Professor Michael Archer
Field of Research: 
Palaeontology, Mammalogy, Conservation Biology, DeExtinction
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 3446

Room 563 Biological Sciences Building (D26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052




  • Professor, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW: 1989-present
  • Dean of the Faculty of Science, UNSW: 2004-2009
  • Director, Australian Museum: 1999-2003
  • Associate Professor, School of Zoology, UNSW: 1985-1989
  • Senior Lecturer, School of Zoology, UNSW: 1980-1985
  • Lecturer, School of Zoology, UNSW: 1978-1980
  • Curator of Modern and Fossil Mammals, Queensland Museum: 1972-1978
  • ARC Researcher, WAM: 1968-71
  • Fulbright  Scholar, Western Australian Museum: 1967 and 1968

Research & Current Projects

Synopsis of recent palaeontological research

Over 100 researchers from 28 institutions and 11 countries (France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, England, U.S.A., China, Canada, Argentina, New Zealand & Australia) are collaborating in the analysis of Riversleigh, Murgon, Central Australian, Cape York and New Zealand resources which includes the fossil records of more than 83 families of animals and plants. Considering outcomes from two of the largest projects—Riversleigh and Murgon, the following list of discoveries is representative. Summaries of some of this work can be found on the CREATE Website: An overview of some of the more recent discoveries being made at Riversleigh can be found

Other non-palaeontological research programs. 

The primary focus here has been on ‘DeExtinction’ efforts involving the Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), and the Southern Grastric-brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus silus). The TED talk I gave and those of others contributing to the TEDx DeExtinction event held on 15 March 2013 in Washington DC can be accessed either there ( or at (, the latter being a slightly different version subsequently posted on the TED talks website. A newspaper story by Nicky Phillips that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 March, 2013 (p. 1), is available online: There is an earlier (2002) Discovery Channel documentary about the Thylacine Project (The End of Extinction: Cloning the Tasmanian Tiger, produced by Becker Entertainment, Directed by Patrick O’Neill): A debate between me and the Executive Editor of Scientific American about the merits of deExtinction occurred on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is available ( More recently (November, 2013), Time Magazine announced that the Lazarus Project was one of world’s 25 best ‘inventions’ for 2013 ( and one of the five featured online ( The Australian Science Media Centre has also listed the Lazarus Project as one the top 10 science stories for 2013 ( The National Geographic Society (NGS) devoted the cover story of their April 2013 edition of National Geographic Magazine to deExtinction with content about this subject on their website at


Opening up Wholly Dooley Site at ‘New Riversleigh’. Photo by Tony Walters, 2013


Teaching in Vertebrate Zoology. Photo by Dean Portelli


Cover of book (published by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales) about innovative conservation strategies. Archer’s chapter: ‘A Talk on the Wild Side’.

Delivering TED talk on the Thylacine and Lazarus Projects at the National Geographic Society’s and Revive & Restore’s DeExtinction event, Washington DC, 2013


Getting a bang out of taking a coffee break in the field at Riversleigh.


UNSW Graduation, Mina Bassarova (PhD recipient).


Photo by Deborah Smith, 2013, used in Qantas Magazine story.

Honours, Awards, Research Associateships etc.

Fellowships in learned societies/organisations

  • FAS (Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science)
  • FRZS (Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales)
  • DistFRSN (Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales)
  • FACE (Fellow of the Australian College of Educators)
  • FWAAS (Fellow of the World Academy of Arts & Sciences)
  • FA21 (Fellow of Australia 21)

Research Associateships

  • Australian Museum, Research Associate (1978-2007)
  • Queensland Museum, Honorary Associate (1986-present)
  • American Museum of Natural History, Research Associate (2005-present)

Honorary appointments

  • Adjunct Professor, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW: 2009 to present
  • Adjunct Professor, Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW: 2009 to present
  • Adjunct Professor, Sydney University: 2011-2016.

