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Curtin University
Environment and Agriculture

Academic Staff

Dr Mick O'Leary

Position Senior Lecturer
Faculty Faculty of Science and Engineering
School School of Science
Department Department of Environment and Agriculture
Campus Bentley Campus
Location 311.116
Phone +618 9266 2513


Dr Michael O’Leary is marine geoscientist with research expertise in the fields of tropical coastal geomorphology, coral reef and reef-island evolution, and climate change. He has a BSc (Hons) and PhD (in 2007) from James Cook University. He was awarded a three year Leverhulme Trust Post Doctoral Fellowship at Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) and more recently took on a Research Fellowship at Boston University (USA). His research focuses on (1) sea level reconstructions during periods of known climate instability, a metric that speaks directly to the stability of the Polar ice sheets, and (2) tropical coastal response, in particular, low reef-island response to future sea level rise. Both of these research objectives require a multidisciplinary, synergistic approach, utilizing traditional elements of geomorphology, sedimentology and palaeoecology, combined with the highest resolution geochronological methodologies.


Unit Coordinatior for:

Atmospheric and Oceanographic Science 200
This unit will cover the fundamentals of atmosphere and ocean dynamics, meteorology, ocean tides and waves, and aims to put these in the context of climate change in the 21st century. Lectures will focus on (1) the physical mechanisms responsible for large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation, (2) the global energy balance and hydrological cycle, (3) mesoscale weather systems, (4) ocean waves and tides, and (5) how these processes impact the coast at the local scale. We will introduce the fundamental concept of a coupled atmosphere and ocean, and how these combined systems influence marine biogeography and the coastal landforms we see today.

Habitat and Landform Mapping 300
Habitat and Landform Mapping 301 is a practical, skilles based class in which students use geospatial technology along
side terrestrial and marine survey techniques to interprete and reconstruct land and seascapes, as well as map
terrestrial and marine environments to detect environmental change. Students will examine ways in which spatial
patterns can be visualised using cartographic and GIS tools, to then explain the relationships between geology,
geomprphology, habitats and communities, on both temporal and spatial scales. The practical component will include
GPS field mapping, air photo analysis of marine and terrestrial landforms and associated habitats. Students and
become proficient cartographic and spatial data analysis though the use of ArcMap Software.

Contributes to:

Climate Climate Change and Adaptation 102

Terrestrial and Marine Science Field Project 300

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Research Interests

PLIOMAX - Pliocene Maximum Sea level

PlioMax is a five-year research project funded by the US National Science Foundation that aims to increase the accuracy of global sea level estimates for the mid-Pliocene warm period, between 3.3 and 2.9 million years ago. Numerous proxy methods suggest that atmospheric CO2  levels at that time ranged between 350 and 450 ppm (the current atmosphere level is ~396). Proxies also suggest that mean global surface temperature was 2-3°C warmer than the preindustrial level but estimates of ice volume and/or sea level at that time are far more uncertain. The mid-Pliocene warm period thus provides a natural analogue for a warmer, higher CO2 world that can be used as a testing ground for the climate and ice sheet models that are being used to predict the future response of Earth’s climate to increasing levels of greenhouse gases.  Here we document our efforts at reducing uncertainty in the sea level/ice volume estimates derived from the geologic record of this time period.

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Specialty Areas

Tropical Coastal and Reef-Island Geomorphology

Palaeosea Level Reconstructions

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Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)

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