Researcher

Dr Karen Honor Black

Field of Research (FoR)

Biography

My interests lie within the fields of mammalian palaeontology, taxonomy, morphology, phylogeny, ontogeny and biocorrelation. My area of special expertise is vombatomorphian marsupials (including koalas and diprotodontoids).

Current projects:

Discovery Early Career Research Award DE130100467 "Limbs and Wings: Reconstructing Australian environmental change through innovative analysis of ancient mammal skeletons"

The ecological diversity of...view more

My interests lie within the fields of mammalian palaeontology, taxonomy, morphology, phylogeny, ontogeny and biocorrelation. My area of special expertise is vombatomorphian marsupials (including koalas and diprotodontoids).

Current projects:

Discovery Early Career Research Award DE130100467 "Limbs and Wings: Reconstructing Australian environmental change through innovative analysis of ancient mammal skeletons"

The ecological diversity of Australia's extinct mammals has been significantly underestimated because of a bias towards studies of fossil skulls and teeth. How our mammals functioned and interacted in their evolving ancient environments remains largely unknown. This project applies innovative ecometric analyses to a vast collection of mammal postcranial fossils from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area to yield new understanding about their diversity, behaviour, interactions and ecology spanning the last 25 million years. This will fill significant gaps in knowledge about how these globally unique groups responded to pre-modern environmental change and in turn their likely future needs if they are to survive changes now underway.

Discovery Grant Project DP1094569 “Drying and dying in Australia: extraordinary creatures and climate change 15 million years ago”
Australia's globally distinctive mammals were confronted 15 million years ago by a climate plunge from lush greenhouse to dry icehouse conditions. In northern Queensland, in the World Heritage-listed cave known as AL90 from the Oligo-Miocene freshwater limestones of Riversleigh, fossil-rich deposits span this interval of change. Entombed in AL90 Site are dozens of extraordinarily well-preserved skulls and articulated skeletons including a growth series from pouch-young to adults of a rare, possibly sloth-like diprotodontid marsupial (Nimbadon lavarackorum) as well as more familiar kangaroos, bandicoots, thylacines and bats.

Main research aims:

1) to develop significant new understanding about zygomaturine diprotodontids which were highly diverse, ecologically important marsupials that once dominated Australian faunas. The sample of skulls and skeletons of Nimbadon provides unique opportunities to understand how these strange marsupials grew, interacted and functioned in the forests that covered Riversleigh and much of the rest of Australia during the middle Miocene.

2) to help resolve controversies about the nature of Australia’s palaeoenvironments before and after the global mid Miocene climatic oscillation. AL90 includes both mid Miocene (15 Ma) and late Miocene sediments that should reflect changing northern Australian palaeoenvironments. Our research will also help align Australian records of biotic change with global palaeoclimatic events and provide a benchmark for measuring the nature and rate of environmental and biotic change that continues to transform our nation.
Collaborators: Prof. Michael Archer (UNSW), Dr Ian Graham (UNSW), Assoc. Prof. Sue Hand (UNSW), Dr Anna Gillespie (UNSW), Dr Rick Arena (UNSW), Dr Steve Wroe (UNSW), Prof. Jon Woodhead (UMelb), Dr Helene Martin (UNSW), Xstrata (Mt Isa)

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Location

Room 559, Biological Sciences Building (D26)

Contact

+61 2 9385 2113
+61 2 9385 1558