Associate Professor John Tibby

Associate Professor John Tibby
 Position Senior Lecturer
 Org Unit Geography, Environment and Population
 Telephone +61 8 8313 5146
 Location Floor/Room G 39 ,  Napier Building ,   North Terrace
  • Biography/ Background

    John Tibby' s current research focuses on the history of wetlands on North Stradbroke Island (NSI), south-east Queensland and the history of the Lower Murray River lakes, South Australia.  Additionally his work focusses on the relationship between diatoms and water quality in modern streams.

    The North Stradbroke Island project was supported by an ARC Linkage grant (LP0990124) with the Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts and Sibelco as partners. Drs Jon Marshall and Glenn McGregor are the DSITIA partner investigators. Dr Patrick Moss (University of Queensland), Dr Galen Halverson (McGill University) and Dr Jennie Fluin (Geology and Geophysics, Adelaide) are the other university investigators. Dr Cameron Barr is the postdoctoral fellow on the project. Other collaborators include Dr Andrew Henderson (University of Newcastle, UK) and Professor Melanie Leng (Chair of Isotope Geosciences, School of Geography, University of Nottingham).

    Key published findings:                               

    Blue Lake, an 11 m deep clear water low nutrient status lake on North Stradbroke Island, has been highly stable (both water level and water quality) for the last 7,500 years.  See Barr et al. (2013) listed below for more details.

    There are a number of wetlands on North Stradbroke Island which persisted through the Last Glacial Maximum, a situation highly unusual in Australia.  Vegetation histories from three of these sites have been published (Moss et al. 2013) and indicate that woodland vegetation persisted on the island through the last 40,000 years.

    18 Mile Swamp, a coastal wetland which lies behind the dunes on the eastern part of the island, is a relatively recent landscape feature.  Our work (Mettam et al. 2012) has shown that most of the swamp is less than 1,000 years old. 

    Ongoing research:

    In an unusual situation, leaves of Melaleuca quinquenervia are preserved in Holocene lake sediments of the perched lake, Swallow Lagoon. We are investigating the carbon isotope signature of these leaves and their potential to infer past rainfall variability. For details see Tibby et al. (in press) and my 2012 European Geophysical Union Abstract


    The lower Murray project is supported by an ARC Linkage grant (LP100100215) awarded to Dr Jennie Fluin and John Tibby, with the Department of Environment and Heritage and The South Australian Murray Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Board as partners. Ms Deborah Haynes (Earth and Environmental Science) works on the project.


    Modern diatom-environment relationships are being studied in two major projects, along with a number of consultancies.  The first major project, supported by the Environment Protection Authority (SA), is analysis of diatoms growing on artificial substrates deployed in the streams of south-east South Australia, with the aim of improving water quality guidelines for South Australia (for more details see The second project is 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.

    Over the past year consultancy projects have been undertaken for a number of clients.  These have mainly focussed on analysing the effect of mine drainage on stream algal communities.

    Other ongoing projects include 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, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts


    Video of me explaining sediment coring to students:


    Academic history 

    I undertook my Ph.D. at Monash University, supervised by Prof Peter Kershaw developing a diatom-based model for inferring the history of nutrient levels (total phosphorus) in water storage reservoirs (Tibby 2004). He has researched and lectured in the UK at Loughborough University and University College London (Environmental Change Research Centre). He was a research associate for Prof Peter Kershaw (Monash) on the environmental history of the Maritime Continent and for Dr Peter Gell (Adelaide) and Dr Peter Wallbrink (CSIRO Land and Water) on the sources and effect of nutrient pollution in the upper Torrens River catchment (SA).


    From 2005-2007 I was an Australian Postdoctoral Fellow researching the history of Eastern Australian coastal lakes (Australian Research Council Discovery Project DP0558887 "European impact on Eastern Australian coastal lakes: understanding pre-impact conditions and post-settlement modification").


