Functional morphology in animal teeth and skeletons; evolutionary history of vertebrates; fossil history of australian mammals and vertebrate faunas; species-level diversity; sustainable use of native resources; native animals as pets; CONT'D
Fields of Research (FoR)Palaeontology (incl. Palynology), Zoology
Mike Archer was born in Sydney but grew up in the USA. After graduating from Princeton University he returned to Australia, did his PhD in the University of Western Australia, became Curator of Mammals at the Queensland Museum, Lecturer in the University of New South Wales, Director of the Australian Museum in Sydney, Dean of Science at the University of New South Wales and now a Professor and member of the PANGEA Research Center at UNSW. His research focuses on the deep past such as the World Heritage fossil deposits at Riversleigh, the fragile present such as conservation through sustainable use of native resources including having native animals as pets, securing the future based on the wisdom of the fossil record, and trying to bring extinct species (e.g., the Gastric-brooding Frog and the Thylacine) back into the world of the living. He has supervised/co-supervised more than 80 research student degrees, produced over 350 scientific publications including 15 books and received a range of awards including Fellowships in the Australian Academy of Science, Royal Society of NSW, Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Australian College of Educators, Eureka Prize for Promotion of Science and Member of the Order of Australia.
Since 1978, ~$10,000,000 has been awarded to support our research group’s investigations into the fossil deposits of Riversleigh, Murgon and Bluff Downs, Queensland; Lightning Ridge, New South Wales; Tirari Desert, South Australia; Miocene deposits in New Zealand; Paleocene deposits of Patagonia, Argentina; Miocene amber deposits, Queensland.
Competitive Federal & State Government grants:
Fulbright Foundation awards; Australian Dept of Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories grants; Australian Research Council (ARC; regular large grants continuously since 1978 including Program Grants; 1995-1997, second largest individual ARC grant received by UNSW; 1998-2000, largest such grant received by UNSW; 2001-2003, large ARC Grant at UNSW c.$190k/yr; 2002-2004 ARC Grant between Australian Museum, Uni of Sydney and Qld Nat Parks & Wildlife Service); series of ARC Discovery and Linkage Grants spanning 2004-2021; Australian National Estate Program Grants Scheme; Australian Museum (research grants); Queensland Museum (research grants); Department of Communication and the Arts (Visions Grant); DEST (Australia on CD Grants Scheme); Federal World Heritage Unit grants for research; etcetera.
American Explorers Club; Ansett Wridgeways Pty Ltd; Australian Geographic Society Pty Ltd; ICI Australia Pty Ltd; International Business Machines (IBM) Australia; Linnean Society of New South Wales; Mount Isa Mines Pty Ltd; Century Zinc Pty Ltd; Pasminco Pty Ltd; Earthwatch International & Earthwatch Australia; Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales; The Riversleigh Society Inc.; Wang Computers Pty Ltd; P&O Nedlloyd; Cadbury/Schweppes; Xstrata Community Partnership Program North Queensland, "Uncovering our outback heritage: the Riversleigh Fossil Project", $360,000; two UNSW Goldstar awards for near-miss ARC DP applications, $80,000; AINSE 842, “Geochemical characterisation of selected sites from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area...”, $8000; AINSE 6731, “Determining the highly controversial age for the bone of an extinct kangaroo...”, $4200; European Synchrotron EC-439, “Phase contrast x-ray synchrotron imaging of fossil rich amber”, 96 hrs beamtime (c. $40,000); National Geographic Society for exploration of “New Riversleigh”, $30,000; UNSW MERII infrastructure grants (2011, 2012, 2013) for thin sectioning equipment, set up of palaeomagnetism lab, microscopy and photography set up, desktop SEM, etc. (>$400,000); etc.
Since 1984, private individuals have provided donations in response to our public appeals for support. In total, these have amounted to more than $1,500,000. We have established in perpetuity the CREATE Fund within the UNSW Foundation to assist students and staff researching in the palaeosciences. Other private individuals who have provided significant research donations include: Martin Dickson, Margaret Beavis, Elaine Clarke, Gary Johnston; Dick Smith; Ken Pettit etc.