Awards, citations, honours

  • Eight Gilbert Whitley awards for books written or edited (1982-2007)
  • Clarke Medal of the Royal Society of New South Wales (1984)
  • Inaugural Queensland Museum Medal (1987)
  • Australian Heritage Award for Nature Conservation (1989)
  • Inaugural Eureka Prize for the Promotion of Science (1990)
  • Inaugural IBM Conservation Award (with S. Hand & H. Godthelp) (1990)
  • von Mueller Medal of ANZAAS (1994)
  • Verco Medal of the Royal Society of South Australia (1996)
  • Skeptic of the Year, New South Wales Skeptics Association (1998)
  • Special Recognition Medal, National Museum of Australia
  • Dr Alice Whitley Award for Science Education (2002), Aust. College of Educators
  • Australian Centennial Medal, Federal Government of Australia (2003)
  • TH Huxley Award, Australian Museum (2004)
  • Medal of the Riversleigh Society (2006)
  • Member of the Order of Australia—AM, Australian Federal Govt (from 2007)
  • Member of ‘Top 100 Most Influential People in Sydney’ (SMH 2008)
  • Awarded Membership of the Australian Institute of Biology--AIB (from 2008)
  • Selected by Director-General of the Nat. Library of Aust. for Oral Record of Life History (2010)
  • Australian Academy of Science, Feature Fellow (2012) (
  • UNSW Faculty of Science Excellence Award voted by students as Best Lecturer in the Faculty (2012)
  • Time Magazine selected his Lazarus Project (deExtinction effort to resurrect the Gastric-brooding Frog; see below) as one of the world’s 25 Best Inventions of the Year ( (2013)
  • Numbat Award by the Hunter Valley Amateur Geological Society (2014)
  • Taylor & Francis Altimetric Top 20 Articles selected from among all articles published between 2012-1015 included, at Number 12, Pian, Archer & Hand (2013)  
  • UNSW Faculty of Science Excellence Award voted by students as Best Lecturer in the Faculty (2012 and 2015)
  • Awarded Bragg Membership in the Royal Institution of Australia (2016)
  • Awarded 2016 NSW Premier's Prize for Science & Engineering for the category Excellence in Biological Sciences (Ecology, environmental, agriculture and organismal)
  • Article describing new tiny marsupial lion from Riversleigh (Gillespie, Archer, Hand 2016) elected as one of top 10 Open Access Fossil Vertebrates described in 2016
  • Awarded the 2019 Romer-Simpson Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Vertebrate Paleontology from the international Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

 Current Trusts/Councils/Advisory Boards

  • Member, Scientific Comm., Conf. ‘Palaeo Down Under 2’, Assoc. Aust. Palaeo. (2015-16)
  • Member IUCN Sustainable Use & Livelihoods Specialist Group (2012-present)
  • Member IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic & Soc. Policy (2012-present)
  • Member, Fellowship Committee, Royal Society of NSW (2013-present)
  • Member, Eureka Prize for Promotion of Science Selection Committee (~1999-present)
  • Chairman, Dorothy Hill Award Committee, Academy of Science (2015-present)
  • Co-Director, Crossbow Enterprises [Science documentary company] (2006-present)
  • Founding Director Echidna Energy Pty Ltd [biofuel company] (2009-present)
  • Senior Scientist of the Riversleigh Society Inc (1986-present)
  • Editor, Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics (2002-present)
  • Reader, Australian Research Council (2002-present).
  • Fellow of Australia 21 and Leader of the Ecosystems Project (2002-present)
  • Head, Lazarus Project (2004-present)
  • Member Editorial Advisory Board for  Zoological Science (2007-present)
  • Member, Lifeboat Foundation Scientific Advisory Board (2008-present)
  • Trustee, Thegotics Trust (International) (1985-present)
  • Co-Director, Australian Tropical Research Foundation (1995-present)
  • Member, Scientific Advisory Committee for Cosmos Magazine (2005-present)
  • Member, Edit. Board Geosciences (

Invited addresses (recent)

