PhD in Earth sciences

Students on a field trip in Tasmania

Looking for a PhD program that offers a distinguished intellectual environment? Want to solve some of the biggest questions and greatest challenges facing the earth today? Then there is simply no better place than ANU.

Not only is ANU Australia’s number 1 university and ranked 20th in the world*, but The Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES), where you will complete your PhD, is also ranked the 12th best Earth sciences school in the world1.  

So what makes a PhD at RSES so exceptional?

  • We focus on emerging research challenges and inspiring research directions such as carbon cycle and mitigation, climate variability and extremes, data Science, ice and climate, the origins of planets, stars and life, and resources for the 21st century.
  • Our expert application of the enabling sciences – mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology – helps us solve some of the greatest challenges facing earth science.
  • Cutting-edge facilities, many made right here on campus, provide you with the freedom to conduct your research with the tools you need.
  • Our extensive breadth of research topics, many of which cross over in to other complimentary fields, give you a broad range of study options.
  • Field work opportunities to take you to some of the most remote regions in the world, along with $6,000 to support your travel.
  • Our commitment to our students. You will receive excellent group support, unparalleled access to our academic community and access to a range of scholarships throughout your degree.

Where will a PhD in Earth sciences lead me?

Completing a PhD in earth sciences at RSES is known as an excellent foundation to move into outstanding careers in academia, industry, policy-making and science communication. Many of our Alumni have gone onto exciting careers such as CEO of Geoscience Australia, exploration geologist, scientists at universities and research organisations, documentary film maker, teaching, and federal policy, to name a few.

Depending on your chosen field there are many career opportunities available once you have completed your PhD.

Travel the world

We recognise the importance of our students getting out into the field to conduct their research, and fieldwork is a particularly important component of a PhD. We support students by providing opportunities to network with your peers and leading experts around the globe, making it possible to collect geological specimens in the most remote regions of the world. Think encountering curious penguins in Antarctica, unravelling the mysteries of how an ancient ocean crust formed in Oman, drilling for sediment cores onboard a research vessel in the tropical Indian Ocean.

We offer outstanding opportunities for international travel for field work, visits to international laboratories and conferences with every student receiving their own travel account, worth $6000 that can be spent during the course of your PhD. Students can additionally apply for RSES travel awards such as the Brown Award ($2500 for travel in the first year) and the Paterson Fellowship (a total of $20,000 is available per annum for multiple fellowships to be awarded to students for international collaborations and field work). Most supervisors also offer further travel opportunities.

One of the most attractive events at RSES is the biannual student field trip organized by the PhD student community to travel to exotic geological locations around the world. Previous trips have taken our PhD students to New Zealand, Tasmania, Central Australia and Africa.

Fit right in

Our PhD cohort at RSES are a welcoming and tight knit community. You can even expect to be met at the Canberra International Airport if you’re travelling from far away.

Our lively and inclusive community include 52 students from Australia and 55 students from over 20 countries around the world.We have a very active PhD student group that organizes a range of educational and social events throughout the year and runs a successful student blog, OnCirculation, which engages with the wider community through various social media platforms.

Our PhD students have access to their own community room which includes a kitchen and courtyard, and students in their final year of study may get their own office to help write up their thesis in a quiet environment.

Scholarships and financial support

We offer a range of scholarships to assist you with your studies. On top of a PhD scholarship covering your living expenses, students receive a $2000 personal top-up grant each year.

There are also several highly prestigious merit scholarship for the top applicants such as:

  • The Jaeger Scholarship of $8,000 per annum for the top PhD applicant from Australia
  • The Ringwood Scholarship of $8,000 per annum for the top international applicant and
  • The Chappell and White Award that offers a $31,000 per annum scholarship plus an additional $6,000 travel money for the top-ranked student in the field of petrology.

All applicants are automatically considered for the above scholarships and all new students get $2,000 for computer equipment of their choice. Students relocating to Canberra will also receive money for their relocation expenses.

Find a research project

Our focus at RSES is on emerging research challenges and inspiring research directions. Click on one of the links below to discover more about the broad range of earth science research that we do.

Explore the science of individual research groups.

Discover the major research challenges and themes at RSES.

Browse and search our currently available projects. If you require further information on individual projects or wish to discuss potential projects please contact one of the researchers listed with the project.

Take a look at our research videos.

Get more information about studying at ANU

How to apply?

  1. Browse through the research pages and project finder and identify a research direction that you are interested in.
  2. Send an email to your prospective project supervisor (group leader) and enquire about available projects.
  3. If you are not sure who to contact, please send an email to with the research directions you are interested in.


For general enquiries and questions about the application process, please contact RSES HDR Student Coordinator online, or by telephone at +61 2 6125 2056.