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, ARC 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  to Australia to take up an ARC Federation Fellowship in the School of Earth and Environmental Science at James Cook University (Cairns campus) in February 2009. I was awarded an ARC Laureate Fellowship form 2014-2019 and am now Distinguished Professor in the College of Science and Engineering.

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

  • EA1110: Evolution of the Earth (Level 1; CNS & ONL)
  • EA2220: Minerals and Magmas (Level 2; CNS)
  • EA2404: From Icehouse to Greenhouse (Level 2; CNS)
  • EA3210: Structural Geology and Tectonics (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • EA3800: Earth and Environmental Geochemistry (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • EA5330: Field Techniques (Level 5; TSV)
  • EA5404: From Icehouse to Greenhouse (Level 5; CNS)
  • isotope geochemistry
  • quaternary science
  • carbon cycle science
  • biochar
  • geoarchaeology
  • 2019 to present - JCU Distinguished Professor, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2014 to 2019 - JCU Distinguished Professor and ARC Laureate Fellow, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2009 to 2014 - 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)
  • 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. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 202+ 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.

Leverhulme Trust - Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation

Sequestering carbon and improving sugarcane productivity by enhanced weathering of basalt

Indicative Funding
$479,169 over 9 years (administered by University of Sheffield)
Arresting the build-up of atmospheric CO2 is one of humanity's biggest challenges. In geological time, the weathering of rocks consumes CO2, which is then sequestered as limestone in the ocean, but the natural rate of this process is very slow. In this project we will determine the feasibility of accelerating weathering by introducing crushed basalt (a common and easily weathered rock) into the place on earth with highest CO2 production and potential weathering rates - topsoil in the humid tropics. We will also examine the effects on soil condition and crop growth, which are likely to be beneficial.
Paul Nelson, Michael Bird and David J Beerling (College of Science & Engineering and University of Sheffield)
Carbon sequestration; Soil Fertility; Sugarcane; Water Quality; Great Barrier Reef; Agricultural Sustainability

Australian Research Council - Centres of Excellence

ARC Centre of Excellence of Australian Origins and Transformations

Indicative Funding
$5,028,138 over 7 years (administered by University of Wollongong), in partnership with Flinders University ($10,000); Monash University ($14,299) and University of Wollongong ($5,000)
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.
Richard Roberts, Susan O'Connor, Zenobia Jacobs, Timothy Cohen, Simon Haberle, Michael Bird, Sean Ulm, Chris Turney, Martin Nakata, Darren Curnoe, Corey Bradshaw, Bruno David, Lynette Russell, Barry Brook and Chris Johnson in collaboration with Brit Asmussen, Geraldine Mate, Michael Slack, Jean-Jacques Delannoy, Matthew Leavesley, Stephan Stephan, Michael Storey, Kieren Mitchell, Vera Weisbecker and Janelle Stevenson (University of Wollongong, Australian National University, College of Science & Engineering, College of Arts, Society & Education, The University of New South Wales, Indigenous Education & Research Centre, University of Adelaide, Monash University, University of Tasmania, Queensland Museum, Scarp Archaeology Pty Ltd, Universite Savoie Mont Blanc, University of Papua New Guinea, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Australian Museum and Flinders University)
Sahul; palaeoenvironments; Climate; archaeology; megafauna

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Pyrogenic Carbon Sequestration in Australian Soils

Indicative Funding
$401,000 over 2 years
Pyrogenic Carbon (PyC; 'charcoal') is a porrly understood component of the global carbon cycle. It is important because it is resistant to degradation and hence has potential soil carbon sequestration benefits. This project applies a new technique (hydrogen pyrolysis) in combination with spectroscopic techniques to quantify PyC in a pan-Australian soil sample set, collected using uiniform stratified sampling and preparation protocols. This will enable the mapping of soil PyC stocks in relation to environmental and soil variables across Australia. The results will enable the understanding of the controls on PyC sequestration potential in Australian soils and contriobute to ongoing efforts to quantify soil stocks and dynamics globally.
Michael Bird and Sourav Das in collaboration with Jonathan Sanderman and Gustavo Saiz (College of Science & Engineering, Woodland Park Zoo and Universidad Catolica de la Santisima Concepcion)
Sequestration; Soil Carbon; Fire; Hydrogen Pyrolysis; Carbon Isotope

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 Research Council - Linkage - Infrastructure (L-IEF)

A national facility for the analysis of pyrogenic carbon

Indicative Funding
$358,031 over 1 year
This project will develop a National Facility for Pyrogenic Carbon Analysis. Pyrogenic carbon (biochar, soot, charcoal, black carbon) is a poorly constrained, slow-cycling terrestrial carbon pool with significant carbon sequestration potential. It is also an important source of palaeoenvironmental and geochronological information. We will expand newly developed hydrogen pyrolysis analytical capability to provide high throughput, robust, measurement of the abundance and isotope (13C, 14C) composition of pyrogenic carbon in soils and sediments. The facility will advance multiple research agendas at nine participating institutions across palaeoecology, geomorphology, geochronology, archaeology and carbon cycle/ sequestration science
Michael Bird, Sean Ulm, Timothy Cohen, Richard Roberts, Zenobia Jacobs, Lindsay Hutley, Balwant Singh, Hamish McGowan, Patrick Moss, Jessica Reeves, Simon Haberle, Susan O'Connor, Scott Mooney, Chris Turney and Michael-Shawn Fletcher (College of Science & Engineering, College of Arts, Society & Education, University of Wollongong, Charles Darwin University, The University of Sydney, The University of Queensland, Federation University, Australian National University, The University of New South Wales and The University of Melbourne)
biomass burning; Stable Isotope Analysis; Geoarchaeology; Radiocarbon; Biochar; Carbon Sequestration

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.

  • Climate Change Effects on Tropical Trees: Phenology, Eco-Physiology and Stable Isotopes of Amazon Forest Species under Increasing CO2 (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Paleoenvironmental and Paleoclimatic Analysis of Selected Cretaceous, Oligocene and Miocene Palesols from the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • A reconstruction of the Holocene fire and environmental history from Kinrara Swamp North Queensland (Masters , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Neotectonics and the Demise of Pleistocene Mega-Lake Eyre (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Late Quaternary Environmental Change in Northern Australia (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Paleoclimate Reconstruction of Northern Australia: What is Natural? Interactions between Humans, Maga Fauna and Climate (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Deep sand time capsules: past environmental records from sediments surrounding Gledswood Shelter 1, Northwest Queensland, Australia (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Understanding Kwokkunum Shell Mounds as Landscape Engineering: A Spatial and Temporal Archaeological approach (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Applying Chronometric Quality Standards to Evaluate the Precision and Accuracy of Data from Archaeological Sites in Torres Strait (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Quaternary Environmental Change in Wet-dry Tropics of Northern Australia (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)

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


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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  • D3.107, The Cairns Institute (Cairns campus)
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