Large grants from external organisations:
Since 1999, monies personally raised as donations, sponsorships and legacies have exceeded $5m plus more than $20m as in-kind donations. As the Director of the Australian Museum, I raised over $42m. As the Dean of Science, I collaborated in raising more than $45m. Recent grants e.g. to progress our Burramys Project have included $190,000 from the Prague Zoo in Czechoslovakia.
Princeton University, BA Geology/Biology (MCL), 1967
University of Western Australia, PhD Zoology, 1976
Postnomials: AM, FAA, DistFRSN, FRZS, FACE, FWAAS
As at 2021: h-Index 54; i10-index 242; citations 11,327
Honours, Awards, Research Associateships etc.
- FAS (Fellow of the )
- FRZS (Fellow of the )
- DistFRSN (Distinguished Fellow of the )
- FACE (Fellow of the )
- FWAAS (Fellow of the )
- FA21 (Fellow of )
- , Honorary Associate (1986-present)
- , Research Associate (2005-present)
- Eight Gilbert Whitley awards for books written or edited
- Clarke Medal of the
- Inaugural Medal
- Australian Heritage Award for Nature Conservation
- Inaugural Prize for the Promotion of Science
- Inaugural Conservation Award (with S. Hand & H. Godthelp)
- von Mueller Medal of
- Verco Medal of the
- Skeptic of the Year, New South Wales Skeptics Association
- Special Recognition Medal,
- Dr Alice Whitley Award for Science Education,
- Australian Centennial Medal,
- TH Huxley Award,
- Medal of the
- Member of the Order of Australia—AM, Australian Federal Govt
- Member of ‘Top 100 Most Influential People in Sydney’ (SMH 2008)
- Australian Academy of Science, Feature Fellow ()
- UNSW Faculty of Science Excellence Award voted by students as Best Lecturer in the Faculty (2012, 2015)
- selected his Lazarus Project (DeExtinction effort to resurrect the Gastric-brooding Frog as one of the world’s 25 Best Inventions of the Year ()
- Numbat Award by the y
- Bragg Membership in the Royal Institution of Australia
- Awarded the from the international Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
- Member IUCN
- Member IUCN
- Founding Director [biofuel company]
- Senior Scientist of the
- Member, Editorial Board,
- Member Editorial Advisory Board for
- Member, Scientific Advisory Board
- Trustee, Thegotics Trust (International)
- Member, Editorial Board
- Member, Editorial Board PLOS
My Research Activities
Some current research projects, companies founded, organisations facilitated, students supervised -- and undergraduate courses taught
Over 100 researchers from 28 institutions and 13 countries (France, Germany, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, England, U.S.A., South Africa, China, Canada, Argentina, Japan, New Zealand & Australia) are collaborating in the analysis of the fossil deposits of Riversleigh, Murgon, Central Australia, Cape York and New Zealand which includes the fossil records of more than 83 families of animals and plants. Three of the largest projects include the World Heritage Area of Riversleigh, the Eocene deposits of Murgon in SE Queensland and the Early Miocene deposits of the South Island in New Zealand. Summaries of some of this work can be found on the CREATE Website: . An overview of some of the more recent discoveries being made at Riversleigh can be found at , https://www.smh.com.au/technology/riversleigh-20130717-2q38h.html and https://vimeo.com/71542680. Many books and more than 300 peer-reviewed publications have been produced on the basis of this research. Aspects of the palaeontological projects address United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 13 (Climate Action) and 15 (Life on Land).
