Distinguished Professor Sean Ulm MAIATSIS FSA MAACAI FAHA FQA is a professional anthropological archaeologist with core expertise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander coastal and island archaeology. Over the last 25 years he has led large collaborative networks of Indigenous communities and researchers (archaeologists, geomorphologists, chemists, geologists, ecologists, palynologists, palaeoclimatologists, oceanographers, and zooarchaeologists) to recast understandings of coastal occupation by integrating environmental data with detailed analyses of archaeological sites.

Sean’s research increases confidence in the resolution of data underpinning models of past human behaviour. A major strand of this research has been in the field of archaeological science, where Sean leads a research program designed to improve methods used to establish chronologies and taphonomic sequences (i.e. understanding when and how archaeological deposits form).

He is highly regarded for his coordination of large-scale, multidisciplinary projects in partnership with Indigenous communities investigating people-environment relationships across Australia. His team-based approach to tackling persistent research questions in close collaboration with Indigenous communities, government, and industry, and his multiauthored approach to publication, are hallmarks of his research.

His publications include more than 150 articles on the archaeology of Australia and 5 books. Sean has conducted research in Australia, Honduras, Chile, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

  • Equity, diversity and inclusion
  • Professional development
  • Benchmarking
  • Building knowledge communities
  • Mentoring
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander archaeology
  • Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands
  • Archaeology of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Archaeological science
  • Coastal and island archaeology
  • Radiocarbon dating of marine materials
  • Indigenous and environmental histories and futures
  • Cultural heritage management and climate change
  • Improving archaeology teaching and learning
  • Problem-based learning
  • Research-led teaching
  • 2023 to present - Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Indigenous and Environmental Histories and Futures (Cairns)
  • 2019 to present - Distinguished Professor, James Cook University (Cairns)
  • 2020 to 2022 - Associate Dean Research Education, James Cook University (Cairns, Townsville)
  • 2017 to 2022 - Deputy Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (Cairns)
  • 2021 - Associate Dean Research, James Cook University (Cairns, Townsville)
  • 2016 to 2018 - Professor, James Cook University (Cairns)
  • 2013 to 2017 - Associate Professor/ARC Future Fellow, James Cook University (Cairns)
  • 2011 to 2012 - Lecturer, James Cook University (Cairns)
  • 2010 to 2011 - Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 2005 to 2010 - Lecturer, The University of Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 1999 to 2005 - Senior Researcher, The University of Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 2000 to 2004 - Lecturer, The University of New England (Brisbane)
  • 1993 to 1998 - Researcher, The University of Queensland (Brisbane)
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2022 - High Performance Computing Innovation Excellence Award
  • 2019 - JCU Distinguished Professor
  • 2017 - Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology
  • 2014 - The Bruce Veitch Award for Excellence in Indigenous Engagement
  • 2008 - Life Membership for Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Archaeological Association Inc.
  • 2007 - Martin Davies Award for Best Public Archaeology Initiative
  • 2004 - Dean’s Commendation for Outstanding Research Higher Degree Thesis, The University of Queensland
  • 2000 - Royal Society of Queensland – Colliver Prize
  • 1995 - University Medal, The University of Queensland
  • 2023 - Fellow, Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2015 - Fellow, Australian Academy of the Humanities
  • 2011 - Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of London
  • 2011 - Fellow, Cairns Institute
  • 2007 - Honorary Research Fellow, Queensland Museum
  • 2017 to 2019 - Honorary Fellow, School of Social Sciences, The University of Western Australia
  • 2013 to 2017 - Future Fellow, Australian Research Council
  • 2011 to 2014 - Honorary Senior Fellow, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, The University of Queensland
  • 2018 - International Council for Archaeozoology
  • 2017 - Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) Australia Inc.
  • 2014 - The Prehistoric Society
  • 2011 - Centre for Language and Culture Research
  • 2011 - Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science
  • 2006 - Society for American Archaeology
  • 2003 - Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria
  • 2002 - Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology
  • 2002 - Australasian Quaternary Association
  • 2002 - Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association
  • 2001 - Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc.
  • 2000 - Royal Society of Queensland
  • 1998 - Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  • 1989 - Australian Archaeological Association
  • 2023 - Member, Expert Working Group of the Decadal Plan for Social Science Research Infrastructure 2023-32
  • 2023 - Member, AIMS@JCU Science Advisory Committee
  • 2023 - Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Indigenous and Environmental Histories and Futures
  • 2023 - Open Access Ambassador, JCU Library
  • 2022 - Member, Australian Museum Research Institute Science Advisory Board
  • 2021 - Research Integrity Advisor, James Cook University
  • 2017 - Theme Leader, Cultural and Linguistic Transformations, The Cairns Institute
  • 2014 - Editorial Board, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
  • 2013 - Editorial Board, The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
  • 2010 - Editorial Board, Queensland Historical Atlas
  • 1999 - Editor-In-Chief, Queensland Archaeological Research
  • 2020 to 2023 - Editor-In-Chief, Australian Archaeology
  • 2018 to 2023 - Chair, Scientific Committee, International Council of Archaeozoology Conference (7-12 August 2023)
  • 2021 to 2022 - Associate Dean Research, College of Arts, Society and Education, James Cook University
  • 2019 to 2022 - Member, Council Australian Academy of the Humanities
  • 2017 to 2022 - Deputy Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage
  • 2020 to 2021 - Associate Dean Research Education, James Cook University
  • 2018 - Member, 2018 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) Research Evaluation Committee (REC) for Humanities and Creative Arts Committee (HCA)
  • 2015 to 2016 - Deputy Chair, Humanities and Creative Arts (HCA), Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts
  • 2013 to 2016 - Fellow, Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts
  • 2012 to 2016 - Deputy Director, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, James Cook University
  • 2006 to 2015 - Member, World Archaeological Congress Code of Ethics Committee
  • 2011 to 2014 - Editorial Advisory Board, Australian Archaeology
  • 2011 to 2013 - National Chair, Australian National Committee for Archaeology Teaching and Learning
  • 2003 to 2013 - Representative, Southeastern Asia and the Pacific, World Archaeological Congress
  • 2011 to 2012 - Convenor, Archaeology and Geoscience Specialist Committee, Australian Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Engineering
  • 2006 to 2011 - Editor, Australian Archaeology
  • 2008 to 2010 - Member, Archaeology and Geoscience Specialist Committee, Australian Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Engineering
  • 2003 to 2008 - Managing Editor, The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education
  • 2002 to 2003 - President, Australian Archaeological Association