    Other personal information

    Google Scholar:

    My blog:

    SKYPE: johntibby

    Twitter: john_tibby

    Adelaide University Geography Facebook group: (for past and present staff, students and associates)


    Useful websites for students (NB: under development)


    Postgraduate   (in particular the excellent worksheets)

  • Qualifications

    BA (Hons, 1st Class) Monash, 1992.

    PhD, Monash, 2000. Thesis title: "The development of a diatom-based model for inferring total phosphorus and application to Burrinjuck Reservoir, southern New South Wales, Australia"

  • Teaching Interests


    GEOG 1102-Footprints on a Fragile Planet (semester 1)

    GEOG 2140-Environmental Change (semester 2) (with Douglas Bardsley co-ordinator: John Tibby)

    GEOG 2200 - Environmental Policy and Management Internship (semester 2)


    In alternating years:

    GEOG 2142-Climate Change (semester 2) (with  Douglas Bardsley)

    GEOG 2137-Biogeography and Biodiversity Conservation (semester 2) (co-ordinator: Douglas Bardsley)


    Supervision: Ph.D.


    Leahy, Paul. (2008). Long-term perspectives on Yarra River Billabongs (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): neolimnological and palaeolimnological evidence. Monash University (principal supervisor; Peter Kershaw, Monash).

     Barr, Cameron. (2010). Droughts and flooding rains:  A fine-resolution reconstruction of climate variability in western Victoria, Australia, over the last 1,500 years (principal supervisor; Peter Gell, Federation).

    Button, Chris (2013) Coastal vulnerability and climate change in Australia: public risk perceptions and adaptation to climate change in non-metropolitan coastal communities (principal supervisor; Nick Harvey, Adelaide).

  • Publications

    Refereed publications 2005-present


    Tibby, J., Barr, C., McInerney, F.A., Henderson, A.C.G., Leng, M.J., Greenway, M., Marshall, J.C., McGregor, G.B. and Tyler, J.J. (in press). Carbon isotope discrimination in leaves of the common  paperbark tree, Melaleuca quinquenervia, as a tool for quantifying past tropical and subtropical rainfall. Global Change Biology.


    Rudd, R.C., Tyler, J.J., Tibby, J., Yokoyama, Y. and Takano, Y. (in press). A diatom inferred record of lake hydrological variability during the last 900 years in Lützow-Holm Bay, East Antarctica Quaternary Science Reviews.


    Chang, J.C., Shulmeister, J., Woodward, C., Steinberger, L., Tibby, J., Barr, C. A chironomid-inferred summer temperature reconstruction from subtropical Australia during the last glacial maximum (LGM) and the last deglaciation. Quaternary Science Reviews 122, 282-292.


    Barr, C., Tibby, J., Gell, P., Tyler, J., Zawadzki, A. & Jacobsen, G.E. (2014) Climate variability in south-eastern Australia over the last 1500 years inferred from the high-resolution diatom records of two crater lakes. Quaternary Science Reviews, 95, 115-131.

    Nursey-Bray, M., Fergie, D., Arbon, V., Irabinna-Rigney, L., Palmer, R., Tibby, J., Harvey, N., Hackworth, L. & Stuart, A. (2014) Indigenous adaptation to climate change: the Arabana In: J. Palutikof & J. Barnett & S. Boulter & D. Rissik (Eds). Practical studies in climate change adaptation. Wiley-Blackwell, in press.

    Wilkinson, I.P., Poirier, C., Head, M.J., Sayer, C.D. & Tibby, J. (2014) Microbiotic signatures of the Anthropocene in marginal marine and freshwater palaeoenvironments. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 395: 185-219.

    Barr, C.S., Tibby, J., Marshall, J.C., McGregor, G.B., Moss, P.T., Halverson, G.P. & Fluin, J. (2013). Combining monitoring, models and palaeolimnology to assess ecosystem response to environmental change at monthly to millennial timescales: the stability of Blue Lake, North Stradbroke Island, Australia. Freshwater Biology 58(8): 1614-1680.

