I trained as a geologist at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University, obtaining a PhD in isotope geochemistry in 1988. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, I returned to Australia as research Fellow, Queen Elizabeth II Fellow and Fellow at the Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University.

In 2000 I took up an Associate Professorship in Singapore and in 2004 moved to the Chair in Environmental Change at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. I returned again to Australia to take up a Federation Fellowship in the School of Earth and Environmental Science at James Cook University (Cairns campus) in February 2009.

My research interests include the terrestrial carbon cycle, biochar, geoarchaeology and understanding the trajectory of past and future environmental change in the tropics.

  • isotope geochemistry
  • quaternary science
  • carbon cycle science
  • biochar
  • geoarchaeology
  • 2014 to present - JCU Distinguished Professor and ARC Laureate Fellow, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2009 to 2013 - JCU Distinguished Professor and ARC Federation Fellow, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2004 to 2008 - Professor and Chair In Environmental Change, University of St Andrews (St. Andrews, Scotland)
  • 2000 to 2003 - Associate Professor, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
  • 1990 to 2000 - Fellow and QEII Fellow, Australian National University (Canberra, Australia)
  • 1989 to 1990 - Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario, Canada)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2014 - ARC Laureate Fellow
  • 2007 - Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • 2009 to 2014 - ARC Federation Fellow
  • 1995 to 2000 - ARC Queen Elizabeth II Fellow
  • 2010 - JCU Distinguished Professor

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU.

Other research outputs

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 139+ research outputs authored by Prof Michael Bird from 2002 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Australian Laureate Fellowships

What is natural? Humans, megafauna and climate in northern Australia

Indicative Funding
$2,647,521 over 6 years
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.
Michael Bird (College of Science & Engineering)
Quaternary; megafauna; Climate Change

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

Using radiocarbon to measure microbial respiration of charcoal

Indicative Funding
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 evironmental 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.
Michael Bird (College of Science & Engineering)
Biochar; Charcoal; Respiration; readiocarbon

Department of the Environment - National Environmental Research Program - Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub

Gamba Grass Effects on Savanna Carbon and Fire

Indicative Funding
To provide soil analysis and data.
Michael Bird (College of Science & Engineering)
Gamba; Isotope; Savanna; Pyrogenic Carbon; Carbon; Soil

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Palaeo-vegetation, biodiversity and early human dispersal through island Southeast Asia

Indicative Funding
$306,666 over 2 years
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.
Michael Bird in collaboration with Bin Zhou (College of Science & Engineering and Nanjing University)
aeoenvironment; stable isotope; Quaternary

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Interactions between Vegetation and Silicon Cycling in the Wet Tropics (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Soil Carbon Dynamics Under Oil Palm Plantations. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Soil in Mango and Banana fields: Effects of Nitrogen Fertiliser Type and Mulching (Masters , Secondary Advisor)
  • A Deeper Understanding of Isoscapes in the Tropics (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Environmental Change and Anthropogenic Fire in northern Australia during the late Holocene (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Biochar Soil Fertility and Carbon Sequestration in the Tropics (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Carbon Cycle Processes in Tropical Savannas of Far North Queensland, Australia (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Rates of Erosion and Weathering in the Tropics. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Modelling the Nitrogen Budget of Oil Palm Plantations to Reduce Uncertainty in Life Cycle Assesment. Case Study in Sumatra, Indonesia. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Climate Change Effects on Tropical Trees: Phenology, Eco-Physiology and Stable Isotopes of Amazon Forest Species under Increasing CO2 (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Long Records of Environmental Change from Sinkhole Sediments in the Northern Australian Semi-Arid Zone (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Impacts of Biochar and Compost on Soil Fertility, Crop Performance and Carbon Sequestration in Tropical Agricultural Soils (PhD , Primary Advisor)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit the JCU Research Data Catalogue.


The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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