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Holocene Palaeoecological Change and Aboriginal Resource Management in the Northern Swan Coastal Plain
Humans modify their ecological niche in many ways, including through deliberate or incidental activities such as restructuring of faunal and botanical communities through vegetation removal, manipulation of natural fire regimes, and selective harvesting, removal or encouragement of taxa. Ethnographic and historical accounts suggest that the Amangu people of the northern Swan Coastal Plain employed a range of resource management practices characterised as niche construction, including the cultivation of roots and tubers, and the use of fire to facilitate access and young growth. While the observed practices directly impacted vegetation, faunal communities are affected both directly and indirectly as plant community structures are altered.
This PhD research involves the investigation of the nature, scale and impacts of resource management and niche constructing practices on the palaeoecology of the northern Swan Coastal Plain during the late Holocene. Building on previous research, I will use zooarchaeological and palaeontological records to investigate past ecosystem structure and resource use by the Amangu people during the late Holocene. This research explores the development of a regional chronology of human habitation, resource availability and resource use, to unedrstand the relationships between the people and environment of the coastal plain.
Current models of Aboriginal resource management strategies and use of the cultural landscape in Australia’s south-western corner rely heavily on the archaeological record of the limestone caves in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste region, located in the South West Cape. This research will provide us with the opportunity to test limited regional interpretations since there may be considerable differences between the exploitation of faunal resources in the temperate south-west and the Mediterranean northern Swan Coastal Plain, which represent very different bioclimatic regions within the wider Noongar cultural bloc and neighbouring regions.
By investigating the roles of Aboriginal people in the disturbance and maintenance of the ecological niches of the northern Swan Coastal Plain, this research will contribute to our understanding of the long-term environmental condition and human habitation of the Southwest bioregion, an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot.