As a Professor of Climate Science and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), my work goes beyond lecture halls and lab benches. Universities are amazing incubators of groundbreaking discoveries and fresh, transformative ideas that can shape our communities, drive new industries, and inspire and support our leaders to help create a better future. My passion is tackling the worrying decline in the state of our planet's health. Over the last 25 years I have undertaken research around the world, investigating environmental changes taking place from the poles to the tropics...not just to find out how to avoid the worst effects of global heating but also to understand how to restore our planet's biodiversity and ecosystems. To succeed, we will all need to work together, and at speed and scale. And to achieve this, researchers have a terrific responsibility to listen and share what we do; not just the headline discoveries, but how our work can be used to navigate an increasingly uncertain world.
‘If we teach only the findings and products of science—no matter how useful and inspiring they may be—without communicating its critical method, how can the average person possibly distinguish science from pseudoscience?’
CARL SAGAN (1934-1996)
We live in a world experiencing a rollercoaster of environmental changes. Humanity now faces the very real risk of passing one or more tipping points in the delicate balance of our climate system. These are points of no return, where changes in the climate system become self-perpetuating, with far-reaching consequences for all of us. And we really don't want to go there. I saw a dramatic example of this on a recent expedition to the West Antarctic in November-December 2022. This vast region holds enough water as ice that if it were all to melt, the world's sea level would rise on average by 4 metres. Thanks to support from Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE), we witnessed the early and dramatic break up of sea ice surrounding the frozen continent - by the end of the summer it had reached the lowest amount on record (so far), threatening the ice sheet itself. It's so clear that to stop the warming, we need to get carbon out of the atmosphere. The good news is we can sort this but we have to act, and fast.
To cut through the noise surrounding 'Fake News' and 'Alternative Facts', it's so important that the latest scientific thinking and solutions to the world's 'wicked problems' are shared as widely as possible. With Imagine Entertainment, iHeart Media, Awfully Nice, and an incredible lineup of inspirational guests, I am excited to be hosting a new podcast series called 'Unf*cking the Future' which explores the sobering climate reality our planet faces today and common–sense solutions that we can all take now to save it.
The new David Livingstone
The Saturday Times (UK)
I have published more than 240 research articles in leading journals (including 13 in Nature and Science), generating a h-index of 70 on Google Scholar (60 on Scopus and 72 on ResearchGate), and been cited in policies and patents around the world. These outputs put me on the 2018 Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher list, representing the 1% most cited scientists in the world. If you would like to learn more about my work, further details can be found on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Loop and Google Scholar. I also regularly write for The Conversation. My ORCID number is 0000-0001-6733-0993. Outside the University, I am a Non-Executive Director on both Cicada, the Sydney-based incubator of deep tech innovation, and the NSW Government’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to help deliver a thriving and healthy environment for the state of New South Wales. I am privileged to be a volunteer firefighter in the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS).
I have been incredibly fortunate to work at some amazing institutions, institutions that have supported us to share our work from around the world. With friends and colleagues, we have developed a number of virtual fieldtrips that are freely available online. Feel free to use any of these below for your own teaching (or if you just fancy exploring somewhere new!).
The Antarctic remains one of the last great unexplored regions on Earth. In spite of a century of discovery, the southern continent and vast surrounding ocean remain a unique place to learn about how our planet works. Iced In (Citadel, North America) and Shackled (Penguin Random House, Oceania) tells the story of the 2013-2014 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, a privately-funded expedition that aimed to extend over a hundred years of scientific endeavour in the region and communicate the value of science and exploration of this remote and pristine environment. Here I describe the latest scientific thinking from the frozen continent and our entrapment by a major breakout of decade-old sea ice during the Christmas period. We were extremely fortunate to have an amazing team of people on board. Chronicling our discoveries and experiences, I revisit famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's harrowing Antarctic expedition almost a century before when his ship, the Endurance, was trapped and ultimately lost to the ice, forcing his team to fight for survival on a vast and treacherous icescape for two years.
During the height of the Heroic Age of Exploration, the limits of our planet were pushed all the way to the South Pole and the door to Antarctica flung wide open. A frozen continent shaped by climatic extremes and inhabited by wildlife and vegetation unknown to science was being uncovered. Tales of endurance, self-sacrifice and technological innovation during 1912 laid the foundations for modern scientific exploration and inspired future generations. To celebrate the centenary of this groundbreaking work, 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica revisits the exploits of these different expeditions. Looking beyond the personalities and drawing on my own polar experience, I show how their discoveries marked the beginning of the end for traditional exploration. Making use of original and unpublished archival material and weaving in the latest scientific findings, I reveal why 1912 marked the dawn of a new age in understanding of the natural world, and show how we might reawaken the public's passion for discovery and exploration.
1912 was runner-up for 2013 The Bragg Prize Prize. Many thanks to the Skelton family estate and the University of Cambridge (Scott Polar Research Institute), for granting permission to use additional material in 1912.
Imagine a world of wildly escalating temperatures, apocalyptic flooding, devastating storms and catastrophic sea level rise. This might sound like a prediction for the future or the storyline of a new Hollywood blockbuster but it's something quite different: it's our past.
In a day and age when where we are bombarded with worrying forecasts for future climate, it seems hard to believe that such things could come to pass. Yet almost everywhere we turn, the landscape is screaming out that the world is a capricious place. The problem is if we don't tune in, the message is lost. We need to decipher the past and learn from it.
In Ice, Mud and Blood, I explore the changing climate and the risks facing us today as we continue to drive our planet to new extremes.
In May 2009, Ice, Mud and Blood was longlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books.
What is the Turin Shroud? When were the Pyramids built? Where are the branches on the human family tree? Why did the dinosaurs die out? How did the Earth take shape?
With questions like these, I show time is of the essence. Understanding how we pinpoint the past is crucial to putting the present in perspective and planning for the future.
In eleven chapters, each focusing on a well-known dating controversy (from the existence of King Arthur to the last Ice Age), I reveal the leg work behind the headlines. Bones, Rocks and Stars explains how written records, carbon, pollen, tree rings, constellations, and DNA sequencing can help archaeologists, paleontologists and geologists to 'tell the time'.