    Moss, P., Tibby, J., Petherick, L.M., McGowan, H.A. and Barr, C. (2013). Late Quaternary Vegetation History of North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, eastern Australia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 74: 257-272.

    Petherick, L., Bostock, H., Cohen, T.J., Fitzsimmons, K., Tibby, J., Fletcher, M.-S., Moss, P., Reeves, J., Mooney, S., Barrows, T., Kemp, J., Jansen, J., Nanson, G. and Dosseto, A. (2013). Climatic records over the past 30 ka from temperate Australia - a synthesis from the Oz-INTIMATE workgroup. Quaternary Science Reviews, 74: 58-77.

    Tibby J. (2012) The Younger Dryas: Relevant in the Australian region? Quaternary International 253: 47-54.

    Tibby, J., Penny, D., Kershaw, A.P. and Leahy, P.J. (2011). Vegetation and water quality responses to Holocene climate variability in Lake Purrumbete, Western Victoria. Terra Australis 43: 359-373.

    Mettam, P.; Tibby, J., Barr, C.; Marshall, J.C. (2011). Development of Eighteen Mile Swamp, North Stradbroke: A palaeolimnological approach. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 117: 119-131.

    Tibby J. and Taffs, K. (2011). Palaeolimnology in eastern and southern Australian estuaries.  Journal of Paleolimnology, 46(4): 503-510.

    Dick J., Haynes D., Tibby J., Garcia A. and Gell P. (2011). A history of aquatic plants in the Coorong, a Ramsar-listed coastal wetland, South Australia. Journal of Paleolimnology, 46(4): 623-635.

    Haynes D., Skinner R., Tibby J., Cann J. and Fluin J. (2011). Diatom and foraminifera relationships to water quality in The Coorong, South Australia, and the development of a diatom-based salinity transfer function. Journal of Paleolimnology, 46(4): 543-560.  

    Leyden E., Tibby, J., Garcia A. and Zawadski A. (2011). Unexpected post-settlement freshening and increase in charophytes in Bombah Broadwater (Myall Lakes, New South Wales, Australia). Journal of Paleolimnology, 46(4): 637-647.

    Tibby, J., Gell, P., Hancock, G. and Clark, M. (2010). Complex reservoir sedimentation revealed by an unusual combination of sediment records, Kangraoo Creek reservoir, South Australia. Journal of Paleolimnology 43: 535-549.

    Bennion, H., Sayer, C.D., Tibby, J. and Carrick, H.J. (2010). Diatoms as indicators of environmental change in shallow lakes. In: E. F. Stoermer and J. P. Smol. (Eds.) The Diatoms: Applications for the Earth and Environmental Sciences. New York, Cambridge University Press, pp. 152 – 173. 

    Philibert A., Tibby, J. and Williams M.A.J. (2010). A Middle Pleistocene diatomite from the western piedmont of Jebel Marra volcano, Darfur, western Sudan, and its hydrological and climatic significance. Quaternary International 216: 145-150.

    Fluin J., Tibby, J. and Gell P. (2010). The palaeolimnological record from lake Cullulleraine, lower Murray River (south-east Australia): implications for understanding riverine histories. Journal of Paleolimnology 43: 309-322.

    Gell, P., Fluin, J., Tibby, J., Hancock, G., Harrison, J., Zawadzki, A., Haynes, D., Khanum, S., Little, F. and Walsh, B. (2009). Anthropogenic acceleration of sediment accretion in lowland floodplain wetlands, Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. Geomorphology 108(1-2): 122-126.

    David, B., Roberts, R.G., Magee, J., Mialanes, J., Turney, C., Bird, M., White, C., Fifield, L. K. & Tibby, J. (2007). Sediment mixing at Nonda Rock: Investigations of stratigraphic integrity at an early archaeological site in northern Australia, and implications for the human colonisation of the continent. Journal of Quaternary Science, 22(5): 449-479.

    Fluin, J., Gell, P.A., Haynes, D., Tibby, J. & Hancock, G. (2007). Paleolimnological evidence for the independent evolution of neighbouring terminal lakes, the Murray Darling Basin, Australia. Hydrobiologia, 591(1) 117-134.

