Professor Martin Van Kranendonk
Head of School
Field of Research: 
Archean tectonics, early life, global geodynamics
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 2439
Room 611

Biological Sciences Building (D26)
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Research & Current Projects

Early Earth and the evolution of the planetary system through time. Particularly crust formation processes in the Archean and the interplay and feedback(s) between planetary dynamics and changes in the atmosphere/hydrosphere and biosphere. Current research is focussed on:

1) the transition from a reducing, warm, early Earth to a cool, more oxidized modern Earth across the Archean-Proterozoic boundary, 2.5-2.2 Ga;

2) secular changes in tectonics and geochemistry through the Precambrian and how these influenced changes in the atmosphere/hydrosphere and may have contributed to evolution of the biosphere;

3) relation between Earth’ earliest life and hydrothermal vent systems in the North Pole Dome area of the Pilbara Craton, Western Australia;

4) Archean crustal evolution of the Barberton granite-greenstone terrain, southern Africa, and the relative contribution of subduction-accretion vs plume magmatism to crust formation.

Lab group Australian Centre for Astrobiology

See video interview below, in which Martin talks about his career path, receiving the European Association of Geochemistry's Eminent Speaker 2012 Award, and provides words of wisdom for young scientists.

Interview Martin Van Kranendonk

Research Students

Erica Barlow (PhD candidate)

Tara Djokic (PhD candidate)

Hugh Bannister (MPhil candidate)

Richard Blake (MPhil candidate)

Mark Healey (Mphil candidate)

Sahand Tadbiri (MPhil candidate)



Published Books

Van Kranendonk, M.J., Johnston, J. (2009): Discovery trails to Early Earth - A traveller’s Guide to the east Pilbara region of Western Australia. Geological Survey of Western Australia.

Van Kranendonk, M.J., Smithies, R.H., Bennett, V., (Eds.), 2007. Earth’s Oldest Rocks. Developments in Precambrian Geology, Series 15. Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1307pp.

Published Papers in International Journals and Books (74)

74)Barnes, S., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Sontag, I. (in press):Geochemical affinity and tectonic setting of basalts from the Eastern Goldfields Superterrane, Yilgarn Craton. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences.

73) Hickman, A.H., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (in press): Witness to early Earth evolution from the 3.5 to 1.8 Ga geological history of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Episodes.

72) Williford, K.H.,Van Kranendonk, M.J., Ushikubo, T., Kozdon, R., Valley, J.W. (2011): Constraining atmospheric oxygen and seawater sulfate concentrations during Paleoproterozoic glaciation: in situ sulfur three-isotope microanalysis of pyrite from the Turee Creek Group, Western Australia. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 75, 5686–5705.

71) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2011): Onset of plate tectonics. Science 333, 413–414.

70) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2011): Cool greenstone drips, hot rising domes, and the role of partial convective overturn in Barberton greenstone belt evolution.Journal of African Earth Sciences 60, 346–352. DOI: 10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2011.03.012.

69) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2011): Stromatolite morphology as an indicator of biogenicity for Earth’s oldest fossils from the 3.5-3.4 Ga Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. In:Advances in Stromatolite Geobiology, edited by J. Reitner, N-V. Queric, and G. Arp.Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences, v. 131, Spiinger, Germany, pp. 517–534.

68) Ivanic, T.J., Wingate, M.T.D., Kirkland, C.L., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Wyche, S. (2010): Age and significance of voluminous mafic–ultramafic magmatic events in the Murchison Domain, Yilgarn Craton. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences57, 597–614.

67) Kirkland, C.L., Whitehouse, M.J., Pease, V., and Van Kranendonk, M.J., 2010b, Erratum: Lithosphere, v. 2, p. 472–475.

66)Kirkland, C.L., Whitehouse, M.J., Pease, V., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2010): Oxygen isotopesin detrital zircons: Insight into crustal recycling during the evolution of the Greenland Shield.Lithosphere 2, 3-12.

65) Sugitani, K., Lepot, K., Mimura, K., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Oehler, D., Walter, M.R. (2010): Biogenicity of morphologically diverse carbonaceous microstructures from the ca. 3400 Ma Strelley Pool Formation, in the Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Astrobiology 10, 899–920.

