Land and Marine GeosciencePūtaiao Aronuku ā-Whenua, ā-Moana


Our research is framed in health, cultural, economic and environmental outcomes and is underpinned by the precious taonga in our Nationally Significant Collections and Databases.

Our research focuses on

Our continent and oceans: We are generating new Earth sciences knowledge and building knowledge to better define the processes that shape the continent Te Riu-a-Māui Zealandia and impact our communities and economy.

Exploration and discovery: Our researchers add to a legacy of more than 150 years of geological mapping. 

Our plate boundary: We seek to improve Aotearoa New Zealand's resilience to earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions and landslides by understanding the underlying processes associated with plate boundary hazards.

Our natural resources: Our research is improving understanding of how geothermal energy can be used and how critical elements and materials are distributed in the subsurface through modelling that shows how heat and magma are generated.

New Zealand’s Plate boundary – In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Australian and Pacific Plates push against each other along a curving boundary. transcript

New Zealand’s Plate boundary.

In New Zealand, the Australian and Pacific Plates push against each other along a curving boundary.

How they meet each other changes along this boundary.

At the southern end of the South Island, the Australian Plate dives down below the Pacific Plate.

In the North Island the opposite situation occurs with the Pacific Plate being pushed under by the Australian Plate.

In between, through most of the South Island, the two plates grind past each other along the Alpine Fault.

New Zealand’s Plate boundary

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Australian and Pacific Plates push against each other along a curving boundary.

Our changing landscape: Our research into surface processes in coastal and urban environments feeds into sedimentation modelling, which helps inform decision makers for resilient future planning.

Our past: We are refining the geological timescale and age control of past climate events to improve current understanding of the rates and scale of change and climate impacts.

Te Riu-a-Māui Our Continent: Our research is building our understanding of the geological processes that shape our continent as well as enriching Māori and Pasifika narratives of exploration and discovery.

Bathymetric Map of Te Riu-a-Māui Zealandia

Working collaboratively is our pathway to success.

We partner with New Zealand government agencies, other Crown Research Institutes, universities, iwi/Māori and international organisations.

Our work is highly regarded by major international collaborative consortia, such as the International Continental Drilling Program, which underpin New Zealand's contribution to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Upton Phaedra 2317

Phaedra Upton Land and Marine Geoscience Theme Leader

Phaedra is a geodynamic modeller who researches a wide range of problems in tectonics. She is adept at using numerical models in collaboration with geologists from a range of subdisciplines to produce insights into a large variety of processes including faulting, fluid flow, heat transfer, drainage evolution, placer gold deposition and the relationship between tectonics and genetics. As a Theme Leader at GNS Science, she practises authentic and collaborative leadership. She promotes diversity of thought and inclusivity as vital to achieving our scientific goals. Phaedra was the 2020 New Zealand Geosciences Hochstetter Lecturer.

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  • Our tohu (icon)

    Our tohu (icon) – named Puhoro – is a meeting of stratigraphy and puhoro, a traditional Māori design found in kōwhaiwhai and tāmoko. Tāmoko is traditionally carved, as is the land by natural processes over the ages. Movement and whakapapa (genealogy and literal memory of the earth) are carried in this design.

Science Areas

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