First-of-its kind UOW centre to shed light on our history

TEAM: The CABAH team includes Thomas Sutikna, Tim Cohen, Richard (Bert) Roberts, Zenobia Jacobs and Nathan Jankowski. Picture: Paul JonesOn Thursday an international research team headquartered at the University of Wollongong (UOW) beginsa seven-year, $45.7 million quest to shed light on Australia’s iconic biodiversity and Indigenous heritage.
Nanjing Night Net

That’s when Federal Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, officially launches the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) at Parliament House.

CABAH will be led by Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) Roberts, an ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of UOW’s Centre for Archaeological Science.

Professor Roberts said the first continental-scale project of its kind in the world will pioneer a new understanding of the natural and human history of Australia, Papua New Guinea and eastern Indonesia from 130,000 years ago until European arrival.

That’s why CABAH has enlisted ‘’world-leading’’ researchers from science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines (spanning the natural sciences) together with scholars from the humanities and social sciences, such as archaeology and Indigenous studies.

‘’One of the reasons we’ve got the Indonesians in there is because for most of that last 130,000 years we’ve actually been joined by dry land to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. You could just walk to East Indonesia,’’ Prof Roberts said.

‘’Really the whole continent of Australia was about 50 per cent larger than it is now.They are all part of that big geographical area…the same fauna and the same kind of flaura.’’

TEAM LEADER: Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) Roberts, an ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of UOW’s Centre for Archaeological Science will lead CABAH.

While gaining greater knowledge of Australia’s history is important in its own right, CABAH is as much about the future as it is about the past.

Prof Roberts said abetter understanding of the effects of previous periods of climate change on the distribution of Australia’s natural resources will help the nation adapt more successfully to future environmental challenges.

‘’Australia boasts an array of fauna and flora that exists nowhere else on Earth,’’ he said.

‘’It has some of the world’s most ancient landscapes and deeply weathered and depleted soils, and is home to Indigenous peoples whose genetic and cultural history extends back many tens of millennia.

‘’But we still do not have answers to some of the most fundamental questions about this continent or its people, such as the timing and routes of their dispersal around the continent, the timing and extent of major changes in climate and fire regimes, or how landscapes, plants and animals responded to the altered conditions.’’

The centre is based at UOW but researchers from James Cook University, the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University of South Australia, Monash University and the University of Tasmania are also involved in the project.

Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) RobertsThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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