Dr Rebecca Jenner Hamilton

Research Associate
Department of Archaeology

Main Focus

My research uses applied geographical tools, namely palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, sedimentology and environmental history, to inform the conservation of resilient socio-ecological landscapes in a changing world. I am particularly interested in studying the long-term interactions between climate, humans and fire in tropical forest and wetland ecosystems.

Curriculum Vitae

Rebecca completed her Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Sydney, Australia in 2017. Her thesis used palaeoenvironmental techniques to examine the long-term impact of climate and fire on the resilience of south-east Asian tropical monsoon forests over thousands of years. The results of the project feed into a broader examination of how biogeographic factors and human disturbance can contribute to the long-term stability of sub-tropical forest ecosystems.

Between 2017 and 2019, Rebecca worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian National University on an Australian Research Council funded project ‘The pace and rhythm of climate: 600,000 years in biological hotspot’ under CI J. Stevenson. Her research focused on using pollen and charcoal analysis to reconstruct the floristic and fire history of Sulawesi’s lowland tropical rainforest over a million years. This work presents the longest terrestrial record of forest-fire dynamics from insular south-east Asia, and, along with complimentary research stemming from the ICDP-funded Towuti Drilling Project (lead by J. Russell) reveals the response of the Indo-Pacific-Warm-Pool to global climate change.

In 2019, Rebecca was awarded the Merewether Fellowship at the State Library of NSW (Australia). This project – ‘Conservation mapping: a case study of Sydney’s 19th century water reserves’ – marries historical and palaeoecological data to determine the actual history of remnant freshwater wetlands within Sydney’s urban core that are protected on the basis of their representing the pre-European landscape.  The results of this work contribute to a broader body of work challenging the notion that ecosystems can be protected on the basis of their “naturalness” – a common target used in the Western Hemisphere and Oceania.

Rebecca works on the ‘PANTROPOCENE’ project within the isoTROPIC Independent Research Group led by P. Roberts. She focuses on multi-proxy analysis of palaeoenvironmental records to examine the degree to which combined pre-colonial and colonial disturbance impacted the structure and composition of tropical rainforests in the bounds of the former Spanish Empire. She currently works out of the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.


Roberts, P., Douka, K., Tromp, M., Bedford, S., Hawkins, S., Bouffandeau, L., Ilgner, J., Lucas, M., Marzo, S., Hamilton, R., Ambrose, W., Bulbeck, D., Luu, S., Shing, R., Gosden, C., Summerhayes, G., Spriggs, M., 2022. Fossils, fish and tropical forests: prehistoric human adaptations on the island frontiers of Oceania. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 377, 20200495. 10.1098/rstb.2020.0495.

Findley, D.M., Bankoff, G., Barretto-Tesoro, G., Hamilton, R., Kay, A.U., Acabado, S., Amano, N., Kaplan, J.O., Roberts, P., 2022. Land Use Change in a Pericolonial Society: Intensification and Diversification in Ifugao, Philippines Between 1570 and 1800 CE. Frontiers in Earth Science 10. 10.3389/feart.2022.680926

Grono, E., Friesem, D.E., Lam, T.M.D., Nguyen, T.T., Hamilton, R., Bellwood, P., Piper, P.J., Denham, T., 2022. Microstratigraphy reveals cycles of occupation and abandonment at the mid Holocene coastal site of Thach Lac, northern-central Vietnam. Archaeological Research in Asia 31. 100396. 10.1016/j.ara.2022.100396

Hamilton, R., Wolfhagen, J., Amano, N., Boivin, N., Findley, D.M., Iriarte, J., Kaplan, J.O., Stevenson, J., Roberts, P. 2021. Non-uniform tropical forest responses to the ‘Columbian Exchange’ in the Neotropics and Asia-Pacific. Nature Ecology and Evolution. 5. 10.1038/s41559-021-01474-4

Fletcher, M-S., Hamilton, R., Dressler, W., Palmer, L. 2021. Indigenous knowledge and the shackles of wilderness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118. e2022218118. 10.1073/pnas.2022218118

