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

I am a biological anthropologist, archaeologist and evolutionary biologist fascinated with all aspects of human evolution. I love writing about it to wide a audience and believe that we haven't fully done our jobs as scientists until we have communicated our research to the wider community.

I wrote and presented the UNSWTV series, 'How did we get here,' which can we watched on Youtube and is a digibook on ABC Splash. I was also the main on-camera talent and scientific advisor for the film 'Enigma Man,' produced by Electric Pictures, ABC, Screen West and Lotteries West, and first shown on ABC1 in 2014.

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 worked in Africa quite a bit in the early part of my career, these days I focus my energies on the human fossil record and archaeology of Southeast and East Asia, with some research still on the earliest inhabitants of Australia. 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 10,500 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 groups. 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

  • 2009–present
    Honorary Professor, Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology
  • 2012–present
    Associate Professor, University of New South Wales
  • 2012–2016
    Australian Research Council Future Fellow, 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)