64) Tessalina, S.G., Bourdon, B., Van Kranendonk, M., Birck, J-L., Philippot, P. (2010): Influence of Hadean crust evident in basalts and cherts from the Pilbara Craton. Nature Geoscience 3, 214-217.

63) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2010): Two types of Archean continental crust: plumeand plate tectonics on early Earth. American Journal of Science 310, 1187–1209DOI: 10.2475/10.2010.01

62) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Smithies, R.H., Hickman, A.H., Wingate, M.T.D., Bodorkos, S. (2010): Evidence for Mesoarchean (~3.2 Ga) rifting of the Pilbara Craton: The missing link in an early Precambrian Wilson cycle. Precambrian Research 177, 145-161.

61) Gérard, E., Moreira, D., Philippot, P., Van Kranendonk, M., López-Garcia, P. (2009): Modern subsurface bacteria in pristine 2.7 Ga-old fossil stromatolite drillcore samples from the Fortescue Group, Western Australia. PLoS ONE4(4): e5298. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005298).

60) Philippot, P., Van Kranendonk, M., Van Zuilen, M. Lepot, K., Rividi, N., Teitler, Y., Thomazo, C., Blanc-Valleron, M-M., Rouchy, J-M., Grosch, E., de Wit, M. (2009): Early traces of life investigations in drilling Archean hydrothermal and sedimentary rocks of the Pilbara Craton, Western Australia and Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa. C. R. Palevol 8, 649-663.

59) Smithies, R.H. Champion, D. C., Van Kranendonk, M. J. (2009): Formation of Paleoarchean continental crust through infracrustal melting of enriched basalt.Earth and Planetary Science Letters 281, 298-306 (doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2009.03.003).

58) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Kröner, A., Hegner, E., Connelly, J. (2009): Age, lithology and structural evolution of the c. 3.53 Ga Theespruit Formation in the Tjakastad area, southwestern Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa, with implications for Archean tectonics. Chemical Geology 261, 114-138.

57) Furnes, H., McLoughlin, N. Muehlenbachs, K., Banerjee, N.R., Staudigel, H., Dilek, Y., de Wit, M., Van Kranendonk, M., Schiffman, P. (2008): Oceanic pillow lavas and hyaloclastites as habitats for microbial life through time – A review. In: Dilek, Y., Furnes, H., Muehlenbachs, K. (eds.), Links between geological processes, microbial activities and evolution of life. Springer-Verlag Book Series, pp. 1-68.

56) McLoughlin, N., Furnes, H., Banerjee, N.R., Staudigel, H., Muehlenbachs, K., de Wit, M., Van Kranendonk, M. (2008): Micro-bioerosion in volcanic glass: Extending the ichnofossil record to Archean basaltic crust. In: Wisshak, M. and Tapinla, L. (eds.), Current Developments in Bioerosion. Springer, Berlin, pp. 372-396.

55) Pease, V., Percival, J., Smithies, R. H., Stevens, G.,Van Kranendonk, M.J.(2008): When did plate tectonics begin? Evidence from the orogenic record. In: Condie, K.C. and Pease, V. (eds.), When did plate tectonics begin on Earth? Geological Society of America, Special Paper 440, p. 199-228.

54) Philippot, P., Van Zuilen, M., Lepot, K., Thomazo, C., Farquhar, J., Van Kranendonk, M. (2008): Response to comment on “Early Archean microorganisms preferred elemental sulphur, not sulphate”. Science, v. 319, p. 1336c-1336d.

53) Pirajno, F.,Van Kranendonk, M.J., Xiao, L. (2008): Hydrothermal processes in the solar system: A review. Geological Science and Technology Information, v. 27(1), p. 1–12.

52) Thébaud, N., Philippot, P., Rey, P., Brugger, J.,Van Kranendonk, M., Grassineau, N. (2008): Protracted fluid-rock interaction in the Mesoarchaean and implication for gold mineralization: Example from the Warrawoona Syncline (Pilbara, Western Australia). Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 272, p. 639-655.

51) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Gehling, J., Shields, G. (2008): Precambrian. In: Ogg, J.G., Ogg, G., Gradstein, F. (eds.), The Concise Geological Timescale, p. 23-36. Cambridge University Press.

50) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Philippot, P., Lepot, K., Bodorkos, S., Pirajno, F. (2008): Geological setting of Earth’s oldest fossils in the c. 3.5 Ga Dresser Formation, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Precambrian Research 167, 93-124. doi. 10.1016/j.precamres.2008.07.003.

