Breaking new ground in Earth Sciences

Dr Gary Karner


Adelaide-born Dr Garry Karner is a world-leading authority in the study of the formation and deformation of the Earth’s crust, a sub-discipline of geology called tectonics, and an expert in the formation of ocean crust and sedimentary basins.

Dr Karner (BSc(Hons) ’75) has led pioneering research and innovations in the field of continental and ocean geology, blending civil engineering with tectonophysics in a field now known as ‘lithospheric (the crust and upper mantle of the Earth) mechanics.’

Dr Karner’s work is having a global impact. Increasing our understanding of how the Earth fundamentally works has helped to efficiently and safely extract the Earth’s resources that drive economic growth and supports our modern lifestyles.

Based in Houston Texas, as a senior researcher for ExxonMobil, he’s seeing more than 20 years of this research rolled into a comprehensive software system known as Quantitative Basin Analysis (QBA). QBA is used both as a method for studying geology and as a modelling tool used by energy companies and Earth Science students around the world to test their ideas about how the Earth works, and to reliably explore and extract resources such as oil and gas.

‘I credit the excellent Earth Sciences undergraduate course at Flinders University with much of my success and career path,’ says Dr Karner, who keenly remembers his early mentors Earth Sciences foundation lecturers Professor Chris von der Borch and Dr François Chamalaun.

After finding his passion in the Earth Science studies at Flinders, Dr Karner took an international scholarship to the USA to do his PhD thesis at Columbia University in New York City.

Many years of academic research followed at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, with stints at universities in England, Brazil and France.

He says, ‘The thematic approach at Flinders was front and centre with all my scientific interactions, to the point of helping to set up Earth Science departments and their curricula in other countries.’

Dr Karner says that predicting the future of the Earth is in understanding its past.

‘Like the certainty of the push and pull of the Earth’s tectonic plates, we need to learn from lessons offered by the geological development of the Earth to truly appreciate our future. Let’s hope we still have time to make amends.’

Dr Garry Karner was awarded a 2018 Flinders University Convocation Medal for the leadership and advancement of fundamental geological research, and the advancement of professional practice through development of the Quantitative Basin Analysis (QBA) software. He is also a relentless champion and mentor of young research scientists.

Flinders graduates have global reach and international impact, read more

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