ARC Future Fellow and Director of the Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre (PANGEA), UNSW Australia

I'm fascinated by all aspects of human evolution and love writing and making films about it. I believe that we haven't fully done our jobs as scientists until we have communicated our research to the wider community. Being a former TV journalist undoubtedly affords me an advantage in this regard.

I write a column for The Conversation, and have written numerous articles for them in the past, I'm a regular guest on ABC 702 Sydney's 'Evenings with Dom Knight,' and also write for ABC Science. Many of my articles have been republished by international media outlets and have been read by millions of people around the world.

I wrote and presented a UNSWTV series, 'How did we get here,' which can we watched on Youtube and numerous media outlets. It has reached millions of people internationally.

The film 'Enigma Man,' produced by Electric Pictures, ABC, Screen West and Lotteries West, was shown on ABC1 in 2014, is still being screen on numerous other outlets including in-flight entertainment on Qantas, and has been recognised through several awards.

My scientific research has tended to focus on reconstructing and understanding the human fossil record from the last last 2.6 million years (or Pleistocene Epoch), with a focus on the genus Homo. In 2010, I named a new species, Homo gautengensis, for the Lower-Middle Pleistocene Homo fossils from southern Africa.

While I have worked in Africa quite a bit, these days I focus my energies more on the human fossil records of China and Malaysia, with some research still on the early Australian human skeletal record. In 2012, along with Prof. Ji Xueping, I announced the discovery of the 'Red Deer Cave people,' an archaic-looking population from southwest China that survived until only 10,000 years ago (the subject of the 'Enigma Man' film).

I'm increasingly interested in the late events in our evolution, those from the last couple of hundred thousand years, especially focusing on the evolution of modern humans (Homo sapiens), our global dispersal, and our interactions with other hominin species. The transition to farming and the profound evolutionary changes it ushered in have recently also caught my interest.

Most of all, I'm just curious to understand who we are as a species, why and how we're so unusual, and all from the viewpoint of evolutionary science.

Experience

  • 2012–present
    Australian Research Council Future Fellow, University of New South Wales
  • 2009–present
    Honorary Professor, Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology
  • 2012–present
    Associate Professor, University of New South Wales
  • 2005–2011
    Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales
  • 2002–2005
    Lecturer, University of New South Wales
  • 2002–2002
    Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand

Education

  • 2000 
    Australian National University, PhD, palaeoanthropology and geochronology
  • 1996 
    Australian National University, Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours)

Research Areas

  • Biological (Physical) Anthropology (160102)
  • Archaeological Science (210102)
  • Archaeology Of Asia, Africa And The Americas (210103)