Geoscience Society of New Zealand

Become a member

Home » NZGeMS

The New Zealand Geochemical and Mineralogical Society (NZGeMS) was amalgamated with the Geoscience Society of New Zealand in 2012.

 Some archived Newsletters can be found here and examples of previous conferences here.

 A little of it's history.

 The NZ Geochemical and Mineralogical Society (NZGeMS) existed as a society for geochemists, geologists, mineralogists and chemists with a common interest in NZ geochemistry and mineralogy. The society brought together interdisciplinary interests related to geochemistry and mineralogy, and provided a forum for the exchange of ideas and research results.

It was originally set up in 1965 as the "New Zealand Geochemical Group" (NZGG), and focussed on geothermal, isotope and experimental fluid geochemistry ... the big issues of the day. However, more recently the society had come to represent all aspects of geochemistry including environmental, ore deposit, mineral and Antarctic geochemistry, and in 2003 incorporated the New Zealand Mineralogical Society, forming NZGeMS. There have been a total of almost 450 members since inception, with most from NZ universities, DSIR and more recently the CRIs.

NZGeMS conferences were held every two years, often in smaller towns, and included a wide range of associated fieldtrips, a tradition of student and young researcher participation, a booby prize for the most vacuous conference abstract, and generally excellent conference dinners.

Regular newsletters were published for over 45 years, with 127 issues circulated widely to members and libraries in NZ and overseas. Some of these newsletters are now available via the Geoscience Society's website (see above).

After four years of planning, the merger with the GeoScience Society of NZ was completed in 2012, and announced at the annual conference in Hamilton. Two new awards for excellence in NZ Geochemistry were also announced at this time, with inaugural awards anticipated for 2013;

  •  The Werner F. Giggenbach Medal for the best publication in geochemistry by a young New Zealand geochemist,
  • The Stuart H. Wilson Medal for a lifetime of service to geochemistry in New Zealand

NZGeMS (and NZ Geochemical Group) biennial general meetings minutes are archived in the Alexander Turnbull Library, with other important documents held in the GNS libraries in Wellington and Wairakei.

The Early Days
The founding membership of the New Zealand Geochemical Group includes many of New Zealand's best known and most influential geochemists, who passed their interest and passion onto several generations of scientists, and are part of the current fabric of geochemistry in New Zealand today.

The first newsletter was published in November 1965, and included the following call to arms by John Rogers, first chairperson of the NZ Geochemical Group: "I see the Geochemical Group as part of the New Zealand scientific community, that is, the scientists of the universities, government, and private enterprise. The prime purpose of this newsletter is to foster communication between members of this community who have an interest in geochemical work in common. Success of the Newsletter depends on all members being contributors. Let us hear, therefore, about your research and your views of the development and aims of the group. There should be plenty of material, as studies in applied, compositional, isotope, mineral phase equilibria, organic and solution geochemistry are in progress and New Zealand is an excellent natural laboratory for such investigations."

Dr Jim Ellis, in a conference address in March 1998, summarised the history of geothermal geochemistry, the principal focus of the NZ Geochemical Group in the early days, as follows (abridged);
"Much of the beginnings of NZ geochemistry relating to the field of this conference began with geothermal energy developments from about 1950. A team of geologists, geochemists and geophysicists was created in the DSIR to understand better the workings of geothermal fields. I was fortunate to start work with Stuart Wilson, a pioneer NZ geochemist. Both of us being physical chemists we found out pretty quickly that variations in the composition of volcanic gases could be explained by temperature-dependent chemical equilibria. Fortunately, in this case high temperature thermodynamic data for the relevant gases was available from industrial chemistry literature.

At Wairakei and other geothermal fields abundant chemical analyses were obtained on the water, steam and gases discharged from wells and natural activity. This included element isotope ratios from Athol Rafter and his DSIR isotope chemistry group. At the same time Alfred Steiner, and later Pat Browne, outlined the hydrothermal alteration mineral patterns within geothermal fields, from drill core analyses.

The variations in chemistry and mineralogy indicated potential geothermometers, but they needed calibration and interpretation. At that time there was almost no thermodynamic information on water solutions at temperatures over 100'C. So, we began our DSIR programme on high temperature and pressure aqueous solution chemistry and on hydrothermal mineral phase stabilities.

We were fortunate to have from the late 1950s both the field laboratory at Wairakei under Tony Mahon giving a wide range of information from wells and natural activity, and also an expanding high pressure and temperature experimental group in Lower Hutt which began to gather information on gas solubilities, carbonate solubilities, acid and base dissociation constants, thermodynamic data on salt solutions; also on hydrothermal mineral stabilities. The stabilities of dissolved sulphur species at high temperatures was determined and also the solubilities of metal sulphides and of gold in chloride/sulphide solutions.

It was necessary to develop techniques such as high temperature spectrophotometry, conductivity, solution density measurements and gold and platinum containment systems. Team members included Werner Giggenbach, Terry Seward, Byron Weissberg, Alan Reed, Tony Mahon and many visiting overseas scientists. We also had the advantages of an analytical team whose results one could believe, Reiner Goguel, John Ritchie, Watson Kitt, to name a few."