Geology - General - Our Past

GNS Science is examining the deep-time scientific context around the origins and shaping of Te Riu-a-Māui Zealandia.

Our research is seeking and providing insights into our continent's present-day shape, the distribution of flora and fauna and the future implications of high atmospheric CO₂ levels.

We can look at the past of our continent in the way we might read a book. As we explore further into the book, each page tells us something new about our past and how we might do in the future.

Our research

Our aim is to refine the geological timescale to reveal the primary drivers of Earth system processes and improve understanding of the rates and scale of change and climate impacts. 

Key questions driving our research

  • What does our past reveal about Aotearoa New Zealand biodiversity and the dynamics of the climate system?
  • What is the equilibrium response of our climate and ocean system at decadal to intergenerational timescales?
  • How do we integrate understanding of the broader carbon cycle into New Zealand's approach and response to climate change?

The geological timescale

The "geological timescale" is the time framework by which we date, correlate and classify rock formations and geological events. It provides the time framework for geoscientists to study the history of the Earth and its life. It is used for assigning geological age to rocks, fossils and economic minerals and for calibrating the rates of geological processes, such as fault displacement and plate rotation, submergence, uplift and erosion of the land, earthquake frequency and volcanic activity.

Timescales play an important part in understanding rates of climate change, sea-level change, biodiversity change and organic evolution. 

It is essential for our research to continue to understand our past in order to plan for a more resilient and sustainable future.

Our research has established the first geological timescale for New Zealand, from Cambrian to Holocene. 

Timescale Card
New Zealand Geological Timescale: © Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Ltd. 2015

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