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
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 187+ research outputs authored by Prof Sean Ulm from 1995 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage - CABAH Cadetship Scheme

CABAH Cadetship Scheme: Research management cadetship

Indicative Funding
$48,290 over 1 year
Magdalena will be trained in research management at the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC), a non-profit organisation in Cairns. She will gain experience in research-informed conservation, government policy development, and community economic development in the tropics (Northern Australia, the Torres Strait Islands, and Papua New Guinea).
Magdalena Bunbury, Sean Ulm and Michael Bird (College of Arts, Society & Education and College of Science & Engineering)
Research management

Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage - CABAH Cadetship Scheme

CABAH Cadetship Scheme: Stable Isotope Analysis

Indicative Funding
$49,524 over 1 year
The cadetship will consist of working in the Environmental Radioactivity Measurement Centre at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) facility to gain experience in stable isotope analysis.
Lauren Linnenlucke and Sean Ulm (College of Arts and Society & Education)
Stable Isotope Analysis

Australian Research Council - Centres of Excellence

ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage

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, 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, Indigenous Education & Research Centre, University of New South Wales, 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

Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage - Legacy Grants Scheme

SahulSED Radiocarbon, SahulCHAR, and OCTOPUS Future Proofing

Indicative Funding
$85,000 over 1 year
The project will engage a full-time postdoctoral fellow for 12 months to compile fire proxy data for the new data collection SahulCHAR, to oversee the data collection of environmental radiocarbon ages for SahulSED, and to lead the development of resources for the maintenance and community-led updates of these collections. The postdoctoral fellow will lead the E&E activities and support the RT&E activities described below and will update existing collections as needed. Results will be included in a series of planned papers to coincide with the launch of the new collections.
Haidee Cadd, Timothy Cohen, Sean Ulm, Michael Bird, Scott Mooney, Annika Herbert, Henry Munack, Alexandru Codilean, Janelle Stevenson, Simon Haberle, Corey Bradshaw, Zoe Thomas, Shane Ingrey, Fiona Petchey and Jonathan Tyler (University of New South Wales, University of Wollongong, College of Arts, Society & Education, College of Science & Engineering, Australian National University, Flinders University and University of Adelaide)
Radiocarbon; fire history

