John Tibby

Associate Professor John Tibby

Associate Prof/Reader

School of Social Sciences

Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Economics

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

My research focuses on two main areas that are outlined more fully under "research." These are:

1. Understanding past climatic and environmental variability and change by examining indicators laid down in lake sediments

2. Using diatoms - a type of aquatic algae - to assess stream ”health”

My work involves multiple investigators and often involves collaboration with government agencies in either Queensland or South Australia. The bulk of this work is undertaken along with, or by, PhD students and descriptions of their research appear at the bottom of the "My Research" tab.

My primary research focus is the environmental and climate history of south-east Queensland by examining lake sediment records from North Stradbroke Island/Minjerribah and, to a lesser extent, K'Gari (Fraser Island).  Other work, including that of PhD students, without whom most of this would not be possible, is described below.  This work is focussed on ensuring that environmental policy is formulated with a strong evidence base.

The North Stradbroke Island research was supported by ARC Linkage project (LP0990124) and ARC Discovery projects (DP150103875 & DP190102782).  The main aims of this work were to i) understand the Holocene climate history of south-east Queensland and ii) understand the long-term environmental in the region. In relation to ii) PhD student Haidee Cadd developed ~100,000-year long climate records that are independent of changes in catchment hydrology.  These will be compared to pollen-based records of vegetation change and Sporomiella as a record of the presence of megaherbivores.

A number of publications have emerged from this work with highlights including a record of past rainfall covering the last 7,500 years (Barr et al. 2019) and long records of environmental change developed by PhD students from i) Welsby Lagoon (Cadd et al. 2018): ii) Fern Gully Lagoon (Kemp et al. 2021) and iii) Brown Lake (Lewis et al. 2021).  This work would not have been possible without the collaboration with colleagues from Queensland Government.  

My other projects include:

The environmental history of the lower Murray River lakes (Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert) and The Coorong (e.g. Tibby et al. 2022). This work focuses on understanding the natural salinity regime of these internationally significant wetlands.  This work is in the context of environmental water allocations that provide water to the lower lakes to maintain them as fresh. Our work, which combines analysis of diatoms preserved in the sediments with hyrdological modelling shows that the lakes have been predominantly fresh through most of their history.  Our ongoing work from Lake Alexandrina aims to infer the natural flow history of the River Murray.

Analysis of diatoms in the South Australian stream, to improving water quality guidelines.  The project is in collaboration with the Environment Protection Authority (SA) and mostly involves sampling using rope as an artificial substrate (Richards et al. 2020).  Together with the EPA we have been using experimental streams to assess the affect of salinity, shade and sediment on diatom communities (Tibby et al. 2020; Frost et al. 2023). Our work indicates that stricter salinity guidelines are needed. 

Understanding the history of New Zealand's lakes as a part of the Lakes 380 project. This massive project has analysed the sediment record from 380 New Zealand lakes. My involvement is mostly via PhD student Dr Julia Short who published a paper on the history of Lake Oporoa in the southern North Island and how the sediment record can be used in conjunction with the local iwi desires to guide culturally acceptable restoration (Short et al. 2022).  

Using diatoms to infer the environmental history of the Naracoorte Caves in collaboration with Dr Liz Reed, Dr Lee Arnold, Associate Professor Nigel Spooner (Adelaide) and many others.  Honours student Rianna Giddens is examined the relationship between diatom composition and light, moisture and other variables in the caves and on the surrounding soils. Rianna also examined the diatoms from Blanche Cave, while I have examined the record from Bat Cave.

Analysis of diatom-water quality relationships on Cape York Peninsula for the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts (Qld). This project aims to better understand the influence of water quality on the biota in springs on Cape York. This will ultimately contribute to water resource planning on The Cape.

The investigation of rates of sedimentation in waterholes in the Moonie River (south-west Queensland) and the environmental history of Burdekin River wetlands. These projects are funded by, and conducted in collaboration with, Queensland's Department of Science and Environment.

