- Environmental change of the post-glacial period
- Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and palaeoecology
- Using the past as a source of information for contemporary environmental issues
My research currently concerns reconstructing the fire history of the humid environments of south-eastern Australia. This includes investigating:
- the Aboriginal use of fire, for example how frequently they used fire, whether it varied in different environmental settings (e.g. ridge tops versus valleys; coastal versus inland etc) and whether this use of fire varied through time;
- fire in the post-European period, potentially answering questions such as how fire frequency has varied during this period.
In any explanation of how fire has varied through time both humans and climate must be considered (and potentially any complex inter-relationships between these factors). Aspects of climate can be reconstructed using pollen analysis (palynology) which allows vegetation and hence vegetation change to be examined. This means the research has obvious links with the palaeoclimate community, and with archaeology to examine changes in human systems in the prehistoric period.
Like all my research, the fire history project aims to provide a longer temporal perspective than what is afforded by historic (written) records. The research to date includes some surprising results, potentially questioning some of the 'accepted wisdom' behind 'fire-stick farming'. For example Mooney et al. (2001) found that in the pre-European period fire was not a regular occurrence in a coastal location in Royal National Park. This was in contrast to the period between about AD 1930-1960 when fire was extremely common. (Of note, good records of fires in Royal National Park only extend back to 1968!)
I am a member of the following professional associations:
- the Institute of Australian Geographers;
- AQUA (Australasian Quaternary Association);
- and the American Geophysical Union.
I am also active in the IGBP PAGES Focus 5 program Human Impacts on Terrestrial Ecosystems (HITE) and the IGBP 'Fast-track Initiative' on Fire Regimes past, present, future.