About

Sean’s research focuses on persistent problems in the archaeology of northern Australia and the western Pacific where understanding the relationships between environmental change and cultural change using advanced studies of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental sequences are central to constructions of the human past. His priority has been to develop new tools to investigate and articulate co-variability and co-development of human and natural systems.

A major strand of this research has been in the field of archaeological science, where Sean leads integrated research programmes designed to improve methods used to establish chronologies and taphonomic sequences to increase confidence in data resolution underpinning models of past human behaviour. This ongoing work refines chronologies of human occupation in tropical coastal areas and allows calibration of archaeological datasets with terrestrial environmental records, creating the potential for much closer integration of these two key sources of information. Sean has applied these understandings to key archaeological issues, including establishing correlations between archaeological and climate records in northern Australia and evaluating the evidence for Polynesian voyaging to the Americas.

His publications include more than 90 articles on the archaeology of Australia and 5 books. Sean has conducted research in Australia, Honduras, Chile, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

Interests
Professional
  • Professional development courses
  • Professional accreditation
  • Benchmarking
Research
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander archaeology
  • Archaeological science
  • Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands
  • Coastal and island archaeology
  • Radiocarbon dating of marine materials
  • Impacts of people on new environments
  • Cultural heritage management and climate change
  • Refining archaeological chronologies
Teaching
  • Improving archaeology teaching and learning
  • Problem-based learning
  • Research-led teaching
Experience
  • 2016 to present - Professorial Research Fellow/ARC Future Fellow, James Cook University (Cairns)
  • 2013 to 2015 - 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 2009 - Lecturer, The University of Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 2000 to 2004 - Lecturer, The University of New England (Brisbane)
  • 1999 to 2004 - Senior Researcher, The University of Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 1993 to 1998 - Researcher, The University of Queensland (Brisbane)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
Honours
Awards
  • 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
Fellowships
  • 2017 - Honorary Fellow, School of Social Sciences, The University of Western Australia
  • 2015 - Fellow, Australian Academy of the Humanities
  • 2013 - Future Fellow, Australian Research Council
  • 2011 - Fellow, Cairns Institute
  • 2011 - Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of London
  • 2007 - Honorary Research Fellow, Queensland Museum
  • 2013 to 2016 - Fellow, Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts
  • 2011 to 2014 - Honorary Senior Fellow, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, The University of Queensland
Memberships
  • 2014 - The Prehistoric Society
  • 2011 - Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science
  • 2011 - Centre for Language and Culture Research
  • 2006 - Society for American Archaeology
  • 2005 - International Council for Archaeozoology Archaeomalacology Working Group
  • 2003 - Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria
  • 2003 - Australasian Institute of Maritime Archaeology
  • 2002 - Australasian Quaternary Association
  • 2002 - Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association
  • 2002 - Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology
  • 2001 - Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc.
  • 2000 - Royal Society of Queensland
  • 1998 - Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  • 1992 - World Archaeological Congress
  • 1989 - Australian Archaeological Association
Other
  • 2014 - Editorial Board, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
  • 2013 - Editorial Board, Journal of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists
  • 2013 - Editorial Board, The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
  • 2010 - Editorial Board, Queensland Historical Atlas
  • 2006 - Member, World Archaeological Congress Code of Ethics Committee
  • 1999 - Editor, Queensland Archaeological Research
  • 2015 to 2016 - Deputy Chair, Humanities and Creative Arts (HCA), Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts
  • 2012 to 2016 - Deputy Director, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science
  • 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
Publications

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
More

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 104+ 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.

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Future Fellowships

Developing accurate trans-holocene coastal and ocean chronologies: Resolving fundamental problems in the dating of marine shell in the tropics

Indicative Funding
$699,593 over 5 years
Summary
Archaeological and quaternary science in tropical Australasia is heavily reliant on radiocarbon (14C) ages on marine materials. However, radiocarbon ages obtained on marine samples are not directly comparable to contemporaneous terrestrial samples owing to variability in the way 14C is distributed in marine environments (the 'marine reservoir effect'). Marine reservoir effects are highly variable and can introduce uncertainties of up to several hundred years into ages obtained on marine samples, creating a key obstacle for advancing archaeological, sea-level and climate change research. This project establishes a reliable model of marine reservoir effects across tropical Australasia that can be used to calibrate marine 14C ages.
Investigators
Sean Ulm (College of Arts and Society & Education)
Keywords
Archaeology; Radiocarbon Dating; marine reservoir effect

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

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

Indicative Funding
$190,000
Summary
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.
Investigators
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)
Keywords
Palaeo Environment; Impact; Forest Savannas Dynamics

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Naive island landscapes: People and environmental change in tropical sclerophyll landscapes

Indicative Funding
$450,000 over 3 years
Summary
What happens when people enter new environments? This study identifies and measures the impacts of human arrivals on the Australian environment using the rich archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records of the South Wellesley archipelago in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria to produce integrated models of human-environment interaction over the last 10,000 years. The recent timing of human settlement on these islands provides a unique opportunity to investigate Aboriginal impacts on undisturbed Australian ecosystems against a backdrop of natural environmental change. Results are crucial for advancing our understanding of human responses to changing coastal environments in the context of rapidly shifting climates.
Investigators
Sean Ulm in collaboration with Lynley Wallis, Patrick Moss and Craig Sloss (College of Arts, Society & Education, Wallis Heritage Consulting, The University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology)
Keywords
Archaeology; Human impacts; island colonisation; human-environment interaction
Supervision

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.

Current
  • Environmental Change and Anthropogenic Fire in northern Australia during the late Holocene (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Ancient Ceramics at Vilabouly: Pottery Productions and Society in a Prehistoric Mining Community in Laos. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Geophysical Explorations of Archaeological Shell Matrix Sites: Evaluating Geophysical Techniques in Detirmining the Boundaries, Structure and Volume of Buried Shell Deposits. (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Engineered Land and Seascapes: Using UAVs and Photogrammetry to Investigate Kaiadilt Aboriginal Stone-Walled Intertidal Fish traps in the South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • An Archaeozoological Approach to Characterising the Impacts of Long-Term Shellfish and Fin-fish Resource Use on the Great barrier Reef, Australia (PhD, Primary Advisor)
Completed
  • A Novel Application of Sclerochronology and Scleroisotope Analysis: Forging New Understandings of Aboriginal Occupation in the South Wellesley Archipelago, Gulf of Carpentaria. (2016, PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • The Application of Ecological Models and Trophic Analyses to Archaeological Marine Fauna Assemblages: Towards Improved Understanding of Prehistoric Marine Fisheries and Ecosystems in Tropical Australia (2016, PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Health, diet and migration prior to the establishment of the pre-Angkorian civilisation of Southeast Asia (2014, PhD, Secondary Advisor)
Data

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.

Collaboration

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)

Connect with me
Share my profile
Share my profile:
jcu.me/sean.ulm

Email
Phone
Location
Advisory Accreditation
Advisor Mentor
Find me on…
Icon for ORCID page Icon for Scopus Author page Icon for ResearchGate profile Icon for ResearcherID page Icon for NLA Trove People record Icon for Facebook profile page Icon for LinkedIn profile page Icon for Google Scholar profile Icon for Academia.edu profile Icon for Twitter profile page Icon for Mendeley public profile

Similar to me

  1. Dr Cassandra Rowe
    College of Science & Engineering
  2. Dr Christian Reepmeyer
    College of Arts, Society & Education
  3. Prof Michael Bird
    College of Science & Engineering
  4. Dr Chris Wurster
    College of Science & Engineering
  5. Dr Shelley Greer
    College of Arts, Society & Education