Jan - Dec 2008

  • Check out the diatom image that won the 2008 Visualization Challenge


  • A new pollen flora from Georgia is now available on PalaeoWorks
    (compiled by Simon Connor and Eliso Kvavadze)



    Go to
    1 [1.9Mb]


  • The launch of a new Key database in archaeology on PalaeoWorks

AustArch1: A database of 14C and luminescence ages from archaeological sites in the Australian arid zone. (compiled by A.N. Williams, M.A. Smith, C.S.M Turney and M. L Cupper, Australian Archaeology 66,99.)
Click on icon or go to
1 for details


  • Les sediments de l'Histoire: Matthew Prebble and Nick Porch in the Austral Islands

1Matthew Prebble and Nick Porch conducted palaeoecological fieldwork on human impact and invasive species histories in the Austral Islands during March 2008. This was reported in the La Depeche de Ilse on Thursday 13 Match 2008. Read media release here 1


  • Pollen Nation: air particles hit fever pitch

PalaeoWorks has completed a 12-month study to record pollen levels in Canberra and Hobart and will continue through 2009. This was reported in the Canberra Times on Sunday 21 September 2008.

  • Galapagos Expedition and US Congressional Demonstration, June 2008

1Click on image to view details


    Part of a two-day demonstration of field methods for members of the United States Congress House Committee on Science and Technology

Abstract deadline for XII International Palynology Congress in Bonn, Germany, is at end of April.

OZPACS database is ONLINE

OZPACS is a working group focused on human impacts on the Australian environment over the last 500+ years, and is intended to provide a forum for constructive dialogue with natural resource managers. Click here or on image above to access database.


Macphail publishes major review1

A major 280 page review of Australian palaeoclimates from the Cretaceous to Tertiary by Mike Macphail is now published and freely available online here 1 [20Mb]

  News archive

October - December 2007

The Pollen Soup animation, one of the works Pierre Proske created while artist in resident in the Department of Archaeology and Natural History, was included in the media art component of the FILE 2007 Sao Paolo festival and will be part of the FILE 2008 Rio edition. Download it (need to view with JAVA).

A new online tool indicating pollen risk will allow people who suffer from hay fever and asthma to be more informed about air-borne organic irritants this spring. PalaeoWorks has set out on a 12-month study to record pollen levels in Canberra and Hobart.
Coverage of the story appeared on TV (WIN News, ABC News), Radio (ABC radio 666) and newspapers on the 2-6 November 2007.

Outstanding success for the Department of Archaeology and Natural History in the latest ARC grant announcements. More than $3million over the next 5 years was awarded across 1 Linkage and 5 Discovery grants to members of the Department out of a total of $11.2million nationwide. A report on the successful grants announced in 2007 and an assessment of the trends in ARC funding for Quaternary (including archaeology) research over the last 6 years can be found here 1

Figure 1. Quaternary Research ARC Discovery Grants announced in 2002-2007. The bar graphs show total number of Quaternary Research grants funded, the line shows % this represents of total number of grants allocated in that year, and a figure for the total funding in million dollars allocated to Quaternary Research projects appears above each year. Data from the ARC annual reports 2002-2007.

August - September 2007

Contemporary Challenges in the Archaeology and Environmental History of the Asia-Pacific Region

10-12 Sept, 2007

The recent CAR Workshop was a great success with students and staff getting the most out of three days of intensive presentation/lab tours of all that ANU has to offer in the fields of archaeology and palaeoenvironmental research.


Click here for details on the workshop for Honours/Masters students in Archaeology and Palaeoenvironmental Research


INQUA Fieldtrip to PNG (click here to download fieldtrip guide, 5.6Mb)

After the INQUA conference in Cairns, at which members of PalaeoWorks contributed 27 papers), Geoff Hope and Simon Haberle led an 8 day fieldtrip to Papua New Guinea, where 12 participants from Japan, USA, UK and Australia travelled from the highest peak, visited the site of the oldest agriculture and gazed at the most devastating volcano in the region.... and survived!. A detailed report written by Rachel Nanson and Iona Flett will appear in the next Quaternary Australasia.