Guest Speaker Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia Ltd, 2010; Public address to Bathurst City, 2010; Keynote Address to Australian Forest Growers Biennial Conference, Mount Gambier, 2010; Address to the National Trust of Australia, 2010; Invited Speaker in the Darwin Symposium on Evolution in Science, Technology and Society, 2010; Spriggs Lecture, Adelaide, 2010; Address on Scientific Research to the Finance Department, UNSW, 2011; Public Lecture in Perth associated with CAVEPS Conference, 2010; Keynote Address to the Alpine Resorts Sustainability Forum, 2011; Address to the Land & Sea Management Board, Northern Territory Government, Darwin, 2011; Invited to give key Plenary Address at 2012 Conference on Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries in Melbourne; Public lecture to the University of Sydney, 2012; Keynote address to the National Geographic Society’s De-Extinction Workshop, Washington DC, 2012; Address to the National Geographic Research Committee, Washington DC, 2012; Inaugural Fellows Lecture to the Royal Society of New South Wales, 2013; Public Address coordinated by the Long Now Foundation & National Geographic Society, Washington DC, 15 March, 2013 (TED talk:; Keynote Plenary Address to the Australia & New Zealand Intensive Care Society, Hobart, 2013; Vince O'Reilly Memorial Lecture for the second time, 2013; Address to AFAR Foundation Tour Group Conference, Sydney, 2013; The LAZSTA Lecture to the Metropolitan South-West Science Teachers Association, Sydney, 2013; Panelist on The Scholars Circle, Los Angeles, 2013 (28 March); Invited to give a Plenary lecture at the 10thWorld Wilderness Congress, Spain, 2013; Plenary Lecture (one of four) at the 2014 Australian Earth Sciences Convention (AESC2014) in Newcastle, NSW, 2014; Public Lecture at the Newcastle Museum, 2014; Invited Panel Member on the Q/A styled public forum Saving our Species Congress Event, Sydney Olympic Park, 2014; Invited to give keynote address at the World Wildlife Fund’s 9th Annual Kathryn Fuller Science for Nature Symposium, Washington DC, 2015; Featured Lecture for the National Geographic Society on Kangaroo Island, 2015 (October); research paper to be delivered (as a poster) to Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual meeting, Dallas, Texas, 2015 (October); Kelkari Lecture on Keeping Native Animals as Pets, Kuringai Chase Alive naturalist association, 2015 (November); coordinator of Plenary discussion for RZSNSW symposium 8 November, 2015; etcetera; Plenary speaker at Palaeontology Down Under 2 Conference, Adelaide, 10 July, 2016; Invited speaker at International Bat Resarch Conference in Durban, Africa, August 2016; invited keynote speaker at Pakistan International Congress of Zoology, Faisalabad, Pakistan, Feb./March 2017—but for security reasons did not attend; Key Note speaker at Science in the Pub event in Cairns, Qld, focused on the relationships of the Riversleigh and Wet Tropics World Heritage areas, March 2017; Key Note speaker in Mount Isa, July 2017; Key Note speaker at National Geographic Explorers meeting, Sydney, November, 2017 and April 2018; Invited speaker at Messel Symposium in Darmstadt, Germany, November 2017; Keynote speaker for the Australian Geoscience Council Convention, Adelaide, October 2018; presenter of poster in ‘The Past is a Foreign Country’ symposium on the value of the fossil record for conservation, held by the Royal Society in London, January 2019; invited lecture for National Geographic Explorers expedition to Australia and New Zealand April 2019; invited to give keynote address in 25th Anniversary of the World Heritage Listing of Riversleigh, at Adel’s Grove, Queensland, July, 2019; invited to give the keynote Public Lecture for Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Conference in Brisbane, October 2019; Invited to give public lecture in Hobart on behalf of the Australian Academy of Science, August, 2019; invited to give lecture in Science Festival in the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, August, 2019; Invited to give public lecture for the Wildlife Preservation Society, Brisbane, December, 2019; etcetera.