49) Banerjee, N. R., Simonnetti, A., Furnes, H., Muehlenbachs, K., Staudigel, H., Heaman, L., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2007): Direct dating of Archean microbial ichnofossils. Geology, v. 35, p. 487-490.

48) Bolhar, R., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2007): A non-marine depositional setting for the northern Fortescue Group, Pilbara Craton, inferred from trace element geochemistry of stromatolitic carbonates.Precambrian Research, v. 155, p. 229-250.

47) Furnes, H., Banerjee, N. R., Staudigel, H., Muehlenbachs, K., de Wit, M., Van Kranendonk, M.(2007): Comparing petrographic signatures of bioalteration in recent to Mesoarchean pillow lavas: Tracing subsurface life in oceanic igneous rocks. Precambrian Research, v. 158, p. 156-176.

46) Marshall, C.P., Love, G.D., Snape, C.E., Hill, A.C., Allwood, A.C., Walter, M.R.,Van Kranendonk, M.J., Bowden, S.A., Sylva, S.P., Summons, R.E. (2007): Structural characterization of kerogen in 3.4 Ga Archaean cherts from the Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Precambrian Research, v. 155, p. 1-23.

45) Philippot, P., Van Zuilen, M., Lepot, K., Thomazo, C., Farquhar, J., Van Kranendonk, M. (2007): Early Archean microorganisms preferred elemental sulphur, not sulphate. Science, v. 317, p. 1534-1537.

44) Smithies, R.H., Champion, D.C.,Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2007): The oldest well-preserved volcanic rocks on Earth: geochemical clues to the early evolution of the Pilbara Supergroup and implications for the growth of a Paleoarchean continent. In: Van Kranendonk, M. J., Smithies, R. H., and Bennet, V. (Eds.),Earth’s Oldest Rocks. Developments in Precambrian Geology 15, p. 339-367. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

43) Smithies, R.H., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Champion, D.C., (2007): The Mesoarchaean emergence of modern style subduction. In: S. Maruyama and M. Santosh (eds.), Island Arcs: Past and Present; Gondwana Research, v. 11, p. 50-68.

42) Sugitani, K., Grey, K., Allwood, A.C., Nagaoka, T., Minami, M., Marshall, C.P.,Van Kranendonk, M.J., Walter, M.R. (2007): Diverse microstructures from Archean chert from the Mount Goldsworthy – Mount Grant area, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia: Microfossils, dubiofossils, or pseudofossils? Precambrian Research, v. 158, p. 228-262.

41) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2007): Tectonics of early Earth; In: Van Kranendonk, M. J., Smithies, R. H., and Bennet, V. (Eds.), Earth’s Oldest Rocks. Developments in Precambrian Geology 15, p. 1105-1116. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

40) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2007): A review of the evidence for putative Paleoarchean life in the Pilbara Craton.In: Van Kranendonk, M. J., Smithies, R. H., and Bennet, V. (Eds.), Earth’s Oldest Rocks. Developments in Precambrian Geology 15, p. 855-896. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

39) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Hickman, A., Smithies, R. H. (2007): The East Pilbara Terrane of the Pilbara Craton, Western Australia: Formation of a continental nucleus through repeated mantle plume magmatism; In: Van Kranendonk, M. J., Smithies, R. H., and Bennet, V. (Eds.), Earth’s Oldest Rocks. Developments in Precambrian Geology 15, p. 307-337. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

38) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Smithies, R.H., Hickman, A.H., Champion, D.C. (2007): Secular tectonic evolution of Archaean continental crust: interplay between horizontal and vertical processes in the formation of the Pilbara Craton, Australia. Terra Nova, v. 19(1), p. 1-38.

37) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2006): Volcanic degassing, hydrothermal circulation and the flourishing of early life on Earth: new evidence from the Warrawoona Group, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Earth-Science Reviews, v. 74, p. 197-240.

36) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Bleeker, W., Ketchum, J. (2006): Phreatomagmatic boulder conglomerates at the fracture propagation tip of the 2.77 Ga Black Range dolerite dyke, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 53, p. 617-630.

