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)
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.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 131+ 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 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

Australian Institute of Nuclear Science & Engineering - Research Award

High resolution monsoon record from a Maar Lake in cantorial Burma

Indicative Funding
The Indian/Asian monsoon represents one of the major climate systems on the planet and is intimately connected to the Australian monsoon. Most previous research monsoon variability has focused on widely separated records from the Arabian Sea/India and Indochina/China. Between these there are no well-resolved lowland terrestrial records. We identified volcanic and cored a crater lake in Myanmar producing a 3,000 year sediment record. From Itrax, XRF we conclude that the core contains the first continuous terrestrial record of monsoon variability from Myanmar, providing a critical link between records of Indian and Asian monsoon variability. We seek dates to develop the chronology of this record.
Michael Bird and Chris Wurster in collaboration with David Taylor and Nay Win Oo (College of Science & Engineering and National University of Singapore)
Marabou Storks; Palaeoenvironment; Monsoon; stable isotope; Radiocarbon

Northern Gulf Resource Management Group - Contract Research

Nitrous Oxide Reduction and Soil Carbon Increase in Tropical Fruit Tree Crops

Indicative Funding
$80,000 over 4 years
Measure nitrous oxide fluxes from six crop types, each amended with six different fertilizer treatments over a period of three years.
Michael Bird in collaboration with Kristjan Sorensen (College of Science & Engineering and Northern Gulf NRM)
Greenhouse Gases; Climate Change; Carbon sequestration; Fertilizers

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources - Carbon Farming Futures - Filling the Research Gap Program

Compost and Biochar Amendments for Increased Carbon Sequestration, Increased Soil Resilience and Decreased Greenhouse Gas Fluxes In Tropical Agricultural Soils

Indicative Funding
$887,636 over 4 years
Compost and biochar are used separately for improving soil condition and sequestering carbon, and have been shown to be of particular benefit in tropical agricultural soils. This project will mix biochar with organic waste prior to composting (COMBI-mix) to synergistically enhance the acknowledged benefits of both materials. We will (i) trial business as usual, compost alone, biochar alone, COMBI-mix and compost mixed with biochar at nine field sites across North Queensland (ii) determine the impact of each on carbon sequestration, GHG fluxes and crop performance (iii) provide inputs to better model soil carbon in agricultural systems (iv) develop a DOIC methodology and (v) model costs/benefits at the farm/regional/industry scale.
Michael Bird, Paul Nelson, Gavin Kay, T Hoogwerf, Peter Arthofer, L Di Bella, T McShane, J Joyce, Daniel Handley, Jason Benn and Graeme Wright (College of Science & Engineering, Terrain Natural Resource Management (Wet Tropics), Northern Gulf NRM, NQ Dry Tropics, Herbert Cane Productivity Services Ltd, Burdekin Bowen Integrated Flood Plain Management Advisory Committee, Black is Green Pty Ltd, King Brown Technology, SITA Organics Pty Ltd and Peanut Company of Australia)
Compost; Biochar; Agriculture; Carbon sequestration; Greenhouse Gases

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

What is 'natural'? : Locating and deciphering pre-human records of vegetation from northern Australian savannas

Indicative Funding
Pilot fieldwork has identified sinkholes of considerable depth and antiquity in the northern Territory, representing persistent long-term sediment traps akin to crater lakes. This study will assess the potential of these sinkholes to provide local, dateable, high-resolution palaeoenvironmental records, extending through the last interglacial. We believe these sedimentary archives, from prior to human colonisation of the continent, will provide the essential, but currently missing data required to determine whether humans modified fire regimes to the extent that monsoon and dry forest types were substituted by savannah in northern Australia with the result that the water balance of interior Australia was permanently modified.
Michael Bird, Peter Ridd, Sean Ulm, Richard Roberts, Michael Lawes, Jon Luly and Lindsay Hutley (College of Science & Engineering, College of Arts, Society & Education, University of Wollongong and Charles Darwin University)
Palaeo Environment; Impact; Forest Savannas Dynamics

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.

  • Improving the Cation Retention Capacity of Tropical Soils Using High Activity Clays (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Rates of Erosion and Weathering in the Tropics. (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)
  • Soil Respiration in Tropical Savannas and Transition Zones (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Long Records of Environmental Change from Sinkhole Sediments in the Northern Australian Semi-Arid Zone (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Biochar Soil Fertility and Carbon Sequestration in the Tropics (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Soil Carbon Dynamics Under Oil Palm Plantations. (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)
  • Interactions between Vegetation and Silicon Cycling in the Wet Tropics (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Impacts of Biochar and Compost on Soil Fertility, Crop Performance and Carbon Sequestration in Tropical Agricultural Soils (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Environmental Change and Anthropogenic Fire in northern Australia during the late Holocene (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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