(A)  Participants look at Tomba Tephra deposits west of Mt Hagen; (B) Highland villagers near Tomba; (C) Geoff demonstrating the use of tanket (Cordyline sp., or “arse grass” for traditional dress); (D) spectacular views along the valley from Kundiawa leading to Mt Wilhelm; (E) local guides from Keglsugl help the group assend Mt Wilhelm; (F) a grassland valley with Cyathea atrox treeferns was formed through glacial action.

April - July 2007

Filtering Remnants Exhibition

Here is an invitation to the upcoming exhibition at Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Gorman House Arts Centre, Ainslie Avenue, Canberra.

Showing from July 13th - August 25th
(Tues-Fri 11am-5pm, Sat 10am-4pm)

Click here or on the image below for more information

contextual villainsThis exhibition is the result of The Contextual Villains (Rachel Peachey and Paul Mosig) 2006 ANAT Synapse Arts + Science Residency with the Department of Archaeology and Natural History, College of Asia and Pacific, at ANU.

The Synapse Art and Science Residency Program is an attempt to build new creative partnerships between scientists and artists, science institutions and arts organisations. This residency involved new media artists Rachel Peachey and Paul Mosig (The Contextual Villains) and the Department of Archaeology and Natural History at ANU, with the support of the Australian Network for Art and Technology.

The focus of the program is on multidisciplinary collaboration, research and development, articulating and evaluating potential benifits and on outcomes including publications, forums and exhibitions. Rachel and Paul spent twelve weeks living and working at ANU developing a body of work that reflects the meticulous gathering and documenting of samples and the consequent story telling that making the study of human environment interactions through time so interesting.

trifidsSimon Haberle and Paul Mosig were interviewed by Alex Sloan, the ABC Radio 666 (Canberra local AM radio) Mornings session presenter on Friday 13th July at 11.40am. The interview covered the development of the Science-Arts collaboration and a description of the exhibition. Over 200 people attended the exhibition on that night. Click here for media release.

January - March 2007

Click here for more information on the working group meeting on Fire, vegetation and climate change in Australasia that was held on 20-23 February 2007 at Macquarie University. This is part of QUAVIDA being one of the projects within BRIDGE (Bristol Research Initiative for the Dynamic Global Environment) as well as a working group of the ARC-NZ Network for Vegetation Function.


Palaeoecology-Archaeology Fieldtrip to Central and Southern Chile


Simon Haberle and Atholl Anderson recently (25Feb-21Mar) completed fieldwork in Central and Southern Chile which included (1) a survey of faunal remains from palaeo-indian midden sites in the Mapuche region of southern central Chile to explore the possibility of prehistoric Polynesian contact with this region, and (2) coring swamps adjacent to these archaeological sites in order to reconstruct past landscape change associated with human activity.


The google earth map shows locations of coring sites. The southern locations adjacent to the North and South Patagonian Glaciers where part of a collaborative research program with Andres Holtz (Uni. Colorado) investigating the fire history of the cool temperate rainforests over the last millennia combining fine-resolution sedimentary charcoal records with dendroecolgy/firescars records derived from Pilgerodendron uviferum.

November - December 2006

Cassie Rowe was awarded a post-doctoral position in the University of Bristol, UK, and will be conducting research into charcoal records and past fire regimes in the southern hemisphere. This is part of a larger effort to create the first global palaeofire dataset and model global fire regimes through time. This is being organized by QUEST (Quantifying Uncertainties in the Earth System), a directed programme of the UK Natural Science Research Council and is supported by the The Vegetation Function Network.

