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Department of Earth Sciences


About the nBOSS project

The northern Borneo Orogeny Seismic Survey (nBOSS) project is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Cambridge, the University of Aberdeen, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and the Malaysia Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia). The project aims to use seismology to understand the deep geology and tectonics of northern Borneo, which lies at the heart of southeast Asia, one of the most tectonically active regions in the world. Our field area, Sabah (Borneo’s most northern state), is located far from current plate boundaries, yet contains unique landforms that are testament to a recent history of pronounced deformation, e.g., elevated circular basins and the 4095 m high Mt Kinabalu.

Photo of the view from to top of Mount Kinabalu

Evidence from plate reconstructions, surface geology and geochronology suggest that phases of subduction, arc-continent collision, orogeny, crustal accretion, and obduction (driven by northward and westward motions of the Australian and Pacific plates respectively) have shaped northern Borneo over tens of millions of years. However, many fundamental questions remain: What caused subduction to initiate and terminate along the east coast? Is there evidence of slab-break off or lithospheric delamination in the mantle? How did the circular basins form?

The nBOSS passive seismic array, deployed in Sabah in March 2018 and comprising 47 broadband seismometers, will provide the data required to tackle these questions, and many more. The array is supplemented by over 20 permanent broadband stations operated by MetMalaysia, yielding a high quality dataset that includes local, regional and teleseismic earthquakes, as well as ambient noise. Using a variety of seismic techniques, the nBOSS project seeks to probe the structure of the northern Borneo crust and underlying mantle, and contribute to a greater understanding of how post-subduction tectonics work. 

Meet the nBOSS Team

At the University of Cambridge:

At the University of Aberdeen:

At the Universiti Malaysia Sabah:

  • Prof. Felix Tongkul

Partners and Project Funding


Malaysia Meteorological Department logo Malaysia Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia)


Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions logo

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

Royal Astronomical Society logo Royal Astronomical Society
NERC logo Natural Environment Research Council