Palaeoanthropology is the scientific investigation of human evolution focusing on evidence provided by the human fossil, archaeological and palaeoecological records. It’s necessarily multidisciplinary in its approach and has traditionally involved specialists in fossil human anatomy, evolutionary biology and systematics, palaeolithic archaeology, primate biology, geology and palaeoecology.

But there’s much more to a bone than meets the eye! With the remarkable advances in molecular tools over the last decade or so, paleoanthropologists also work closely with specialists studying ancient biomolecules (DNA, proteins etc.) to comprehensively understand the course of human evolution and the factors that drove evolutionary change, human ecology and our uniquely human adaptations.

The Palaeoanthropology Research Laboratory (PEARL) focuses on understanding human evolution in its broadest sense with a focus on wide ranging evidence from the geohistorical record from the Quaternary Period, or around 2.75 million years ago until recent times. Members of PEARL work on or collaborate with colleagues on projects examining fossil human remains, undertaking field survey and site excavation, studying cultural materials including stone tools and rock art, analysing stable isotopes for dietary and ecological analysis, examining ancient DNA and proteomes, and modelling evolution.

We have collaborative research projects in Southwest China, Malaysian Borneo, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, as well as working with colleagues from other regions like Thailand and Australia.

The lab is run by Associate Professor Darren Curnoe, a biological anthropologist, evolutionary biologist and archaeologist. He is also a science writer and communicator, the Director of ESSRC, and a Chief Investigator and co-leader of the Education and Engagement Program in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage.


Academic staff

A/Prof. Darren Curnoe
Dr Ceridwen Boel

PhD students

Raynold Mendoza
Matthew Stewart 

Web and media


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Australasian Biogeography and Natural Classification

Australasian Biogeography and Natural Classification (The Ebach Lab) is a biogeography and systematics research group headed by Dr Malte C. Ebach.

Geological Evolution, Ore Deposits, Exploration and Energy (GEODEE)

The GEODEE group has been informally running for a number of years and encompasses geological research undertaken at UNSW by current academics, visiting fellows and their students.

Human geography

Human geography is the human oriented arm of geography, the study of the Earth. In BEES, our research includes the study of the Earth, particularly during the Anthropocene, communities and cultures.

Palaeoanthropology Research Laboratory (PEARL)

Palaeoanthropology is the scientific investigation of human evolution focusing on evidence provided by the human fossil, archaeological and palaeoecological records.

Palaeoecology Lab

The ESSRC Palaeoecology Lab uses of a variety of palaeoenvironmental techniques to examine climate change/variability, human impacts and ecosystem response to such perturbations.

Prehistory and palaeoenvironment of Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific

Our research group is currently engaged in a field and lab-based program investigating the peopling of Sahul, settlement history, palaeoenvironment and resource use.

Rip current and surf hazard research

Since 2011, Professor Robert Brander, along with research colleagues and students within the School of BEES, have been working on both physical and social aspects of the beach rip current hazard.

Soil science

The soil science group at UNSW is involved with and interested in the use of ancillary data from remote and proximal soil sensors and their application to digital soil mapping.

The Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre

The Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre (MWAC) is a network of centralised cutting-edge facilities and expert staff that are open to the entire UNSW research community and beyond.

The PRECISE Network

The potential of regional extreme sea-level rise remains a key socioeconomic uncertainty for millions across the Asia-Pacific region due to the likely impacts on coastal erosion, inundation and for water resource management.


UNSW IceLab provides high-precision water chemistry analysis and fluorescence spectrometry capability to analyse dissolved organic matter (DOM).