Grants received for research (abbreviated list)

Since 1978, ~$7,000,000 has been awarded to support our research group’s investigations into the fossil deposits of Riversleigh, Murgon and Bluff Downs, Queensland; Lightning Ridge, New South Wales; Tirari Desert, South Australia; Miocene deposits in New Zealand; Paleocene deposits of Patagonia, Argentina; Miocene amber deposits, Queensland.

Competitive federal & state government grants:

Fulbright Foundation awards; Australian Department of Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories grants; Australian Research Council (regular large grants continuously since 1978 including Program Grants; 1995-1997, second largest individual ARC grant received by UNSW; 1998-2000, largest such grant received by UNSW; 2001-2003, large ARC Grant at UNSW c.$190k/yr; 2002-2004 ARC Grant between Australian Museum, Uni of Sydney and Qld Nat Parks & Wildlife Service); series of ARC Discovery and Linkage Grants spanning 2004-2014; Australian National Estate Program Grants Scheme; Australian Museum (research grants); Queensland Museum (research grants); Department of Communication and the Arts (Visions Grant); DEST (Australia on CD Grants Scheme); Federal World Heritage Unit grants for research; etcetera.

Competitive grant funding in the last three years:

ARC DP130100197 (2013-15) S.J. Hand, M. Archer: $330,000; “Dark canaries: new multidisciplinary understanding about the origins, radiation and response to environmental change of Southern Hemisphere bats”

ARC LP100200486 (2010-13) M. Archer, S.J. Hand: $220,000; “Uncovering ancient landscapes with emerging technologies: integrating complex geospatial & fossil data to explore late Cenozoic environmental change”.

AINSE6731 2011 M. Archer, J. Woodhead, S.J. Hand, J. Hellstrom, M. Siversson, G. Jacobsen: $4200; “Determining the controversial age of the bone of an extinct kangaroo”.

National Geographic Society Research Grant (2013) M. Archer: $27,000; “Exploration into remote fossil-rich Cenozoic limestone terrains beyond the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, Queensland region of Riversleigh, Queensland, Australia”.

Companies established

  • Crossbow Enterprises Pty Ltd, Director with Norm Wilkinson, to conceive and develop documentaries arising in the first place from research done at Riversleigh;
  • Echidna Energy Pty Ltd, Founding Director with six other participants representing sectors of the mining industry, biochemistry of biofuels, economists/investment managers, inventors and harvester designers, to develop a program for the sustainable harvest Spinifex (see above).

Research Students

Current (as at 2020; co-supervised with Suzanne Hand, Karen Black et al.)

James Strong (PhD candidate) – Invertebrates and extraordinary preservation of soft tissues at Riversleigh
Antonia Parker (Hons & PhD) – Diversity and phylogenetic relationships of Riversleigh fossil possums
Tim Churchill (Hons) – A new dasyuromorphian from the Miocene of Riversleigh
Naomi Machin (MSc) – Analysis of the species of Burramys through the Riversleigh sequence
Chris Palmer (PhD) – Palaeoecology and community dynamics of Riversleigh mammals through time
Daniel Traub (MSc) – Preliminary assessment of the Hazel Creek Cretaceous biota from NW Queensland
Corey Bennetts (PhD) – Analysis of the Hazel Creek Early Cretaceous biota with a focus on condrichthyans and terrestrial vertebrates
Roy Farmer (PhD) – Analysis of the anuran and gekkonid fossil assemblages from Riversleigh
Bok Khoo (MPhil candidate) – New zygomaturine from the Plio/Pleistocene of North Queensland

Completed (most co-supervised with Suzanne Hand, Karen Black et al.)