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-21/mountain-pygmy-possum-sanctuary-lifeline-prague/100149314?fbclid=IwAR1udiGp6UGg7rgrBw6pcoOMrDVf-d2ae9R23cxyo6_wSEtD81zOBCohSBA; and the most recent publication about this Project https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2019.0221
The primary focus here has been on ‘DeExtinction’ efforts involving the Thylacine (), and the Southern Grastric-brooding Frog ( ). The TED talk I gave and those of others contributing to the TEDx DeExtinction event in Washington DC can be accessed here (), A newspaper story by Nicky Phillips that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 March, 2013 (p. 1), is available online: . There is an earlier (2002) Discovery Channel documentary about the Thylacine Project (, produced by Becker Entertainment, Directed by Patrick O’Neill): . A debate between me and the Executive Editor of Scientific American about the merits of deExtinction occurred on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is available (). These deExtinction projects, in striving to increase global biodiversity address the United Nations Sustainable Develop;ment Goal 15 (Life on Land).
Research/Development companies/organisations established -- addressing United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
1, Crossbow Enterprises Pty Ltd, Director with Norm Wilkinson, to conceive and develop documentaries arising in the first place from research done at Riversleigh and in relation to the Lazarus Project;
2, Echidna Energy Pty Ltd, Founding Director with six other participants representing sectors of the mining industry, biochemistry of biofuels, economists/investment managers, inventors and harvester designers, to develop a program for the sustainable harvest Spinifex -- which directly addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption).
3, Mammal Society of NSW Inc, Founding Member with others to promote the initiative of Australians being able to have selected native mammals as pets (started 2019). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-11/keeping-australian-native-animals-as-pets/100362834
Institutions established, progressed or initiated
Warren Somerville Collection, Bathurst, NSW. $15 million gem & fossil collection donated to the Australian Museum and housed in a purpose-renovated heritage museum in Bathurst.
Australian Museum expansion. In 2003 the State Government agreed to provide $40m to develop an annex on its eastern flank; the new AM wing constructed using these funds opened in 2008.
National Opal Collection, Pitt Street, Sydney. A State Government/Corporate sector partnership conceived and organised with Andrew Cody (National Opal Collection and Cody’s Opals) to position Australian Museum opalised fossils in a central city location on the Pitt Street Mall.
Age of Fishes Museum, Canowindra, NSW. Stage 2 of this initiative was progressed and broadened to develop collaborations with the Royal Tyrell Museum in Canada.
Lightning Ridge Opal and Fossil Museum, Lightning Ridge, NSW. This initiative, which began in 2003, is now being progressed by local organisations and personnel including Jenni Brammall (former palaeontology research student at UNSW). Stage 1 (with Glenn Murcutt as architect) was launched by the Governor General of NSW in 2011; further funding of $18m committed by State & Fed Governments in 2019.
Wellington Caves Museum, Wellington, NSW. Discussions began in 2003 between the Australian Museum and the Wellington Shire and Caves Board to establish a major regional museum in Wellington to display the AM’s Wellington Collections. Renovation is currently underway (2019).
The Eye Health Institute in UNSW made possible by a generous donation of $40m from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. As Dean of Science at UNSW which includes the School of Optometry & Vision Science, I worked with UNSW and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT staff to ensure that this initiative was soundly conceived, supported, directed and managed.
Sydney Institute of Marine Science at Chowder Bay. As Dean of Science at UNSW I worked as an inaugural Director with others including Prof. Frank Talbot and other Deans/Deputy Vice-Chancellors at Univ. Sydney, Macquarie and UTS to successfully establish this four-university research/teaching entity.
Research students supervised for Honours and Postgraduate degrees--and subject areas
Students have been supervised in a wide range of research topics including vertebrate palaeontology, palaeobiodiversity, stratigraphy, palaeoecology and biocorrelation. Other students have focused on the field ecology of small desert marsupials, molecular and morphological systematics of bats, electrophoretic and morphological systematics of marsupials, phylogenetic systematics of New Guinean mammals, functional dental morphology, feeding behaviours of marsupials, basicranial functional morphology, forest ecology of bats, snake and bird phylogenetics and native animals as pets.
