- Environmental change of the post-glacial period
- Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and palaeoecology
- Using the past as a source of information for contemporary environmental issues
- Human-environmental relationships, including archaeology, anthropogenic alterations to land-cover and post-colonial human impact
FIRE, CLIMATE CHANGE, VARIABILITY AND HUMAN IMPACT
For the last few decades my research has focused on reconstructing the fire regimes of the humid environments of south-eastern Australia. Like all my research, the palaeo-fire project aims to provide a longer temporal perspective than what is afforded by the instrumental, historic (written) or ethnographic records. The research is also attentive to quantitative measures of fire regimes, including fire frequency, and increasingly fire intensity/severity.
The work on past fire regimes has several underlying themes, including consideration of Indigenous peoples’ use of fire, alterations to fire in the post-European period and addressing the question ‘have recent fire regimes changed’? In Australia the drivers of pre-colonial fire regimes remain contentious, with some advocating an anthropogenic-dominated regime and others highlighting the importance of climate. My work has consistently advocated (and is supported by data generated) for a complex nexus between climate and human activity.
With regards to pre-colonial fire regimes I am interested in how Australian Indigenous people used 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 for example during climatic/socio-economic transitions when more complex procurement techniques were perhaps required for survival. All of these research questions are underpinned by a desire to improve proxies of past fire regimes and particularly charcoal isolated from well-dated accumulating sediments.
I am also hugely interested in climate and climate variability (particularly associated with modes of variability centred on the Pacific Ocean). Aspects of climate can be reconstructed using pollen analysis (palynology) which allows vegetation and hence vegetation change to be examined.
My research output is also available on Google Scholar at: https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=0nCsRl8AAAAJ&hl=en
I am a member of the following professional associations:
• the Institute of Australian Geographers;
• the Linnean Society of New South Wales;
• AQUA (Australasian Quaternary Association).