TARL Research


Current and recent research funding to TARL members

Australian Research Council - Centres of Excellence


Summary: ARC Centre of Excellence for Indigenous and Environmental Histories and Futures aims to generate a new direction in knowledge creation based on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led approaches to managing Land and Sea Country. The Centre expects to make a legacy contribution by developing complementary Indigenous and Western knowledge frameworks for modelling environmental, cultural, and historical change in Australia over the last millennium and into the near future. Expected outcomes focus on sustainable Indigenous land and sea management planning for future decades. Benefits include improved forecasting of the trajectory of environmental change, an increase in the capacity of Indigenous research, creation of a pipeline for Indigenous students into research, and evidence-based policy-making.

TARL Investigators: Sean Ulm, Michael Bird

Australian Research Council - Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities


Summary: Microanalytical Facility Supporting Resources Development and Manufacturing. The project aims to establish a state-of-the-art electron probe microanalysis facility enabling accurate chemical analysis to be undertaken at the micro-scale. It is expected to provide new knowledge and support applied research on a range of natural, synthetic and processed materials that will deeply impact advancements in the fields of metals processing and recycling, Earth and environmental science, and the development of materials for a healthier society. It will support ARC funded and industry engaged research enhancing the minerals exploration, mining and metallurgical industries and inform sustainable practice. It will also provide the key research infrastructure to enhance Australia’s research leadership in these fields.

TARL Investigators: Paul Dirks, Michael Bird, Sean Ulm

Australian Research Council - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award


Summary: The aim of this project is to examine isotopes in the teeth of individuals from three sites in prehistoric central Myanmar to examine diet, the movement and migration of people, and potential patterns in post-marital residence, which are all intricately linked. Built on a strong conceptual framework this project seeks to generate new information in the field of archaeological science. The research outcomes of this project will expand our current archaeological knowledge of this focal but under-researched area, which will be of particular benefit in understanding Myanmar in relation to surrounding regions and the wider Southeast Asian context, and in fostering continued collegiality and collaboration with Myanmar scholars and communities.

TARL Investigators: Dr Anna Willis

Rust Family Foundation - Archaeology Grants Program


Summary: This project aims to document Indigenous interactions with the fish resources of the northern Great Barrier Reef (Queensland, Australia) over the past 6,500 years. Using novel analyses of archaeological fish remains, this project expects to generate new knowledge on how people’s actions transformed marine systems and modified fish communities. Expected outcomes include a long-term cultural history of the sustainability of Indigenous fisheries practices in the region, and baseline ecological data for the period prior to European occupation.

TARL Investigators: Ariana Lambrides

Australian Research Council - Centres of Excellence


Summary: This Centre will create a world-class interdisciplinary research programme to understand Australia's unique biodiversity and heritage. The Centre will track the changes to Australia's environment to examine the processes responsible for the changes and the lessons that can be used to continue to adapt to Australia's changing environment. The Centre will support connections between the sciences and humanities and train future generations of researchers to deal with future global challenges and inform policy in an interdisciplinary context.

TARL Investigators: Michael BirdSean UlmChristian Reepmeyer

Australian Research Council - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award


Summary: This project aims to document the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in shaping the fish resources of the Great Barrier Reef over millennia. Using novel analyses of archaeological faunal remains, this project expects to generate new knowledge on how people's actions transformed marine systems and modified fish communities. Expected outcomes include establishing pre-European baseline data essential for managing contemporary fish populations, and a long-term perspective on human exploitation of a shifting Great Barrier Reef. Benefits include a framework for integrating Indigenous fisheries management into conservation agendas and foregrounding the deep human history of the Reef to support future social and ecological resilience.

TARL Investigators: Ariana Lambrides

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


Summary: This project uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine the biological, cultural and environmental underpinnings of the Polynesian people through a study of their ancient homeland in Tonga. Early Polynesian society developed 2650-2350 years ago, but little is known about the people, their culture and how sea-level fall impacted subsistence and settlement. The proposed study's goal is to fill this gap in human knowledge about our Pacific neighbours using a unique skeletal assemblage, excavated cultural remains and advanced mapping of palaeo-sea-level markers that will enhance the international visibility of Australian research in human-environment systems.