Brian Mackness (PhD candidate) – Pliocene faunas of Australia—new taxa and reviews of others—thesis to be presented post mortem
Hayley Bates (PhD candidate) – Ecological constraints keeping Burramys parvus in the alpine zone
Michael Stein (PhD candidate) – Palaeobiodiversity, function & ecology of crocodiles in Australia
Camilo Lopez Aguirre (MSc candidate) – Colombian palaeomammalogy, bats and sloths
Ada Klinkhamer (Hons) – Plio/Pleistocene rodents in the genus Leggadina
Adam Morrell (Hons) – Evolution of Australian marsupials
Adrian di Qual, Adrian (MSc) – Investigation into the experiences of keeping Sugar Gliders as pets
Anna Gillespie (PhD) – Evolution and biodiversity of the Marsupial Lions
Anne Musser (PhD) – Evolution and morphology of monotremes
Anthony Smith (Hons) – Analysis of the relationships between dental morphology and feeding behaviours in Antechinus
Ben Kear (Hons) – Analysis of an associated skeleton of a balbarine kangaroo from Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland.
Bernie Cooke (PhD) – Evolution and palaeobiodiversity of the kangaroos
Bill Koutsamanis (Hons) – Testing the field efficiency of electronically recording frog calls
Blake Dickson (Hons) – Structure, function & evolution of the inner ear of marsupials
Cassandra Davies -- Analysis of postcranial morphology in Miocene bats from Riversleigh
Chris Palmer (Hons) – Biodiversity, ecology & evolution of Planigale marsupials
Daniel Natusch (MPhil) – Distribution and conservation of Green Pythons in Australia
David Read (PhD) – Ecology of species of Planigale in arid western New South Wales
Elizabeth Smith (PhD) – The evolution of Cretaceous turtles of Australia
Emma Hall (Hons) – The evolutionary diversity and relationships of Miocene koalas
Greg Richards (PhD) – Ecology of forest bats in eastern Australia
Hamish Craig (Hons) – Changes in the diet of Thylacoleo carnifex through life
Harry Parnaby (PhD) – Systematic revision in nyctophiline bats (Vespertilionidae, Chiroptera) in Australia
Hayley Bates (Hons) – The evolutionary diversity and history of Musky Rat-kangaroos
Isabelle Purdy (Hons) – Cats and Quolls: a comparison of experiences as domestic pets
Jacqueline Nguyen (Hons) – Dromornithid birds from the Riversleigh World Heritage deposits
Jacqueline Nguyen (PhD) – Palaeo history of passerine birds in Australia
Jeanette Muirhead (PhD) – The evolutionary history and ecology of bandicoots & thylacines
Jenni Brammall (Hons) – New Miocene species of Burramys and other small possums from Riversleigh, NW Queensland
Jess Lyons (MSc) – Research into the smuggling trade of Green Pythons in Indonesia
John Scanlon (PhD) – The diversity, ecology and evolution of Australian snakes
Julien Louys (PhD) – The history of the Pleistocene biotas of southeastern Asia
Karen Roberts (PhD) – The evolution and palaeodiversity of Australia’s ringtail possums
Kelly Carbury – Systematic revision of the species of pseudocheirid ringtails from Riversleigh, Queensland
Ken Aplin (PhD) – Structure and function of the marsupial basicranium
Kenny Travouillon (PhD) – The palaeoecology of Australia’s evolving environments
Kerry Nettle (Hons) – Diversity and relationships of ringtail possums in the Oligo-Miocene
Kirsten Crosby (PhD) – The evolution of Australia’s small possums
Lorraeme Shume (Hons) – Postcranial anatomy of Nimbacinus dicksoni
Lyndall Dawson (PhD) – History of mammals in the Wellington Cave deposits of NSW
Mina Bassarova (Hons) – Diversity and relationships of ringtail possums in the genus Paljara
Mina Bassarova (PhD) – Use of structural & functional morphology in palaeoecology
Miranda Gott (Hons) – Notoryctids from the Riversleigh World Heritage fossil deposits.
Paul Willis (PhD) – Evolution of Australia’s crocodilians
Peter Ampt (PhD) – Research into strategies for sustainably harvesting kangaroos
Pip Brewer (PhD) – Evolution of Australia’s wombats from the Oligocene to the Pliocene
Prue Fabian (Hons) – Evolutionary diversity of acrobatid possums from Riversleigh
Rebecca Pian (Hons) – Revision of ornithorhynchids and new species of Obdurodon
Rick Arena (PhD) – Geology of the World Heritage area of Riversleigh, NW Queensland
Robin Beck (PhD) – Evolutionary relationships of Australia’s most distinctive marsupials
Scott Hocknull (PhD) – History of mammal evolution in the Pleistocene of Queensland
Shimona Kealy (Hons) – Molecular/morphological phylogeny of carnivorous marsupials
Steve Salisbury (Hons) – A new early Eocene crocodile from Murgon, southeastern Queensland
Steve Salisbury (PhD) – Evolution of Australia’s Eocene crocodilians
Steve Van Dyck (PhD) – Systematics and ecology of dasyurids in the genus Antechinus
Steve Wroe (Hons) – Revision of the propleopine macropodoids from the Riversleigh World Heritage deposits
Steve Wroe (PhD) – Evolution of Australia’s carnivorous marsupials
Suzanne Hand (Hons) – Use of electrophoresis to test understanding about species diversity in the vespertilionid genus Miniopterus
Tim Flannery (PhD) – Evolutionary history and systematics of early kangaroos
Troy Myers (Hons) – Ilariids from the fossil deposits of Riversleigh and biocorrelation with late Oligocene deposits in central Australia
Troy Myers (PhD) – Evolution of vombatiform marsupials from Riversleigh, NW Queensland
Tyler King (Hons) – New emballonurid bats from the Pliocene of Riversleigh
Vera Weisbecker (PhD) – Structural morphology and function in the marsupial forelimb
Walter Boles (PhD) – Evolutionary history of Australian birds with new taxa described from Murgon and Riversleigh
Zac Kirkham (Hons) – Cranial and dental description of a new Miocene kangaroo from Encore Site, Riversleigh, NW Queensland