Jobs after our students graduate. Almost all of the students supervised have gone on to PhD or postdoctoral research programs or have jobs in universities, museums and other institutions. Most have gone on to illustrious careers (although not always in science) such as Paul Willis (scientist, ABC Science Unit, Director of the Royal Institute of Australia), Kerry Nettle (Greens Senator), Walter Boles (Curator of Birds, Australian Museum), Ken Aplin (CSIRO Senior Research Scientist), Scott Hocknull (Young Australian of the Year, Curator of Fossils at the Queensland Museum), Tim Flannery (Australian of the Year; Climate Commissioner), Mina Bassarova (World Wildlife Fund), Stephen Salisbury (senior academic in the University of Queensland), Pip Brewer (Curator of Palaeontology in the Natural History Museum, London), Steve Wroe (Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship; senior academic in the University of New England), Robin Beck, Postdoc in the American Museum of Natural History; academic in Salford University, England); Ben Kear, Professor in Lund University, Sweden, etcetera. Common denominators in the success of most are the graduate attribute skills they picked up during their time at UNSW including science communication.
Andrew Guess (Hons) – Caudal morphology & function in Riversleigh diprotodontids
Chloe Ottaviano (Hons) – DNA Identity, age and integrity of the UNSW Cave Bear skeleton
Antonia Parker (PhD) – Diversity and phylogenetic relationships of Riversleigh fossil possums
Tim Churchill (PhD) – New dasyuromorphians from Eocene to Pleistocene Australia
Naomi Machin (MSc) – Analysis of the species of Burramys through the Riversleigh sequence
Chris Palmer (PhD) – Palaeoecology and community dynamics of Riversleigh mammals
Corey Bennetts (PhD) – Analysis of the Hazel Creek Early Cretaceous biota
Roy Farmer (PhD) – Analysis of anuran fossils from the Oligocene & Miocene of Riversleigh
(MPhil candidate) – New zygomaturine from the Plio/Pleistocene of North Queensland
(Hons) – Plio/Pleistocene rodents in the genus
Adam Morrell (Hons) – Evolution of Australian marsupials
Adrian di Qual (MSc) – Investigation into experiences of keeping Sugar Gliders as pets
(PhD) – Evolution and biodiversity of Marsupial Lions
Anne Musser (PhD) – Evolution and morphology of monotremes
Anthony Smith (Hons) – Relationships between dental morphology and feeding behaviours
Ben Kear (Hons) – Analysis of an associated skeleton of a balbarine kangaroo from Riversleigh
Bernie Cooke (PhD) – Evolution and palaeobiodiversity of Riversleigh’s kangaroos
Bill Koutsamanis (Hons) – Testing the field efficiency of electronically recording frog calls
Blake Dickson (Hons) – Structure, function & evolution of the inner ear of marsupials
Brian Mackness (PhD candidate) – Pliocene faunas of Australia
Cassandra Davies (Hons) -- Analysis of postcranial morphology in Miocene bats from Riversleigh
Camilo Lopez Aguirre (MSc, PhD) – Colombian palaeomammalogy, bats and sloths
(Hons) – Biodiversity, ecology & evolution of
Daniel Natusch (MPhil) – Distribution and conservation of Green Pythons in Australia
Daniel Traub (MSc) – Preliminary assessment of the Hazel Creek Cretaceous biota, NW Qld marsupials
David Read (PhD) – Ecology of species of
Elizabeth Smith (PhD) – The evolution of Cretaceous turtles of Australia
Emma Hall (Hons) – The evolutionary diversity and relationships of Miocene koalas
Greg Richards (PhD) – Ecology of forest bats in eastern Australia
Hamish Craig (Hons) – Changes in the diet of through life
Harry Parnaby (PhD) – Systematic revision in nyctophiline bats in Australia in arid western New South Wales
(Hons) – The evolutionary diversity and history of Musky Rat-kangaroos
(PhD) – Ecological constraints for in the alpine zone
