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Associate Professor & Principal Fellow, School of Geography, The University of Melbourne

I am a geographer interested in the way plants have been moved around by people and how these activities transform landscapes over time. My research usually focuses on ordinary people and tries to understand what motivates them to move plants to new places, how they manage these in their farms, pastures, gardens and gradually change the larger landscapes of their everyday life. This kind of analysis brings together a wide range of methods from history, political economy and ecology, biogeography and regional development.

I am one of many people inspired by Fernand Braudel and his approach to writing geographical history that is not limited by national boundaries, and which looks at seas and oceans as spaces of human movement and interaction. The Indian Ocean is the geographical and historical frame for my research.

Over the past decade, I've worked with colleagues on the transfer of acacia species between Australia, India, South Africa, and Madagascar; and the precolonial arrival of baobabs and mimosa bush across the Indian Ocean to Australia. The most recent project is a comparative study that looks at how indigenous communities in parts of northern Australia, western India, eastern South Africa, and eastern Madagascar think about weeds in their landscapes. All of these projects have been funded by the Australian Research Council.


  • 2015–present
    Associate professor, University of Melbourne
  • 2009–2015
    Associate professor, Monash University
  • 2002–2008
    Senior Lecturer, Monash University
  • 1999–2001
    Lecturer, Monash University
  • 1997–1999
    Lecturer, RMIT
  • 1995–1997
    Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky
  • 1993–1995
    Postdoctoral fellow, University of California Berkeley


  • 1993 
    University of California Los Angeles, PhD in Urban and Regional Development
  • 1987 
    University of California Los Angeles, MA in Architecture and Urban Planning
  • 1983 
    CEPT, Ahmedabad, India, Masters in Urban and Regional Planning
  • 1981 
    JNTU, Hyderabad, India, B. Architecture


  • 2015
    New genetic and linguistic analyses show ancient human influence on baobab evolution and distribution in Australia, PLOS ONE
  • 2015
    Situating African agency in environmental history, Environment & History
  • 2015
    Elusive traces: Baobabs and the African diaspora in South Asia, Environment & History
  • 2015
    Food traditions and landscape histories of the Indian Ocean World: Theoretical and methodological reflections, Environment & History
  • 2015
    The political ecology of weeds, International Handbook of Political Ecology
  • 2015
    The history of introduction of the African baobab (Adansonia digitata, Malvaceae: Bombacoideae) in the Indian Subcontinent, Royal Society Open Science
  • 2014
    Chapter: Thorny problems: Industrial pastoralism and managing ‘country’ in Northwest Queensland, Rethinking Invasion Ecologies from the Environmental Humanities, eds. Jodi Frawley and Iain McCalman
  • 2014
    Genetic diversity and biogeography of the boab Adansonia gregorii (Malvaceae: Bombacoideae), Australian Journal of Botany

Grants and Contracts

  • 2013
    A Weed by any other name? Comparing local knowledge and uses of environmental weeds around the Indian Ocean
    Chief Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Australian Research Council
  • 2010
    The Enigma of Arrival: Movements of the mimosa bush and the baobab across the Indian Ocean into pre-British Australia
    Chief Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Australian Research Council
  • 2008
    Australian Transplants: The Political Ecology of Acacia Exchanges across the Indian Ocean
    Chief Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Australian Research Council
  • 2003
    Exploring the Impacts of Land Use Change on the Medicinal Plant Trade in Southern Africa
    Chief Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Monash University
  • 1997
    The Question of Common-Access Lands and Sustainable Rural Development in South Africa
    Chief Investigator
    Funding Source:
    National Science Foundation USA

Professional Memberships

  • Institute of Australian Geographers
  • Association of American Geographers
  • African Studies Association of Australasia and Pacific
  • International Association for the Study of Commons
  • Institute of Postcolonial Studies
  • Bombay Natural History Society
  • Royal Society of Victoria
  • South Asian Studies Association of Australia

Research Areas

  • Social And Cultural Geography (160403)
  • Natural Resource Management (050209)
  • Historical Studies (2103)