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.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 158+ 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 5 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
$4,914,000 over 7 years (administered by University of Wollongong)
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, Jennie Lawson, Zenobia Jacobs, Timothy Cohen, Simon Haberle, Michael Bird, Sean Ulm, Chris Turney, Martin Nakata, Darren Curnoe, Alan Cooper, Corey Bradshaw, Laura Weyrich, Bruno David, Lynette Russell, Barry Brook and Chris Johnson in collaboration with Brit Asmussen, Chantal Knowles, Robin Torrence, Michael Slack, Jean-Jacques Delannoy, Matthew Leavesley, Gifford Miller, Stephan Stephan and Michael Storey (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, Australian Museum, Scarp Archaeology Pty Ltd, Universite de Savoie, University of Papua New Guinea, University of Colorado - Boulder, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and Natural History Museum of Denmark)
Sahul; palaeoenvironments; Climate; archaeology; megafauna

Australian Research Council - Linkage - Infrastructure (L-IEF)

A national facility for the analysis of pyrogenic carbon

Indicative Funding
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

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 Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering - 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 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.
Michael Bird (College of Science & Engineering)
Biochar; Charcoal; Respiration; readiocarbon

Department of the Environment and Energy - 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

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.

  • Neotectonics and the Demise of Pleistocene Mega-Lake Eyre (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Rates of Erosion and Weathering in the Tropics. (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • The Paleo Reconstruction of Lake Kinrara (Masters , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Soil in Mango and Banana fields: Effects of Nitrogen Fertiliser Type and Mulching (Masters , Secondary Advisor)
  • Environmental Change and Anthropogenic Fire in northern Australia during the late Holocene (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • A Deeper Understanding of Isoscapes in the Tropics (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Multi-proxy evidence for long-term environmental change in northern Australian tropical savannas (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Quaternary Environmental Change in Wet-dry Tropics of Northern Australia (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Paleoclimate Reconstruction of Northern Australia: What is Natural? Interactions between Humans, Maga Fauna and Climate (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Paleoenvironmental and Paleoclimatic Analysis of Selected Cretaceous, Oligocene and Miocene Palesols from the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania (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/AM)
  • Natural and Human History of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Eastern indonesia from 130,000 years Ago until the Time of European Arrival (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Applying Chronometric Quality Standards to Evaluate the Precision and Accuracy of Data from Archaeological Sites in Torres Strait (PhD , Secondary 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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