Associate Professor John Tibby

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

    John Tibby' s current research focuses on the climate and environmental history of south-east Queensland through study wetlands on North Stradbroke Island (NSI) and to a lesser extent Fraser Island 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 Discovery Project (DP150103875) and 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 (Tibby et al. 2017).  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. (2016) 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). I researched and lectured in the UK at Loughborough University and University College London (Environmental Change Research Centre). I was a research associate at Monash University reseraching the environmental history of the Maritime Continent and then at the University of Adelaide 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)See links on my blog:

  • 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

    GEOG 2140-Environmental Change

    GEOG 3300 - Environmental Policy and Management Internship

    GEOG 2142-Climate Change (with  Douglas Bardsley)

    GEOG 2137-Biogeography and Biodiversity Conservation (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

    See here for an up to date publication list


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Entry last updated: Thursday, 9 Aug 2018

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