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

Microanalytical Facility Supporting Resources Development and Manufacturing

Indicative Funding
$806,355 over 1 year (administered by The University of Queensland)
The project aims to establish a state-of-the-art electron probe microanalysis facility enabling accurate chemical analysis to be undertaken at the micro-scale. It is expected to provide new knowledge and support applied research on a range of natural, synthetic and processed materials that will deeply impact advancements in the fields of metals processing and recycling, Earth and environmental science, and the development of materials for a healthier society. It will support ARC funded and industry engaged research enhancing the minerals exploration, mining and metallurgical industries and inform sustainable practice. It will also provide the key research infrastructure to enhance Australia?s research leadership in these fields.
Jak Evgueni, Peter Hays, Rick Valenta, Teresa Ubide, Kazuhiro Nogita, Paul Dirks, Michael Bird, Kevin Blake and Sean Ulm (The University of Queensland, College of Science & Engineering, Research Infrastructure, College of Arts and Society & Education)
Mining exploration; Geology; Geochemistry; Archaeology; Critical Minerals; Mining Engineering

Lizard Island Research Station - Doctoral Fellowship

Constructed Seascapes of the Lizard Island Group, Far North Queensland

Indicative Funding
$6,400 over 1 year
This research investigates the distribution and construction of Indigenous stone arrangements in the Lizard Island Group, far North Queensland. Previous intensive pedestrian surveys of the islands have identified almost 1000 stone arrangements, with an additional 200 recorded during the recently completed 2021 season. Interpreting the distribution and construction of these stone arrangements will be undertaken on a cultural landscape scale to interpret the organisation of socio-religious activities on within the Lizard Island Group.
Joshua Connelly and Sean Ulm (College of Arts and Society & Education)
Archeology; Stone Arrangements; Great Barrier Reef; Cultural Landscape

Lizard Island Research Station - Sir John & Laurine Proud Research Fellowship

Understanding long-term Indigenous uses of the Great Barrier Reef: Re-excavating the Freshwater Bay Midden, Lizard Island

Indicative Funding
$15,000 over 1 year
This project aims to document Aboriginal Late Holocene use of Great Barrier Reef offshore islands through the re-excavation of Freshwater Bay Midden on Lizard Island. After extensive physical surveys and recording of cultural places across the Lizard Island Group over the past decade it has been determined that Freshwater Bay Midden is the only remaining site with significant sub-surface deposits intact that has not yet been excavated using modern archaeological techniques. Expected outcomes include a comprehensive framework from which to consider offshore island use in northeast Australia, as well as documenting the dynamic history of Lizard Island occupation.
Ariana Lambrides, Sean Ulm, Ian McNiven and Fiona Petchey (College of Arts, Society & Education, Monash University and University of Waikato)
Archeology; Great Barrier Reef; Indigenous fishing and foraging practice

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.

  • Understanding Kwokkunum Shell Mounds as Landscape Engineering: A Spatial and Temporal Archaeological approach (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Palaeolandscapes and the Archaeological implications of Changing Landscapes and Seascapes in the Torres Strait (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Kaiadilt Country: A Remote Sensing Approach to Documenting Long-Term Aboriginal land management technologies (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Investigating Constructed Seascapes in the Lizard Island Group, Far North Queensland. (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Constructed Seascapes: Understanding Kaiadilt Fish Traps Use, Condition and Futures in the South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Millenial-scale Variability in Lizard Island Group Mollusc Exploitation: Studying Mollusc remains to understand Past Aboriginal Shellfishing practices and Reef Resource use for Future Reef Conservation (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

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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  • D3.106, The Cairns Institute (Cairns campus)
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