Isabelle Purdy (Hons) – Cats and Quolls: a comparison of experiences as domestic pets
Jacqueline Nguyen (Hons) – Dromornithid birds from the Riversleigh World Heritage deposits
Jacqueline Nguyen (PhD) – Palaeo history of passerine birds in Australia
Jeanette Muirhead (PhD) – The evolutionary history and ecology of bandicoots & thylacines
Jenni Brammall (Hons) – Miocene species of and other possums from Riversleigh
(MSc) – Research into the smuggling trade of Green Pythons in Indonesia
John Scanlon (PhD) – The diversity, ecology and evolution of Australian snakes
Julien Louys (PhD) – The history of the Pleistocene biotas of southeastern Asia
Karen Roberts (PhD) – The evolution and palaeodiversity of Australia’s ringtail possums
Kelly Carbury (Hons) – New pseudocheirid ringtails from Riversleigh, Queensland
Ken Aplin (PhD) – Structure and function of the marsupial basicranium
(PhD) – The palaeoecology of Australia’s evolving environments
Kerry Nettle (Hons) – Diversity and relationships of ringtail possums in the Oligo-Miocene
Kirsten Crosby (PhD) – The evolution of Australia’s small possums
Lorraeme Shume (Hons) – Postcranial anatomy of the thylacinid
Lyndall Dawson (PhD) – History of mammals in the Wellington Cave deposits of NSW
(PhD) – Palaeobiodiversity, function & ecology of crocodiles in Australia
Mina Bassarova (Hons) – Diversity and relationships of ringtail possums in the genus
Mina Bassarova (PhD) – Use of structural & functional morphology in palaeoecology
Miranda Gott (Hons) – Notoryctids from the Riversleigh World Heritage fossil deposits.
Naomi Machin (MSc) – Analysis of the species of Burramys through the Riversleigh sequence
Paul Willis (PhD) – Evolution of Australia’s crocodilians
Peter Ampt (PhD) – Research into strategies for sustainably harvesting kangaroos
Pip Brewer (PhD) – Evolution of Australia’s wombats from the Oligocene to the Pliocene
Prue Fabian (Hons) – Evolutionary diversity of acrobatid possums from Riversleigh
Rebecca Pian (Hons) – Revision of ornithorhynchid platypuses and new species of
Rick Arena (PhD) – Geology of the World Heritage area of Riversleigh, NW Queensland
(PhD) – Evolutionary relationships of Australia’s most distinctive marsupials
Scott Hocknull (PhD) – History of mammal evolution in the Pleistocene of Queensland
Shimona Kealy (Hons) – Molecular/morphological phylogeny of carnivorous marsupials
Steve Salisbury (Hons) – A new early Eocene crocodile from Murgon, southeastern Queensland
Steve Salisbury (PhD) – Evolution of Australia’s early to mid Cenozoic crocodilians
Steve Van Dyck (PhD) – Systematics and ecology of dasyurids in the genus
Steve Wroe (Hons) – Revision of the propleopine macropodoids from Riversleigh
Steve Wroe (PhD) – Evolution of Australia’s carnivorous marsupials
Suzanne Hand (Hons) – Electrophoretic assessment of species diversity in
Tim Flannery (PhD) – Evolutionary history and systematics of early kangaroos
Troy Myers (Hons) – Ilariids from the fossil deposits of Riversleigh and their biocorrelation
Troy Myers (PhD) – Evolution of vombatiform marsupials from Riversleigh
Tyler King (Hons) – New emballonurid bats from the Pleistocene of Riversleigh
Vera Weisbecker (PhD) – Structural morphology and function in the marsupial forelimb
Walter Boles (PhD) – Evolutionary history of Australian birds from Murgon and Riversleigh
Zac Kirkham (Hons) – Cranial and dental description of a new Miocene kangaroo Riversleigh
Undergraduate courses taught (as at 2021)
Current undergraduate teaching: BIOS1101 Evolution & Functional Biology; BIOS2061 Vertebrate Zoology (Course Coordinator); BEES1041 Investigating Earth and Its Evolution, GEOS1111 Fundamentals of Geology; GEOS2071 Life Through Time; BEES0006 Special Program in BEES.