Click here for more information on the working group meeting on Fire, vegetation and climate change in Australasia to be held on 20-23 February 2007 at Macquarie University. This is part of QUAVIDA being one of the projects within BRIDGE (Bristol Research Initiative for the Dynamic Global Environment) as well as a working group of the ARC-NZ Network for Vegetation Function.

Artists in Residence Update

Two very successful exhibitions by the Artists in Residnce were held at The Front Cafe in Lyenham, North Canberra. Paul Mosig and Rachel Peachey held a week long exhibition of there project "The Present History" which was lauched on the 23 November and incorporates elements of their residency with the PalaeoWorks group. Pierre Proske launched his "Abstract Microecologies" exhibition on the 29 November 2006. Pierre was also interviewed by the ABC Contemporary Arts program, which will be a feature of Science Week in 2007. The final outcomes of the residencies will be exhibited next year as part of the Science Week program in Canberra. One of Pierre's works is depicted below.


Coring the Last 1000 Years from Blue Lake, Mt Kosciuszko

2(Photo: Martin Worthy)

A PalaeoWorks expedition to core the last 1000 years of sediment deposited in Blue Lake, Mount Kosciuszko, occurred on 13-14 December 2006. Members from the lab included Matiu Prebble, Nick Porch, Simon Haberle, Rachel Nanson, Geoff Hope, Andrew Thornhill, Iona Flett, Martin Worthy and Christian Reepmeyer. We were succesful in extracting 3 mud-water interface cores from the upper ~60cm of sediment at water depths ranging from 10m to 20m in the lake. This material will be used to examine the impact of European occupation and climate change in the region through studies on chacoal, diatoms, pollen, fungal spores (dung fungi), invertebrates, seeds and ancient DNA. Synapse Artists in Residence, Paul Mosig and Rachel Peachey, were also there to document the fieldwork.

Using a clear plastic 50mm diameter x 1m long polycarbonate tub1e we were able to extract ~60cm of sediment from the lake mud-water interface. This was then sampled at 0.5cm intervals in the field and bagged for analysis in the lab. We anticipate that this record will cover ~ the last 500 years of sedimentation in the lake, incoporating the period of European impact.





(Photo: Andrew Thornhill)

September - October 2006

ARC success came to Janelle Stevenson this year as part of a Discovery Grant with Prof Peter Bellwood and Dr Mark Oxenham to investigate the creation of Southeast Asian peoples and cultures, 3500 BC to AD 500.

The Australasian Pollen and Spore Atlas received additional support from the AUNSF (ANU Supercomputer Facility) who, in collaboration with Cassie Rowe, are developing the existing FileMaker database as a relational online database and it is anticipated that it will be operational by early 2007.

Fieldwork was conducted by a joint ANU/Wollongong Uni team on the Atherton Tablelands during the dirst 2 weeks of October including Chris Turney, Nick Porch, Simon Haberle, Jan Finn, Pierre Proske and Jim Neale. The team cored Quincan Crater, a maar deposit first investigated by Peter Kershaw in the early 1970's, recovering 11.5m of peat and silty clays. The work is part of an ARC Discovery Grant to investigate interhemisperic climate change from 20-10ka through provision of palaeoclimate estimates of temperature and precipitation over this time period.

1Rod-in-rod coring platform used on Quincan Crater to penetrate into the basal clay sediments. The technique allowed us to penetrate an additional ~1.5m into the clayey basal sediments compared to previous coring attempts at the site.
(photo: Pierre Proske)


August 2006

Pierre Proske was awarded a 3 month Artist in Residence fellowship through the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) to work in the Palaeoworks labs with staff and students exploring the intersection between new media art and archaeological science. He will be in residence from August 14th-November 31st 2006.


Click on the image above to access the Pierre's Blog

March-April-May 2006

Tara Lewis
and Anna Roach from Monash University (pitured in lower left of group photo) were Summer Vacation Scholarship holders with the Palaeoworks group over the summer. Tara worked on macroscopic remains from Sphagnum bog samples collected from the Galapagos Islands. Anna Roach examined the potential of using fungal spore remains as indicators of the presence of pigs in highlands of New Guinea.

