Dr Gavin Young

Young, Gavin profile
Position Departmental Visitor
Department Materials Physics
Research group
Office phone (02) 612 51581
Office John Carver 4 23a
Publication list Young publication list (169KB PDF)


Gavin Young studied undergraduate geology, zoology and pure mathematics at ANU (W.B. Clarke memorial prize for geology 1967). As the first Honours student of ANU Foundation Professor of Geology D.A. Brown, he conducted the first detailed geological mapping of the Devonian limestones in the Wee Jasper valley. Here he discovered exceptional braincase preservation in 400 million-year-old fossil fishes from Burrinjuck, which were extracted from the rock matrix by acid etching and described as part of his honours project. 

He graduated in Geology (BSc 1st Class Honours, equal top of year) in 1969. During 1970-74 he was Palaeontology Curator at the museum of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Canberra (BMR). He spent three months on geological survey in the Trans-Antarctic Mountains (1970-71 summer season), working with Dr Alex Ritchie (Australian Museum) to acquire the world’s largest collection of Antarctic Devonian fossil fishes. 

Under an Australian Government Postgraduate Scholarship (1974-76) he completed his PhD (Zoology, University of London) researching early evolution of the vertebrate braincase, based on the extensive fossil fish collection from the Burrinjuck limestones exported to London by the British Natural History Museum. 

From 1977, as geologist/palaeontologist at BMR (later Australian Geological Survey Organisation; AGSO) he carried out geological surveys and dating of sedimentary strata (biostratigraphy) to support mineral and hydrocarbon exploration in Australian onshore sedimentary basins. This included extensive field geology and collecting across Australia (e.g. Lachlan Fold Belt, Darling, Georgina, Amadeus and Canning Basins), and overseas (e.g. South and North America, Europe, Russia, Iran, Malaysia, Vietnam, China). He was a Principal Research Scientist at AGSO 1989-1997.

As leader the AGSO ‘Timescales Project’ (1990-94) he oversaw compilation of biostratigraphic time-slice maps (Australian Palaeogeographic Maps Project) and biostratigraphic charts for a petroleum exploration consortium (published 1996 as a co-edited Oxford University Press volume). As President of the Association of Australasian Palaeontologists (1992-94) he initiated and had main carriage for the inclusion of fossils in the Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act. He also served as Secretary (BMR) and Chairman (AGSO) of the Professional Officers Association, as Staff Representative on the BMR/AGSO Advisory Council, as Editor of nomen nudum (newsletter of the AAP), and a member of the IUGS Sub-commission on Devonian Stratigraphy. He was Initiator and Leader/Co-Leader of several UNESCO IGCP projects (e.g. IGCP 328: Siluro-Devonian vertebrate microfossils and marine/nonmarine correlation; IGCP 491Devonian biogeography, palaeogeography, climate). In 1995-96 he mapped all Devonian strata on the Parkes and Grenfell 1:100 000 geological maps under the NGMA mapping accord with the NSW Geological Survey. 

He returned to the ANU Geology Department in 1997 as a Visiting Fellow. He was Visiting Professor at the Muséum national d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris (1999), and at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin (2001-2003). He was an ARC Research Fellow in the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences 2007-2010. Gavin Young is currently based in the ANU Department of Applied Mathematics, Research School of Physics, where high resolution XCT scanning and 3D printing facilities are used to analyze internal braincase morphology of Australian fossil vertebrates. This research attracted continuous ARC funding to ANU from 2004-2014. 

Grants and awards


2014: Mawson Medal (Australian Academy of Science) in recognition of outstanding contributions to Earth Science in Australia. 

2014: W.R. Browne Medal (Geological Society of Australia), the highest award of that society.  

2011: (jointly with J. Long, K. Trinajstic, T. Senden); finalists for the Eureka Prize.

2009: (jointly with J. Long, K. Trinajstic, T. Senden); ‘Top Ten New Species Award’ for 2009 [International Institute for Species Exploration, University of Arizona] for the new taxon Materpiscis attenboroughi.

2001-2003Forschungspreis (Research Award) of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Germany).


ANU Faculties Research Grants Scheme:

2000: F 00108 – Systematic palaeontology of the Wuttagoonaspis fossil fish fauna of central Australia

2001: F 01083 – Early vertebrate (placoderm/chondrichthyan) faunas from the Devonian of Australia-morphology and phylogeny


Australian Research Council Discovery Grants [chief Investigator; initiator and co-leader 2004-14]:

2004-07: DP 0558499 - Australia's exceptional Palaeozoic fossil fishes, and a Gondwana origin for land vertebrates

2007-09: DP 0772138 - Old brains, new data - early evolution of structural complexity in the vertebrate head

2010-14: DP 1092870 - Origin of jaws – the greatest unsolved mystery of early vertebrate evolution

2014-16: DP 140104161 - The origins of electroreception and nocturnality in the earliest known jawed vertebrates and their bearing on vertebrate diversification

2016-18: DP 160102460 - Resolving evolutionary problems at the Fish-Tetrapod transition


Recent publications

For full listing see Publications pdf