Speleothems from WA have demonstrated that they contain continuous annual trace element laminae (Nagra et al 2017). Therefore the WA region provides the best-possible chronologies from Australian speleothem records of past climate and fire.

This project will utilise already sampled and dated specimens from Treble’s collection, which have deposited over the last 10ka from Yanchep Cave (north of Perth) and Quinninup Cave (Margaret River). Trace element and oxygen isotope data collected at annual to sub-annual resolution for time-periods of climatic and archaeological interest will provide records of fire frequency and intensity (applying the methods of Nagra et al 2016). It will also provide records of hydroclimate (using existing modern oxygen isotope calibration studies of Treble et al 2016), including cyclone frequency.

The results of the project: “Annually-Resolved Records of Fire & Climate in Western Australia at the Time of Australia’s Demographic Explosion” will provide insights into the climate and fire history along a N-S gradient along west coast WA.

  • Nagra, G., Treble, P.C., Andersen, M.S., Bajo, P., Hellstrom, J. and Baker, A., 2017. Dating stalagmites in Mediterranean climates using annual trace element cycles. Scientific Reports, 7, Article number: 621.
  • Nagra, G. Treble, P.C., Andersen, M.S., Fairchild, I.J., Coleborn, K. and Baker, A. 2016. A post-wildfire response in cave dripwater chemistry. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 20, 2745-2758.
  • Treble, P.C., Fairchild, I.J., Baker, A., Meredith, K.T., Andersen, M.S., Salmon, S.U., Bradley, C., Wynn, P.M., Hankin, S., Wood, A., McGuire, E., 2016. Roles of forest bioproductivity, transpiration and fire in a nine-year record of cave dripwater chemistry from southwest Australia, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta  184, 132-150


To produce records of fire frequency and intensity and hydroclimate, including cyclone frequency, for the last 10,000 years, along a N-S gradient along west coast WA. 

Student benefits

This project is aligned with the aims of the Australian Research Council-funded Centre for Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). We’re seeking one or more honours student(s) to join a larger team working on climate and environmental history in Australia before the time of European arrival.  

Honours researchers will experience research environments at UNSW, ANSTO and the University of Wollongong.

During this project, you’ll gain a range of skills, including:

  • geochemical analysis
  • data interpretation
  • time series analysis.

Eligible students are invited to apply for the AINSE Honours Scholarship: a $5,000 scheme that opens each December.

Supervisors: Prof Andy Baker, Pauline Treble (ANSTO) and Tim Cohen (University of Wollongong).

Get involved

To learn more about this project, contact Prof Andy Baker.