Staff Directory

Assoc. Prof. Duncan Cook Name: Assoc. Prof. Duncan Cook
Associate Professor (Geography)
+617 3623 7158
Organisational Area
Faculty of Education and Arts
History & Archaeology (QLD)
Building(Bldg.206 - 1100 Nudgee Road, Banyo QLD 4014)-Level 2-Room2.12
Biographical Information

I am a Associate Professor in the School of Arts and Humanities, and I teach into both the Geography, Environment and Society major, and the Archaeology major. I have research expertise in environmental geochemistry, soils and landscape evolution, palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, geochronology and geoarchaeology, with most of my research today being focused on environments of the Global Tropics, and on the Maya lowlands of Mexico and Central America, in particular.

After graduating from the University of Sydney with Honours in Geomorphology, I was awarded the Henry Bertie and Florence Mabel Gritton Research Scholarship at Sydney to undertake PhD research developing long-term records of soil erosion on agricultural land in the Hunter Valley of NSW. Since then, I have held postdoctoral research positions at the Smithsonian Institution, Georgetown University  and the University of Glasgow, as well as spending four years as an environmental research scientist with the Defence Technology Agency of the New Zealand Defence Force.

Much of my research has focused on understanding the impact of societies on the physical environment during the last several thousand years. This has included studying the impact of the ancient Maya on their environment (study sites across Central America) and reconstructing past climates and environments in mainland SE Asia, Iceland and Scotland. Closer to home, my Australian and New Zealand research has focused on human-impacts on the environment, reconstructing histories of soil inorganic chemical pollution, fire impacts, and soil erosion, recent climate change and the impacts of climatic processes on landscapes and society today. I am a councilor of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, and a member of the PAGES GLoSS (Global Soil and Sediment transfers in the Anthropocene) working group. 


Cook, D.E., Beach, T. P., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Dunning, N. P., & Turner, S. D. (2022). Environmental legacy of pre-Columbian Maya mercury. Frontiers in Environmental Science 1675. Open access.

Cook, D.E. (2021). Anthropogenic environmental change on the frontiers of European colonisation in Australia, AD 1788&ndash1840. A reply to comments in Woodward (2020). Geomorphology 373.

Krause, S., Beach, T.P., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Cook, D., Bozarth, S.R., Valdez Jr, F. and Guderjan, T.H. (2021). Tropical wetland persistence through the Anthropocene: Multiproxy reconstruction of environmental change in a Maya agroecosystem. Anthropocene 34, 100284.
Cook. D.E. et al. (2019) Identificando entradas de cuevas en un paisaje kárstico forestal utilizando elevaciones del Lidar: Resultados preliminares de El Zotz, Guatemala. In, Proyecto Arqueológico El Zotz Informe No. 13 Temporada 2018. Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Instituto de Antropologías e Historia, Asociación Tikal, Guatemala City, 317-322.
Cook, D.E. (2019). Butzer 'Down Under': Debates on anthropogenic erosion in early colonial Australia. Geomorphology 331, 160-174.
Krause, S. Beach, T., Islebe, G., Cook, D.E., Doyle, C., Guderjan, T., Eshleman, S., Luzzadder-Beach, S. (2019). Wetland geomorphology and paleoecology near Akab Muclil, Rio Bravo floodplain of the Belize coastal plain. Geomorphology 331, 146-159.
Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Cook, D., Krause, S., Doyle, C., Eshleman, S., Wells, G., Dunning, N., Brennan, M.L., Brokaw, N. and Cortes-Rincon, M. (2018). Stability and instability on Maya Lowlands tropical hillslope soils. Geomorphology 305, 185-208.
Beach, T., Ulmer, A., Cook, D., Brennan, M.L., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Doyle, C., Eshleman, S., Krause, S., Cortes-Rincon, M. and Terry, R. (2018). Geoarchaeology and tropical forest soil catenas of northwestern Belize. Quaternary International 463, 198-217.
Gibson, C., Kolcker, N. and Cook, D. (2018). On 90 years of Australian Geographer, and beyond. Australian Geographer 49, 237-238.
Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium (CLCC) (2017). Quality Guidelines Playbook: Lessons Learned Through Contextualized Practice. UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) Publications, 1-32.
Cook, D., Beach, T. and Demarest, A. (2017). Soil and slaughter: a geoarchaeological record of the ancient Maya from Cancuén, Guatemala. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 15, 330-343.
Hua, Q., Cook, D.,  Fohlmeister, J., Penny, D., Bishop, P. and Buckman, S. (2017). Radiocarbon dating of a speleothem record of palaeoclimate for Angkor, Cambodia. Radiocarbon 57, 1873-1890.

Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Cook, D., Krause, S., Doyle, C., Eshleman, S.,  Wells, G., Dunning, N., Brennan, M.L., Brokaw, N., Cortes-Rincon, M., Hammond, G., Terry, R., Trein, D. and Ward, S. (2017). Stability and instability on Maya lowlands tropical hillslope soils. Geomorphology.

Beach, T., Ulmer, A., Cook, D., Brennan, M.L., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Doyle, C., Eshleman, S., Krause, S., Cortes-Rincon, M. and Terry, R. (2017). Geoarchaeology and tropical forest soil catenas of northwestern Belize. Quaternary International 463, 198-217.

Bishop, P., Jones, R., Cuenca-Garcia, C. and Cook, D. (2017) Lime burning in clamp kilns in Scotland's Western Central Belt: Primitive industry or simple but perfectly adequate technology? Industrial Archaeology Review 39, 38-58

Cook, D., Beach, T. and Demarest, A. (2017). Soil and slaughter: A geoarchaeological record of the ancient Maya from Cancuén, Guatemala. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 15, 330-343.

Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Dunning, N. and Cook, D. (2016). Climatic changes and collapses in Maya history. PAGES Magazine 24(2), 66-67.

Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Cook, D.E., Dunning, N., Kennett, D., Krause, S., Valdez, F. (2015). Ancient Maya impacts on the Earth's surface: An Early Anthropocene analog? Quaternary Science Reviews 124, 1-30. (Invited Review).

Cook, D.E. and Garrett, S.A. (2013). Somali piracy and the monsoon. Weather, Climate, and Society 5(4), 309-316.

Gale, S.J., Cook, D.E. and Dorrington, N.J. (2013). The eastern Australian magnetic inclination record: Dating the recent past and re-assessing the historical geomagnetic archive. The Holocene 23(3), 398-415.

Cook, D.E., Strong, P.A., Garrett, S.A. and Marshall, R.E. (2013). A small unmanned aerial system (UAS) for coastal atmospheric research: preliminary results from New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 43(2), 108-115.

Cook, D.E. (2012). Bamiyan Province climatology and temperature extremes in Afghanistan. DTA Report 343, NR 1601, 1-30. ISSN 1175-6594.

Cook, D.E., Garrett, S. and Rutherford, M. (2011). Climatic limitations on piracy in the Horn of Africa region, 2010-2011. Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Biometeorology.

Garrett, S., Cook, D.E. and Marshall, R.E. (2011). The Seabreeze 2009 experiment: investigating the impact of ocean and atmospheric processes on radar performance in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. Weather and Climate 31, 82-100.

Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Dunning, N. and Cook, D.E. (2008). Human and natural impacts on fluvial and karst systems of the Maya lowlands. Geomorphology 101, 308-331.

Cook, D.E. (2007). A 2000-year record of environmental change from Tocal Homestead Lagoon, eastern Australia. Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales 140, 22-23.

Beach, T., Dunning, N., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Cook, D.E. and Lohse, J. (2006). Impacts of the ancient Maya on soils and soil erosion in the central Maya lowlands. Catena 65, 166-178.

Cook, D.E., Kovacevich, B., Beach, T. and Bishop, R. (2006). Deciphering the inorganic chemical record of ancient human activity using ICP-MS: a reconnaissance study of late Classic soil floors at Cancuén, Guatemala. Journal of Archaeological Science 33, 628-640.

Gale, S.J. and Cook, D.E. (2006). The 210Pb chronology of deposition in Tocal Homestead Lagoon, eastern Australia. Quaternary Newsletter 110, 40-43.

Cook, D.E. and Gale, S.J. (2005). The curious case of the date of introduction of leaded fuel to Australia: implications for the history of lead pollution. Atmospheric Environment 39, 2553-2557.