Rachel Peachey
and Paul Mosig were awarded a 3 month Artist in Residence fellowship through the
Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) to work in the Palaeoworks labs with staff and students exploring the intersection between new media art and archaeological science. They will be in residence from May 8th-August 8th 2006.

Pia Atahan (UWA) and Xun Li (Massey University) were awarded internships at Palaeoworks to work on and contribute to the development of the Australasian Pollen and Spore Atlas.

February 2006

Cassandra Rowe attends International Networking for Young Scientists Programme.

Cassandra Rowe spent ten days during February and March as part of the International Networking for Young Scientists (INYS) programme. The INYS was initiated by the British Council and the ANU in order to facilitate and enhance collaborative efforts between young scientists in Australia and the UK. The theme of the workshop was abrupt climate change and its implications for environmental systems as well as human societies, with a special focus on southern hemisphere phenomena. What has become apparent is that much of the interest in abrupt climate change has focused on the northern hemisphere, and one purpose of the INYS programme was to achieve a more balanced global to regional perspective.

Participants of the INYS programme consisted of post-docs and near-completing PhD students from Reading University, the University of Bristol, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change and the National Oceanography Centre in the UK, and from the ANU, University of NSW, Macquarie University, Monash University and CSIRO in Australia. Participant backgrounds were diverse, incorporating atmospheric and oceanographic modelling, health science, environmental economics and (palaeo)ecology. The workshop benefited immensely from the insights and knowledge-base of John Schellnhuber (Postdam Institute, Germany, and Oxford University), Will Steffen and Sean Hannan (ANU Institute for Environment), as well as the many experienced guest-speakers. Daily timetables consisted of morning lecture presentations followed by afternoon participant-led discussions. Seminar sessions were held in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.

This workshop provided a remarkable, one-off opportunity to learn about up-to-date climate change issues, to make contacts and build future career networks. Certainly the format of a face-to-face meeting between researchers from the UK and Australia facilitated discussion and exchange of ideas. A small group, a time period of ten days with a built in social itinerary helped friendships develop and fostered interest in other participant’s research fields.

In outcome, climatic change is no lightweight topic for any one discipline. The INYS participants have made a step forward in developing four research proposals, based around the following titles: Climate change and abrupt shifts in economic systems; Integrated assessment of abrupt climate change over the 21st century (local case-studies); Palaeo data: validation in an assessment of climatic ‘extremes’ and the nature of ecosystem response, and; Attribution of climate change in extreme events: heat wave impact estimation. Additional, challenging themes, however, also remain. An appreciation of the tipping points in physical, biological and human systems (understanding their vulnerability as well as resilience), calculating the extent of man-made vs. natural climate change, questioning and thus ultimately improving model (simulation) results, and the communication of climate change to politicians, the media and wider public, present a test. Under the INYS experience, idea development, opinion and data exchange can now continue online.

December 2005

Cassandra Rowe joins the group and takes up a 1 year postdoc position on the ARC e-Research grant “The Australasian Pollen and Spore Atlas”.

Two new ARC Discovery grants were awarded to PalaeoWorks members for 2006- (Haberle and Fairbairn).

A successful workshop on “Constructing Fire Histories” was held during the Australasian Archaeometry Conference, 12-15 Dec 2005. See a report on the presentations and workshop.

November 2005

James Shulmeister from Canterbury University, New Zealand, is spending two and a half months with us as a visiting fellow [email James].

Fieldwork in Darwin
Janelle Stevenson, Simon Haberle, Cassandra Rowe and Jennifer Harrison (ANSTO) spent a week in Darwin coring the Darwin water supply dams (Darwin River Dam and Manton’s Dam) and a series of Holocene ephemeral lakes in the region as part of a pilot study into environmental change in the region. Simon and Janelle also attended a 1-day workshop on the Darwin Smoke Project.