University Teaching

Postgraduate supervision of research projects has been carried out in almost all fields of vertebrate palaeontology (most taxonomic groups), stratigraphy, palaeoecology and biocorrelation. Most of the PhD and Honours students are co-supervised by Dr Suzanne Hand. Postgraduate projects focused on living animals have included field ecology of small desert marsupials, molecular and morphological systematics of bats, electrophoretic and morphological systematics of marsupials, phylogenetic systematics of New Guinean mammals, functional dental morphology, feeding behaviours of marsupials, basicranial functional morphology, forest ecology of bats, and snake and bird phylogenetic systematics.

Almost all of the students supervised have gone on to PhD or postdoctoral research programs or have jobs in universities, museums and other institutions. Most have gone on to illustrious careers (although not always in science) such as Paul Willis (scientist, ABC Science Unit then Director of the Royal Institute of Australia), Kerry Nettle (Greens Senator), Walter Boles (Curator of Birds, Australian Museum), Ken Aplin (CSIRO Senior Research Scientist), Scott Hocknull (Young Australian of the Year, Curator of Fossils at the Queensland Museum), Tim Flannery (Australian of the Year; Climate Commissioner), Mina Bassarova (World Wildlife Fund), Stephen Salisbury (senior academic in the University of Queensland), Pip Brewer (palaeontologist in the Natural History Museum, London), Steve Wroe (Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship; senior position in University of New England), Robin Beck, Postdoc in the American Museum of Natural History; academic in Salford Univ., England); etcetera. Common denominators in the success of most are the graduate attribute skills they picked up during their time at UNSW including science communication.

Current undergraduate teaching: BIOS1101 Evolution & Functional Biology; BIOS2061 Vertebrate Zoology; BIOS1301 Ecology, Sustainability and Environmental Science; GEOS1211 Environmental Earth Science; GEOS2071 Life Through Time; GENS1004 Science & Cinema; SCIF1201 Advanced Science Seminar; SCIF2041 Research Internship.