    Gell, P., Fritz, S. Battarbee R. & Tibby, J. (2007). LIMPACS – Human and climate interactions with lake ecosystems: setting research priorities in the study of the impact of salinisation and climate change on lakes, 2005 – 2010. Hydrobiologia, 591(1): 99-101.

    Gell, P., Tibby, J., Baldwin, D., Little, F. & Hancock, G. (2007). The impact of regulation and salinisation on floodplain lakes: the lower River Murray, Australia. Hydrobiologia 591(1): 135-146.

    Haynes, D., Gell, P., Tibby, J., Hancock, G. & Goonan, P. (2007). Against the tide: the freshening of naturally saline coastal lakes, southeastern South Australia. Hydrobiologia 591(1): 165-183.

    Tibby, J. & Haberle, S.G. (2007). A late glacial to present diatom record from Lake Euramoo, wet tropics of Queensland, Australia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 251: 46-56.

    Tibby, J. & Tiller, D. (2007). Climate-water quality relationships in three Western Victorian (Australia) lakes 1984-2000. Hydrobiologia, 591(1): 219-234.

    Tibby, J., Gell, P.A., Fluin, J. & Sluiter, I. (2007). Diatom-salinity relationships in wetlands: assessing the influence of salinity variability on the development of inference models. Hydrobiologia 591(1): 207-218.

    Tibby, J., Lane, M.B. & Gell, P.A. (2007). Local knowledge as a basis for environmental management: a cautionary tale from Lake Ainsworth, northern New South Wales, Australia. Environmental Conservation, 34: 334-341.

    Tibby, J., Kershaw, A.P., Builth, H., Philibert, A. & White, C. (2006). Environmental change and variability in south-western Victoria: changing constraints and opportunities for occupation and land use. In: B. David, B. Barker and I.J. McNiven (Eds.). The Social Archaeology of Australian Indigenous Societies. Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press, pp. 254-269.

    Gell, P., Fluin, J., Tibby, J., Haynes, D., Khanum, S.I., Walsh, B., Hancock, G., Harrison, J., Zawadzki, A. & Little, F. (2006). Changing fluxes of sediments and salts as recorded in lower River Murray wetlands, Australia. International Association of Hydrological Sciences, 306: 416-424.

    Haberle, S.G., Tibby, J., Dimitriadis, S. & Heijnis, H. (2006). The impact of European occupation on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem dynamics in an Australian tropical rainforest. Journal of Ecology, 94: 987–1002.

    Turney, C.S.M., Kershaw, A.P., Lowe, J.J., van der Kaars, S., Johnston, R., Rule, S., Moss, P., Radke, L., Tibby, J., McGlone, M.S., Wilmshurst, J.M., Vandergoes, M.J., Fitzsimons, S.J., Bryant, C., James, S., Branch, N.P., Cowley, J., Kalin, R.M., Ogle, N., Jacobsen, G. & Fifield, L.K. (2006). Climatic variability in the southwest Pacific during the Last Termination (20-10 kyr BP). Quaternary Science Reviews, 25: 886-903.

    Barry, M.J., Tibby, J., Tsitsalis, A., Mason, B., Kershaw, P. & Heijnis, H. (2005). A long term lake salinity record and its relationship to Daphnia populations. Archiv Für Hydrobiologie, 163: 1-23.

    Gell, P., Tibby, J., Fluin, J., Leahy, P., Reid, M., Adamson, K., Bulpin, S., MacGregor, A., Wallbrink, P. & Walsh, B. (2005). Accessing limnological change and variability using fossil diatom assemblages, south-east Australia. River Research and Applications, 21: 257-269.

    Leahy, P.J., Tibby, J., Kershaw, A.P. & Heijnis, H. (2005). The impact of European settlement on Bolin Billabong, a Yarra River floodplain lake, Melbourne. River Research and Applications, 21: 131-149.

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Entry last updated: Wednesday, 3 Jan 2018

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