Associate Professor Scott Mooney
Deputy Head of School | Associate Professor
Field of Research: 
Environmental change of the late Holocene and human impacts
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 8063

Room 543C, D26 Building
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Research Interests & Current Projects

·  Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and palaeoecology

·  Environmental change of the late Pleistocene and Holocene

·  Past climate change and variability

·  Human environmental associations and impacts

·  Using the past as a source of information for contemporary environmental issues and natural resource management

My research primarily concerns reconstructing aspects of past environments and environmental change with a particular focus on human impacts. This includes investigating the fire (pre-)history of the humid environments of eastern Australia, primarily via the use of high resolution (macro-) charcoal analyses. In any explanation of how fire has varied through time both humans and climate must be considered (and potentially any complex inter-relationships between these factors). This means the research has obvious links with the palaeoclimate community, and with archaeology to examine changes in human systems in the prehistoric period.

Like all my research, the fire history project aims to provide a longer temporal perspective than what is afforded by historic (written) records. The research to date includes some surprising results, potentially questioning some of the common assumptions behind 'fire-stick farming'.

I currently have plans to take on 1-2 more PhD students in the next year. Students with a strong interest in research in any of the above areas should contact me via email to discuss potential projects.

See also:


 Research Students

Len Martin (PhD candidate): The sandstone swamps of the Sydney Basin as a source of palaeoenvironmental information (Joint supervision with Professor James Goff)

Sindy Luu (Masters candidate) (Joint supervision with Dr Judith Field).



GEOS1701: Environmental Systems and Processes (Lecturer)

GEOS2711: Australian Climate and Vegetation (Lecturer)

GEOS3761: Environmental Change (Course Coordinator)



McGlynn G., Mooney S.D. and Taylor D. (2013) Palaeoecological evidence for Holocene environmental change from the Virunga volcanoes in the Albertine Rift, central Africa.Quaternary Science Reviews 61: 32-46.

Mooney S.D., Harrison S.P., Bartlein P.J. and Stevenson J. (2012) The Prehistory of Fire in Australasia. In: R.A. Bradstock, A.M. Gill and R.J. Williams (Eds) Flammable Australia: Fire Regimes, Biodiversity and Ecosystems in a Changing World, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, pp. 3-25.

Mooney S.D., Harrison S.P., Bartlein P.J., Daniau A.-L., Stevenson J., Brownlie K., Buckman S., Cupper M., Luly J., Black M., Colhoun E., D’Costa D., Dodson J., Haberle S., Hope G.S., Kershaw P., Kenyon C., McKenzie M. and Williams N. (2011) Late Quaternary fire regimes in Australia. Quaternary Science Reviews 30: 28-46.

Mooney S. and Tinner W. (2011) The analysis of charcoal in peat and organic sediments. Mires and Peat, Volume 7 (A Review of Protocols in Peat Palaeoenvironmental Studies) Article 09, 1–18.

Black M.P., Mooney S.D. and Attenbrow V. (2008) Implications of a 14,200 year contiguous fire record for understanding human-climate relationships at Goochs Swamp, New South Wales, Australia. The Holocene 18(3): 437-447.

Black M.P. and Mooney, S.D. (2007) The response of Aboriginal burning practices to population levels and El Nino-Southern Oscillation events during the mid- to late-Holocene: a case study from the Sydney Basin using charcoal and pollen analysis.Australian Geographer 38: 37-52.

Mooney S.D., Webb M. and Attenbrow V. (2007) A comparison of charcoal and archaeological information to address the influences on Holocene fire activity in the Sydney Basin. Australian Geographer 38: 177-194.

Mooney S.D. and Maltby E.L. (2006) A synthesis of two proxy records revealing the late Holocene fire history at a site on the central coast of New South Wales, Australia.Austral Ecology 31:682-695.

Bennett, P. and Mooney S.D. (2003) A palynological reconstruction of pre-European riparian vegetation at Wollombi, New South Wales and its application to stream bank management and revegetation. Ecological Management and Restoration 4(1): S69-78.

Mooney S.D. (1997) A fine-resolution palaeoclimatic reconstruction of the last 2000 years, from Lake Keilambete, south-eastern Australia. The Holocene 7(2): 139-149.