Dr Duncan Cook - Nat Sch of Arts (Faculty of Education and Arts)

Accreditation in-progress - Supervisor is eligible to co-supervise with another fully accredited supervisor (Principal Supervisor)


I am a Physical Geographer with expertese in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, geochronology and geochemistry. I hold the position of Senior Lecturer and the Head of Discipline for Geography, based at our Brisbane campus. I was awarded my PhD from the University of Sydney and since then have held post-doctoral positions at the Smithsonian Institution (USA), Georgetown University (USA) and the University of Glasgow (UK). Prior to relocating back to Australia in 2012 I worked for the New Zealand Defence Force at the Defence Technology Agency as an Environmental Research Scientist. Since 2018, I have also held the position of adjunct researcher in the Beach-Butzer Geoarchaeology Laboratory at the University of Austin at Texas.

My research is focused on understanding the way that society has influenced (and has been influenced by) the environment over long historical timescales (centuries to millennia). I am deeply interested in how societies have responded to climate change in the past, and how landscapes have evolved to accommodate (and record) complex human histories. My work has applied interdisciplinary approaches to answer questions about human-environmental connections in the past, drawing on knowledge and techniques from archaeology, geography, geochemistry and environmental physics to develop quantitative models of environmental history at study sites worldwide.

Currently, my work is focused on historic cities and landscapes of the global tropics, where my research aims to reconstruct environmental histories for the last several thousand years at sites of early and enduring human settlement, such as the historic Maya settlements of Lamanai in Belize and El Zotz in Guatemala.

The common theoretical thread running through my research is the question of how best to quantify and understand the complex interaction between human activity, climatic fluctuations and environmental change across the Earth's surface.


Phone :4147 (Brisbane)
Email :Duncan.Cook@acu.edu.au
URIs : Staff Directory ProfilePersonal Website

Research Interests

Geochronology ; Climate Change ; Sustainability ; Geoarchaeology ; Soil geomorphology ; Remote Sensing ; Geography ; Environmental Pollution ; GIS ; Wetlands ;

Methods Expertise

GIS ; Geochemistry ; Dating methods ; Geostatistics ; Field work ;

Research Projects

Current Projects

  • Disruption and persistence: resolving the Maya climate-collapse hypothesis (Linked to 10113) (Funded Grant) (Chief Investigator)

Selected Publications


Geochemical markers of an early Anthropocene in the Maya lowlands of Central America, in AAG meeting, USA-2020

Soil carbon storage in the Maya lowlands: Disturbance, flux, and recovery in the tropical early Anthropocene., in GSA Annual Meeting, USA-2020

Anthropogenic environmental change on the frontiers of European colonisation in Australia, A.D. 1788-1840., in Geomorphology

How the term 'Anthropocene' jumped from geoscience to hashtags - before most of us knew what it meant., in The Conversation


The Maya Resilience Project: climate variability and human response in the Maya lowlands of Central America, in AAG meeting, USA-2019

Mercury and the ancient Maya of lowland Central America, in GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA-2019

Butzer 'Down Under': Debates on anthropogenic erosion in early Colonial Australia, in Geomorphology

Wetland geomorphology and paleoecology near Akab Muclil, Rio Bravo floodplain of the Belize coastal plain, in Geomorphology

Authors Dr Duncan Cook (Internal - ) PUB020106243 4 Title Identificando entradas de cuevas en un paisaje k??rstico forestal utilizando elevaciones del Lidar: Resultados preliminares de El Zotz, Guatemala., in Proyecto Arqueologico El Zotz Informe No. 13 Temporada 2018...Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Instituto de Antropolog??as e Historia, Asociaci??n Tikal, Guatemala City.


On 90 years of Australian Geographer, and beyond, in Australian Geographer

Stability and instability on Maya Lowlands tropical hillslope soils, in Geomorphology

Geoarchaeology and tropical forest soil catenas of northwestern Belize, in Quaternary International