zubair Jinnah, Sam Bowring, Joe Sertich, Ian Miller, Scott Sampson, Mark Loewen, Randy Irmis, Bucky Gates, Lindsay Zanno, Patrick O'Connor. His role in this project is as lead geologist focused on refining the stratigraphy and age of these units. The overall project goal is to study the vertebrate faunas and floras of the Kaiparowits and Wahweap formations and to correlate strata across the Western Interior Basin.
Trans-Saharan Seaway Project. Paleontology, sequence stratigraphy and taphonomy of richly fossiliferous Cretaceous-Eocene deposits of the Trans Saharan Seaway in Mali, West Africa.
(Funding: NSF National Geographic Society).
(Students: Kelly Heilbronn)
This long-lived project with Maureen O'Leary (SUNY Stonybrook), Leif Tapanila (Idaho State U.) and others (e.g., Rob Hill, NYCOM) is focused on documenting the paleontology, taphonomy and stratigraphy of these important deposits and understanding the development of the Trans-Saharan Seaway.
Origin and taphonomy of Quaternary crustacean fossils washed up on beaches across in northern Queensland and Northwest Territory, Australia.
(Student: Todd Kane [former])
This study discusses systematics, biomineralisation and fossil diagenesis, palaeo-environment and age of a number of relatively unknown Australian fossils. It aims to develop an understanding of processes and conditions associated with fossil concretions from the Holocene and improve upon the base of knowledge of local fossilised decapod species.