The environmental history of western Victorian lakes (in particular Lake Surprise and Tower Hill) in collaboration with Cameron Barr, Jonathan Tyler, Chris Turney, Peter Kershaw and many others. PhD student Georgina Falster had published a study on the climate history of the late glacial (30,000-10,000 years ago), see Barr et al. (2024) and Falster et al. (2018) in publications.


Consulting and contract research

My colleagues and I have undertaken a wide variety of consultancy projects for clients in most Australian states. These have mainly focused on the effect of mine drainage and waste water discharge on stream algal communities.  We commonly utilise the Diatom index for bioassesment of Australian rivers (Chessman et al. 2007) as tool. Please contact me for pricing.





GEOG 1102 - Physical Geography and human impacts on the environment

GEOG 2142 - Climate Change 

GEOG 3125 - Environmental Policy and Management Internship


  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2024 Principal Supervisor What strategies can local government and non-government bodies implement in the Adelaide region to further support and develop food sovereignty in the local food system? Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Kahlia Clarke
    2023 Co-Supervisor Understanding multi-decadal drought risk in southern and south-eastern Australia using oxygen isotopes and lake sediments Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Mahfuzur Rahman
    2023 Co-Supervisor Human emotional impacts on invasive/pest animal management Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mrs Sanaz Bahar
    2022 Co-Supervisor Reconstruction of the East Asian Monsoon through the last ~140,000 years- Isotope palaeoclimatology of Lake Suigetsu, Japan. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Vanessa Nowinski
    2021 Co-Supervisor The development and application of weather and intra-annual scale features in climate proxy records for understanding future climate risk Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Darren Andrew Ray
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2021 - 2023 Co-Supervisor Holocene hydroclimate variability in south-eastern Australia; validation and application of cellulose oxygen isotopes at Lake Surprise, Victoria, Australia. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Asika Dharmarathna
    2019 - 2022 Principal Supervisor The changing water quality of New Zealand’s lakes in response to anthropogenic activities Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Julia Elizabeth Short
    2018 - 2023 Principal Supervisor The Hydroclimatic History of Subtropical Australia Inferred from Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) Lake Sediments Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Charles Reynolds Maxson IV
    2017 - 2022 Co-Supervisor Luminescence dating and geochemistry constraints on late Pleistocene hydrological and ecological change for north-eastern Australia Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Richard John Lewis
    2017 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Climate Change Adaptation Benefits of Decentralised Renewable Energy Technologies in the Nepali Mountains Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Govinda Pathak
    2016 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Climate, humans, fire and megafauna - Key drivers of Australian subtropical vegetation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Haidee Rochelle Cadd
    2016 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Bioindicator monitoring and modelling for informing river health management Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Jawairia Sultana
    2015 - 2019 Co-Supervisor Reconstructing Australia's Late Quaternary Climates from the Geochemistry of Lake Sediments and Snail Shells Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Georgina Maja Falster
    2015 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Lake Sediment Archives of Late Holocene Climate Variability in Lutzow-Holm Bay, East Antarctica Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Rachel Claire Rudd
    2015 - 2020 Principal Supervisor A 210,000-year reconstruction of subtropical climates from Fern Gully Lagoon, North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah), Australia Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Christopher Wilde Kemp
    2008 - 2013 Co-Supervisor Coastal Vulnerability and Climate Change in Australia Public Risk Perceptions and Adaptation to Climate Change in Non Metropolitan Coastal Communities Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Christopher David Button
    2003 - 2010 Co-Supervisor Droughts and Flooding Rains: A Fine-Resolution Reconstruction of Climatic Variability in Western Victoria, Australia, over the Last 1500 Years Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Cameron Barr
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2022 - ongoing President Australasian Quaternary Association Executive Committee Australasian Quaternary Association Australia
    2021 - 2022 Vice-President Australasian Quaternary Association Executive Committee Australasian Quaternary Association Australia
  • Position: Associate Prof/Reader
  • Phone: 83135146
  • Email:
  • Fax: 83133772
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Napier, floor G
  • Org Unit: School of Social Sciences

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