Roberts, P., Hamilton, R., Piperno, D. 2021. Tropical forests as key sites of the “Anthropocene”: Past and present perspectives. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118. e2109243118. 10.1073/pnas.2109243118

Patalano, R., Hamilton, R., Finestone, E., Amano, N., Heddell-Stevens, P., Itambu, M., Petraglia, M., Roberts, P., 2021. Microhabitat Variability in Human Evolution. Frontiers in Earth Science 9. 10.3389/feart.2021.787669

Hamilton, R., Penny, D. & Hall, T. L. 2020. Forest, fire & monsoon: investigating the long-term threshold dynamics of south-east Asia’s seasonally dry tropical forests. Quaternary Science Reviews 238 10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106334

Hamilton, R. and Stevenson, J. 2020. The challenge of the cryptic tricolporate tropical pollen type: A case study from Sulawesi, Indonesia. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 273:104146. 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2019.104146

Hamilton, R., Stevenson, J. Li, B. & Bijaksana, S. 2019. A 16,000-year record of coupled climate-vegetation change from Wallacean lowland tropical forests. Quaternary Science Reviews. 224:105929 10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.105929

Hamilton, R., Penny, D. & Hua, Q. 2019. A 4700-year record of hydroclimate variability over the Asian monsoon intersection zone inferred from multi-proxy analysis of lake sediments. Global and Planetary Change. 174:92-104. 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2018.12.009

Hamilton, R., Hall, T., Stevenson, J. & Penny, D., 2019. Distinguishing the pollen of Dipterocarpaceae from the seasonally dry, and moist tropics of south-east Asia using light microscopy. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 263, 117-133. 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2019.01.012

Hall, T., Penny, D. & Hamilton, R. 2019. The environmental context of a city in decline: The vegetation history of a Khmer peripheral settlement during the Angkor period. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 24: 152-165. 10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.01.006

Hamilton, R., Brussel, T., Asena, Q. et al. 2018. Assessing the links between resilience, disturbance and functional traits in paleoecological datasets, PAGES Magazine26: 87. 10.22498/pages.26.2.87

Hall, T, Penny, D & Hamilton, R. 2018. Re-evaluating the occupation history of Koh Ker, Cambodia, during the Angkor period: A palaeo-ecological approach. PLOS ONE. 13: 1-25. 10.1371/journal.pone.0203962

Hamilton, R. and Penny, D. 2015. Ecological history of Lachlan Nature Reserve, Centennial Park, Sydney, Australia: A palaeoecological approach to conservation. Environmental Conservation. 42: 84-94. 10.1017/s0376892914000083

Birtles, P.J., Hore, J., Dean, M., Hamilton, R., Dahlenburg, J., Moore, J., and Bailey, M. 2013. Creating a Liveable City – The role of ecosystem services. Conference Proceedings: State of Australian Cities, Sydney, Australia 10.13140/2.1.4643.6167 

Media Articles

Fletcher, M-S., Palmer, L. Hamilton, R., Dressler, W. 2021. Indigenous knowledge and the persistence of the 'wilderness' myth. The Conversation. 1st October 2021. link to article

Hamilton, R. 2020. Deeper History: Science and history come together in conserving the swamplands of southern Sydney. Open Book Magazine. Summer 20|21. link to article

Hamilton, R., Penny, D., Gillespie, J. & Ingrey, S. 2020. Buried under colonial concrete, Botany Bay has even been robbed of its botany. The Conversation. 24th April, 2020.  link to article

Research Projects

  • PANTROPOCENE - finding Finding a Pre-industrial, Pan-tropical ‘Anthropocene' (ERC funded). Role: postdoctoral researcher under Dr. P. Roberts (PI). 
  • Conservation mapping: a case study of Sydney's 19th century water reserves (State Library of NSW funded) Role: 2019 Merewether Fellow.
  • The pace and rhythm of climate: 600,000 years in biological hotspot. (ARC/ICDP funded). Role: former postdoctoral researcher under PI A/Prof J. Stevenson (ICDP CI Prof J Russell)

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