TARL Investigators: Christian Reepmeyer

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


Summary: This is a pioneering, multi-disciplinary study of submerged landscape archaeology in Australia designed to investigate the records of the now-submerged Pilbara coast (spanning 50,000 to 7000 years ago). Information from drowned contexts will help address critical debates in Australian prehistory relating to past sea-level rise, population resilience, mobility, and diet. The project integrates cultural and environmental studies and contributes a unique southern hemisphere insight into world prehistory through material analysis and an adaptation of method from the world's only confirmed submarine middens. A suite of cutting edge marine and aerial survey techniques will be developed to investigate physical and cultural submerged landscapes.

TARL Investigators: Sean Ulm

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


Summary: In August 2008 the remarkable Malapa fossil site was discovered with remains of the first and only fossils of Australopithecus sediba - a potential direct human ancestor. The fossils are in an exceptional state of preservation, and excavations will start in late 2013, creating a unique opportunity to develop a detailed understanding of the chemical, physical and biological factors that led to burial and fossilisation. This research will focus on the complex interplay between termites, sediment chemistry, landscape conditions and palaeo-climate as contributing factors to fossil preservation. Results will document the environment in which sediba lived and died, and assist future exploration for hominid fossils.

TARL Investigators: Paul DirksEric Roberts

Leakey Foundation - Research Grant


Summary: This project will use detrital zircon geochronology to date the Paranthropus boisei and Homo rudolfensis hominin fossils from the northern Malawi Rift. These fossils are remarkable, as they represent a co-occurrence of these two species in southwestern Africa, the meeting point for endemic faunas of both southern and eastern Africa. The location of the fossils in the volcanic East African Rift System is a perfect depositional setting in which to apply detrital zircon geochronology to precisely date P. boisei and H. rudolfensis, to test hypotheses about faunal exchange between the two 'cradles' of humankind, in south and east Africa.

TARL Investigators: Eric Roberts

Australian Research Council - Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities


Summary: This project aims to develop a national facility for pyrogenic carbon analysis. Pyrogenic carbon is a poorly constrained, slow-cycling terrestrial carbon pool with significant carbon sequestration potential. The project expects to expand the newly developed hydrogen pyrolysis analytical capability to provide high throughput, robust measurement of the abundance and isotope composition of pyrogenic carbon in soils and sediments. This will provide significant benefit, such as the ability to make significant advances in areas as diverse as geochronology, archaeology, palaeoecology, soil science geomorphology

TARL Investigators: Michael BirdSean Ulm

Australian Research Council - Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities


Summary: This proposal aims to establish a facility for mass spectrometry and sample preparation to enhance Australian capacity to analyse the stable isotope composition of silicate minerals. The project seeks to implement innovations that will greatly enhance the use of stable isotopes in silicate minerals by increasing analytical throughput and reducing cost. This will provide better understanding of the trajectories of environmental change, formation of mineral deposits and identifying trade networks in prehistoric societies.

TARL Investigators: Michael BirdChristian Reepmeyer

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


Summary: This study will use newly developed and fully validated isotope techniques to obtain robustly dated proxy records of vegetation change from the thick deposits of cave guano that occur extensively throughout island Southeast Asia (Sundaland). We will test the hypothesis that during the Last Glacial Period, there was a substantial contraction of the rainforest towards the equator into refugia. This led to the development of an open 'savannah corridor' connecting savanna north and south of the equator. The project will shed new light on the palaeoclimatology of the region and provide a major contribution to explaining modern biogeographic patterns across Sundaland, as well as the trajectories of early human dispersal through the region.