35) Bolhar, R., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Kamber, B.S. (2005): A trace element study of siderite-jasper banded iron formation in the 3.45 Ga Warrawoona Group, Pilbara Craton – formation from hydrothermal fluids and shallow seawater. Precambrian Research, v. 137, p. 93-114.

34) Pirajno, F., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2005): A review of hydrothermal processes and systems on earth and implications for Martian analogues.Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 52, p. 329-351.

33) Smithies, R.H., Champion, D.C., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Howard, H.M., Hickman, A.H. (2005a): Modern-style subduction processes in the Mesoarchaean: geochemical evidence from the 3.12 Ga Whundo intraoceanic arc. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 231, p. 221-237.

32) Smithies, R.H., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Champion, D.C. (2005b): It started with a plume – early Archaean basaltic proto-continental crust.Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 238 (3-4), p. 284-297.

31) Hickman, A.H., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2004): Diapiric processes in the formation of Archaean continental crust, East Pilbara Granite-Greenstone Terrane, Australia. In: Eriksson, P.G., Altermann, W., Nelson, D.R., Mueller, W.U., Catuneau, O. (eds.), The Precambrian Earth: Tempos and Events. Elsevier, p. 54-75.

30) Pawley, M.J., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Collins, W.J. (2004):Interplay between deformation and magmatism during doming of the Archaean Shaw Granitoid Complex, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia.Precambrian Research, v. 131, p. 213-230.

29) Sandiford, M., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Bodorkos, S. (2004): Conductive incubation and the origin of dome-and-keel structure in Archean granite-greenstone terrains: a model based on the eastern Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Tectonics23, TC1009, DOI: 10.1029/2002TC001452.

28) Van Kranendonk, M.J., (2004): Archaean tectonics 2004: A review.Precambrian Research, v. 131, p. 143-151. doi: 10.1016/j.precamres.2003.12.008

27) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Cassidy, K. (2004): Comment on: “An Alternative Earth”. GSA Today, v. 14, no. 3, p. 14.

26) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Pirajno, F. (2004): Geological setting and geochemistry of metabasalts and alteration zones associated with hydrothermal chert ± barite deposits in the ca. 3.45 Ga Warrawoona Group, Pilbara Craton, Australia. Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis, v. 4, p. 253-278.

25) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Collins, W.J., Hickman, A.H., Pawley, M.J. (2004): Critical tests of vertical vs horizontal tectonic models for the Archaean East Pilbara Granite-Greenstone Terrane, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia.Precambrian Research, v. 131, p. 173-211.

24) Garcia-Ruiz J.M., Hyde, S.T., Carnerup, A.M., Christy, A.G., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Welham, N.J. (2003): Self-assembled silica-carbonate structures and detection of ancient microfossils. Science, v. 302, p. 1194-1197.

23) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2003): Archaean tectonics in 2001: An Earth odyssey.Precambrian Research, v. 127(1-3), p. 1-4.

22) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Webb, G. E., Kamber, B.S. (2003):Geological and trace element evidence for a marine sedimentary environment of deposition and biogenicity of 3.45 Ga stromatolitic carbonates in the Pilbara Craton, and support for a reducing Archean ocean. Geobiology, v. 1(2), p. 91-108.

21) Brasier, M.D., Green, O.R., Jephcoat, A.P., Kleppe, A.K., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Lindsay, J.F., Steele, A., Grassineau, N. (2002): Questioning the evidence for Earth's oldest fossils. Nature, v. 416, p. 76-81.

20) Huston, D.L., Sun, S-S, Blewett, R.H., Hickman, A.H., Van Kranendonk, M.J.,Phillips, D., Baker, D., Brauhart, C. (2002): The timing of mineralization in the Archaean North Pilbara Terrain, Western Australia. Economic Geology, v. 97 (4),p. 733-756.

19) Pawley, M., Collins, W.J., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (2002): Origin of fine-scale sheeted granites by incremental injection of magma into active shear zones: examples from the Pilbara Craton, NW Australia. Lithos, v. 61 (3-4), p. 127-139.

18) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Hickman, A.H., Smithies, R.H., Nelson, D.N., Pike, G. (2002): Geology and tectonic evolution of the Archaean North Pilbara terrain, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Economic Geology, v. 97 (4), p. 695-732.

17) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Hickman, A.H., Collins, W.J. (2001): Comment on “Evidence for multiphase deformation in the Archaean basal Warrawoona Group in the Marble Bar area, East Pilbara, Western Australia”. Precambrian Research,v. 105, p. 73-78.