October 2005

Excavations in East Timor

Nuno Vasco Oliveira reports on recent excavations at Bui Ceri Uato Mane rock shelter, near Baucau, East Timor.

Main entrance to Bui Ceri Uato Mane rock shelter

September 2005

Treasure Island interview

Simon Haberle is interviewed by Julia Limb on ABC Radio National The World Today regarding new claims for buried treasure and Selkirk’s hideaway on the Juan Fernandez Archipelago.

August 2005


In late July Janelle Stevenson and Geoff Hope returned to the ultramafic terrain of south eastern New Caledonia, more specifically, Lake Xere Wapo situated in the Plaine des Lacs. They have completed a study of a 12 m sediment core collected from the lake in 1995, the results of which will appear in the November issue of Quaternary Research.

(Lake Xere Wapo and our field assistants from Goro Nickel Revegetation Nursery(l-r) Gabriel Tauotaha, Max Atinoua, Dr. Stephane McCoy (Head of nursery operations) andThomas Le Borgne.)


The purpose of this years field trip was two fold. Firstly to extend the record to 21 m using a core collected by Goro Nickel as part of their exploration program in the region. The second was to re-collect the upper 8 metres so that high resolution analyses could be carried out, in particular the fire history of the catchment through macro-charcoal analyses. Work has already commenced on this high resolution record. As the record also appears to be important correlate for records from northeastern Australia, we also wanted to re-collect material for a dating program aimed at more firmly establishing the age of a decline in Araucaria forest at the site. This appears to occur around the same time (45,000 BP) as the Araucaria decline in the Lynch’s Crater record. This dating program is being funded through an AINSE grant awarded to Janelle.

In brief, the significance of the site and our ongoing work lies in the fact that this is the oldest known palynological site from any of the tropical Pacific islands, possibly spanning the last 180,000 years, and as such provides important base line data on vegetation stability, fire and climate change at a site without human interference.

(Janelle Stevenson and Gabriel Tauotaha displaying the beautiful mud beneath Lake Xere Wapo.)

We are indebted to Goro Nickel who very generously supported our fieldwork by providing us with lodging, field assistance, a very fine boat and access to their repository of geological cores.

July 2005


In June, PalaeoWorks members Geoff Hope and Andy Fairbairn, with Mathew Leavesley (Cambridge), Glenn Summerhayes (Otago University), Herman Mandui (PNG National Museum) and Henry Arifaea visited the site of Kosipe in the Papuan Highlands. Occupied at an earliest date of ca 23 - 26,000 BP, the site was originally described and excavated by Peter White in the 1960’s and Geoff Hope has researched vegetation and climate change via pollen analysis.

The 2005 expedition aimed to investigate the extent of archaeological deposits in the Kosipe valley, collect charcoal samples for archaeobotanical analysis and re-investigate the formation process of the site. New archaeological and archaeobotanical material was collected and now awaits analysis.

June 2005

Simon Haberle, Iona Flett and Atholl Anderson (ANH) return from a 6 week expedition to the Galapagos Islands as part of an ARC funded archaeological and palaeoecological investigation into the timing and impact of early human occupation in the remote eastern Pacific Ocean.

See the field report by Iona Flett

Feb 2005

Large equipment grant awarded (MEC $104,000) to the Department of Archaeology and Natural History and the School of Archaeology and Anthropology for state-of-the-art Zeiss microscopes and digital cameras/software.

Zeiss AxioImager Stereo Stemi 2000

Jan 2005

Geoff Hope makes first palynological reconnaissance to Myanmar (Burma) as part of the ARC funded study into early hominid evolution in Southeast Asia.

Lake Inlay

Dec 2004

The biennial meeting of the Australasian Quaternary Association was held at Cradle Mt in Tasmania from the 6th – 11th December. The meeting was organized by Simon Haberle and Janelle Stevenson. ( 700Kb)

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