TARL Investigators: Michael Bird

Australian Institute of Nuclear Science & Engineering - Postgraduate Research Award


Summary: This project addresses the lack of palaeoenvironmental and palaeofire records available for northern Australia. I will analyse both micro-(<125?m) and macroscopic (>125?m) charcoal from sediment cores collected from lacustrine sites in Cape York and Arnhem Land. I will also analyse modern charcoal collected in fire traps placed during fieldwork to create a modern analogue. Collaboration with AINSE/ANSTO will result in a high-resolution chronology for each site, with implications for the

TARL Investigators: Emma Rehn, Michael BirdCassandra RoweSean Ulm

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme


Summary: The continued practise of rock art production after 1900 in the Wet Tropics demonstrates resilience, adaptation and continuation of Aboriginal cultural practises well after white settlement. Paintings added at Mossman Gorge and Browns Bay since the 1950s are not only examples of the linking of the cultural and natural environments, but also show how Aboriginal people adapted cultural sites to opportunities offered through tourism. This demonstrates how Aboriginal people have used their heritage to engage and contribute to the tourist industry.

TARL Investigators: Alice Buhrich, Shelley Greer

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


Summary: Since their discovery in the 1930s the mysterious collection s of giant stone jars scattered throughout central Laos have remained one of the great prehistoric puzzles of SE Asia. It is thought that the jars represent the mortuary remains of an extensive and powerful Iron Age culture. This project seeks to determine the true nature of these sites which date to a dynamic period of increasing complexity in Se Asia (c.500BCE-500CE). This will be achieved through extensive reconnaissance, precision mapping, archaeological excavation and analysis of associated burial material. Using a suite of cutting-edge archaeological technologies this project will have far-reaching benefits for archaeology, science, Laos and World Heritage.

TARL Investigators: Nigel ChangKate Domett

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Australian Laureate Fellowships


Summary: This project will produce the first long-term (100,000 year), replicated, high-resolution terrestrial records of environmental change before, during and after the arrival of humans in Australian savannas. These records will be the first in the world to extract, from the same material, independent, cutting-edge organic and isotope geochemical records of changes in water balance, vegetation type and fire activity.

This will enable natural and human drivers of change in northern Australia's climate and biodiversity to be disentangled on two timescales:

(i) millennial - before, during and after Aboriginal arrival in northern Australia and

(ii) centennial - before, during and after European arrival in northern Australia.

TARL Investigators: Michael Bird

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


Summary: The project aim is to investigate warfare in the ancient Tongan state through a study of earthwork fortifications. A conflict record for an Archaic state in Oceania that survived for 650 years contributes a new perspective to global research on warfare in complex societies. The effect of conflict is a prominent issue for Australia and long-term records of warfare in our region will improve our understanding of it. Intra-state conflict is the most pressing threat to political stability in Southwest Asia and the Pacific and the project will benefit Australia by showing how changes to political systems are associated with phases of conflict and peace.

TARL Investigators: Christian Reepmeyer

Australian Research Council - Linkage - Projects


Summary: This project will document and integrate the natural and cultural values of the Nakanai Caves in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, in preparation for a cultural landscape World Heritage nomination. Our novel methodology incorporates community knowledge with archaeological and anthropological evidence to link natural and cultural values and define the landscape from local perspectives. Local input into the research will be prioritised. By emphasizing local participation and management of World Heritage listing processes we address an identified gap in World Heritage methodologies. Our approach allows for a subtle, nuanced definition of cultural landscapes under the World Heritage Convention.

TARL Investigators: Susan McIntyre-TamwoyMatthew Leavesley

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation - Access to Major Research Facilities Programme Application for Support


Summary: Building on previous AINSE funding, this project aims to determine the contribution of indigenous charcoal carbon to CO2 respired from the charcoal after three years environmental exposure on a tropical rainforest soil surface at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory, Cape Tribulation. The results will unequivocally demonstrate the degree to which the microbial carbon pool contains carbon derived from radiocarbon dead charcoal.