16) Collins, W.J., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (1999): Model for the development of kyanite during partial convective overturn of Archaean granite-greenstone terranes: the Pilbara Craton, Australia. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, v. 17, No. 2, p. 145-156.

15) Collins, W.J., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Teyssier, C. (1998): Partial convective overturn of Archaean crust in the east Pilbara Craton, Western Australia: Driving mechanisms and tectonic implications. Journal of Structural Geology, v. 20, p. 1405-1424.

14) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Collins, W.J. (1998): Timing and tectonic significance of Late Archaean, sinistral strike-slip deformation in the Central Pilbara Structural Corridor, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Precambrian Research, v. 88, p. 207-232.

13) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Wardle, R.J. (1997): Crustal-scale flexural slip folding during late tectonic amplification of an orogenic boundary perturbation in the Paleoproterozoic Torngat Orogen, NE Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 34, p. 1545-1565.

12) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Wardle, R.J. (1996): Burwell domain of the Paleoproterozoic Torngat Orogen, northeastern Canada: Tilted cross-section of a magmatic arc caught between a rock and a hard place. In: Brewer, T.S. (ed.) Precambrian evolution of the North Atlantic Region; Geological Society Special Publication No. 112, p. 91-115.

11) Wardle, R.J., Van Kranendonk, M.J. (1996): The Eastern Churchill Province of Labrador-Québec, Canada: Orogenic development as a consequence of oblique collision and indentation. In: Brewer, T.S. (ed.) Precambrian Evolution of the North Atlantic Region; Geological Society of London, Special Publication No. 112, p. 137-153.

10) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (1996): Tectonic evolution of the Paleoproterozoic Torngat Orogen; Evidence from P-T-t-d paths in the North River map area, Labrador. Tectonics, v. 15, No. 4, p. 843-869.

9) Van Kranendonk, M.J., St-Onge, M.R., Henderson, J.R. (1993): Paleoproterozoic tectonic assembly of Northeast Laurentia through multiple indentations. Precambrian Research, v. 63, p. 325-347.

8) Bertrand, J.-M., Roddick, J.C., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Ermanovics, I. (1993): U-Pb geochronology of deformation and metamorphism in the Early Proterozoic Torngat Orogen, North River map area, Labrador. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 30, p. 1470-1489.

7) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Helmstaedt, H. (1992): Late Archean structural history of allochthonous Upernavik supracrustal rocks in the high-grade Nain Province, Labrador: Evidence of a link between the tectonic evolution of gneiss terranes and greenstone belts. In: Glover, J.E. and Ho, S.E. (editors) The Archaean: Terrains, Processes and Metallogeny, p. 137-149. Geology Department (Key Centre) and University Extension, The University of Western Australia, Publication No. 22, 1992.

 6) Van Kranendonk, M.J. (1991): A magmatic sheet origin for thin metagabbroic anorthosite units in the Fishog subdomain of the southern Central Gneiss Belt, Grenville Province, Ontario. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 28, p. 431-446.

5) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Ermanovics, I. (1990): Structural evolution of the Hudsonian Torngat Orogen in the North River map area, Labrador. Geoscience Canada, v.17, no.4, p. 283-288.

4) Van Kranendonk, M.J., Helmstaedt, H. (1990): Late Archean geological history of the Nain Province, North River-Nutak map area, Labrador and its tectonic significance. Geoscience Canada, v.17, no.4, p.231-237.

3) Bertrand, J.-M., Van Kranendonk, M., Hanmer, S., Roddick, J.C., Ermanovics, I. (1990): Structural and metamorphic geochronology of the Torngat Orogen, Labrador: Preliminary results. Geoscience Canada, v.17, no.4, p.297-301.

2) Ermanovics, I., Van Kranendonk, M. (1990): The Nutak - North River transect of Nain and Churchill (E. Rae Terrane) Provinces: the Torngat Orogen.Geoscience Canada, v.17, no.4, p.279-283.

 1) Schwerdtner, W.M., Van Kranendonk, M. (1984): Structure of Stolz diapir ? a well?exposed salt dome on Axel Heiberg Island, Canadian Arctic Archipelago.Bull. Can. Petroleum Geology, v.  32, p. 237?241.