Media Release

22/08/2014
JCU’s very fine Fellow
James Cook University is celebrating following the announcement that a member of staff has been awarded one of Australia’s most prestigious research fellowships.

JCU’s very fine Fellow

James Cook University is celebrating following the announcement that a member of staff has been awarded one of Australia’s most prestigious research fellowships.

Professor Michael Bird said he is deeply honoured to receive an Australian Laureate Fellowship, and feels privileged to join the three other Laureate Fellows already working at JCU.

“As Australia’s leading regional university, JCU is now in an even stronger position to drive research in support of the national agenda to sustainably develop northern Australia into the future.”

The five year, $2.6 million dollar fellowship will allow Professor Bird to study environmental changes in Australia before, during and after the arrival of humans.

JCU’s Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Cocklin said it’s a tremendous honour for Michael Bird and the University.

"We are immensely proud of Professor Bird and the other three members of staff who have previously been awarded Laureate Fellowships, for the recognition that this bestows," Professor Cocklin said.

Once more, JCU has punched above its weight. It’s ranked 8th on the number of Laureate Fellowships awarded, putting it ahead of larger institutions including one Group of Eight university.

“JCU is highly regarded for achievement in research and the award of a fourth Laureate Fellowship is further testimony to our strength,” Professor Cocklin noted.

“We are the only university outside the capital cities to have been awarded as many Laureates and indeed JCU is amongst the top eight universities in the country in terms of the number awarded."

Professor Bird plans to peer into Australia’s distant past by developing cutting-edge organic and isotope geo-chemical records of changes in water balance, vegetation type and fire activity.

“I want to tackle one of the fundamental questions in Australian prehistory and ecology - what has been the effect of 50,000 years of human presence on the northern Australian environment we see today?”

“I’m looking forward to spending some time in the bush in Queensland and the Northern Territory collecting sediment cores from newly discovered sinkhole lakes,” Professor Bird said.

He said the lakes could have been accumulating sediment for the past 100,000 years or longer.

“The sediments in the lakes represent time capsules that will allow us to reconstruct past environments in northern Australia in unprecedented detail, using new chemical techniques pioneered at JCU.”

For interviews contact:

Professor Michael Bird michael.bird@jcu.edu.au 0450 959049

Richard Davis, Head of Media and Communications, JCU

(07) 4781 4822 / 0413 451 475 richard.davis@jcu.edu.au