TARL Investigators: Michael Bird

Lane Xang Minerals Limited - MMG - Contract Research


Summary: This project is a continuation of an ongoing collaboration, under the terms of an MOU (that is in its 3rd iteration) between JCU, the Lao Dept. of National Heritage and MMG-LXML to conduct archaeological excavations on archaeological sites threatened by modern mining practices. These projects also include an element of training and capacity building with Government staff (at National, Provincial and District levels) and students from the National University of Laos. Finally, the offer an important opportunity for JCU students to gain experience in the industry environment.

TARL Investigators: Nigel Chang

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Future Fellowships


Summary: Archaeological and quaternary science in tropical Australasia is heavily reliant on radiocarbon (14C) ages on marine materials. However, radiocarbon ages obtained on marine samples are not directly comparable to contemporaneous terrestrial samples owing to variability in the way 14C is distributed in marine environments (the 'marine reservoir effect'). Marine reservoir effects are highly variable and can introduce uncertainties of up to several hundred years into ages obtained on marine samples, creating a key obstacle for advancing archaeological, sea-level and climate change research. This project establishes a reliable model of marine reservoir effects across tropical Australasia that can

TARL Investigators: Sean Ulm

Australian Research Council - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award


Summary: Some 50,000 years ago, humans crossed open ocean to colonise Australia and New Guinea. They used the small islands in this region as stepping stones, but these were not permanently settled until the advent of agriculture just 5,000 years ago. Why did it take 45,000 years for them to be successfully settled? To investigate causes of success or failure in colonisation, the project will employ geochemical analysis of stone raw material to track maritime interaction and stone tool technology to analyse changes in subsistence strategies. The findings arising fro the new data gathered will contribute significantly to our understanding of the importance of pre-Neolithic interaction to the rapid spread of agriculture in Island Southeast Asia.

TARL Investigators: Christian Reepmeyer

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


Summary: Climate change in the last 1000 years is thought to have had negative environmental and societal consequences in the Pacific, particularly in Palau through the occupation and abandonment of limestone islands. This project uses high- resolution data to establish the palaeoclimate and the cultural mechanisms used to cope with climate events.

TARL Investigators: Christian Reepmeyer

Townsville City Council - T150 - Anniversary Grant Program


Summary: Townsville's success over Port Denison (Bowen) and Cardwell was due to the Townsville-Dalrymple road, constructed by Melton Black, connecting the port in Ross Creek to the interior. This project highlights the road and its role in Townsville's story through objects excavated from archaeological sites found along it including Stanton House (Flinders St East), the Range Hotel (Hervey's Range) and the Cape River goldfield. The objects will be presented in an online, 'virtual' museum with 3D images. The project will use the objects to stimulate a creative writing workshop and will also include electronic education packs for primary school students.

TARL Investigators: Shelley Greer, Nigel Chang

Australian Research Council - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award


Summary: Floods and droughts are among the most costly natural disasters in Australia. The El Ni?o?Southern Oscillation affects these extreme events, but our understanding of how frequent and intense El Ni?o will be in a globally changing climate is hampered by a lack of climate data from before the last 150 years. Tree-ring widths and isotope variations in kauri pine will provide annually dated records of rainfall from tropical Queensland that are at least several centuries old. These unique climate records will advance our ability to forecast how frequent and intense floods and droughts are likely to be in the future thus saving Australians billions of dollars by improving the allocation of finite resources to combating extreme climate events.

TARL Investigators: Nathan English

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


TARL Investigators: Sean Ulm

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects


Summary: This project will provide the first systematic history of ethnographic collecting in the Wet Tropics of North Queensland. Covering the period from the 1870s to the present, it will explore the diverse ways in which Aboriginal peoples, collectors and museums have expressed their interests and property rights in the collected artefacts. It will also analyse the ways in which Aboriginal peoples of the Wet Tropics have vested these artefacts with their regional and other identities. By doing so, it will shed new light on current debates about the ownership and value of Indigenous artefacts and contribute to the development of innovative ways of presenting Indigenous peoples? connections with their material cultural heritage.

TARL Investigators: Shelley Greer