Gale, S.J., Haworth, R.J., Cook, D.E. and Williams, N.J. (2004). Human impact on the natural environment in early colonial Australia. Archaeology in Oceania 39, 148-156.

Kovacevich, B., Cook, D.E. and Beach, T. (2004). Áreas de actividad doméstica en Cancuen: Perspectivas con base en datos Líticos y Geoquímicos. In, Laporte, J.P., Suasnávar, A.Cl. and Arroyo, B. (Eds.), XVI Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Gautemala. Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Ethnologia, Guatemala (in Spanish), 897-912.

Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Cook, D.E. and Lohse, J. (2003). Pre-Columbian aggradation and ancient Maya wetland sediments in Belize. In, Boschian, G. (Ed.) Soils and Archaeology. Felici Editore, Pisa.


Recent Conference Papers

Cook, D.E., Hua, Q., Penny, D.P., Bishop, P, and Fohlmeister, J. (2017). Last millennium climate and the ancient Khmer Empire: insights from a radiocarbon-dated speleothem record from southern Cambodia. Paper presented at the Association of American Geographers 2017 Annual Meeting in Boston, USA

Russo, R., Cook, D., Allen, K., Fletcher, M-S. (2017). Using King Billy Pine cohorts to detect major fire events in western Tasmania. Paper presented at the AMOS/MSNZ Conference and ANZ Climate Forum, Canberra, Australia, 7-10 February 2017.

Hua, Q., Cook, D.E., Penny, D.P. and Bishop, P. (2016). Radiocarbon dating of a young speleothem record of paleoclimate for Angkor, Cambodia. Paper presented at the 8th International Symposium on 14C & Archaeology in Edinburgh, UK, 27 June to 1 July 2016.

Krause, S., Beach, T., Cook, D., Islebe, G., Doyle, C., Eshleman, S., Luzzadder-Beach, S. and Guderjan, T. (2016). Geochemical analysis of ancient wetland soils near the Maya site of Akab Muklil, Belize. Paper presented at the Association of American Geographers 2016 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, USA.

Beach T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Cook, D. Krause, S. (2015). Paleosols as the golden spike of the Maya Early Anthropocene in the Central American Neotropics, presented at the XIX INQUA Congress, Nagoya Japan, 26 July - 2 August 2015.

Cook, D.E. (2015). Late Holocene soil loss in eastern Australia: proxies, dating, and ways forward. PAGES working group on Global Soil and Sediment Transfers in the Anthropocene (GloSS) meeting, University of Bonn, Bonn Germany, 19-21 August 2015.

Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S., Cook, D.E., Krause, S., Guderjan, T. (2015). Maya Wetland Fields from 2014 and Earlier Coring Evidence. Paper presented at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, USA.

Cook, D.E., Beach, T., Luzzadder-Beach, S. and Guderjan, T. (2015). Mercury Pollution and the Ancient Maya: Where, Why and How. Paper presented at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, USA.


My research is currently focused on the relationships between climatic variability, human response and landscape change over a variety of timescales worldwide. This work falls broadly into two main categories:

Human impacts on the physical environment: Soil erosion and catchment denudation, ancient agriculture and climate adaptation (Scotland, Iceland, Central America and Australia), palaeoclimates and geoarchaeological change (SE Asia, Mesoamerica)

• Recent and projected human-climate interactions: Historical climatic variability and environmental extremes in West Asia; palaeoflood reconstruction in central Iceland; Investigating the climatic background to recent piracy in the Horn of Africa region; remote sensing of coastal environments via satellite and UAVs

The common theoretical thread linking these research interests is the question of how best to quantify and understand the complex interaction between human activity, climatic fluctuations and environmental change across the Earth's surface.


Teaching awards and experience:

2021: Executive Dean&rsquos citation for teaching excellence, Australian Catholic University.

2019: Australian Government Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) Citation for &lsquoOutstanding Contribution to Student Learning&rsquo 

2018: Australian Catholic University Vice Chancellor&rsquos Citation for Teaching Excellence (with Dr Nick Carter)
2015: Australian Catholic University Faculty of Education and Arts Teaching Excellence Award for &lsquoInnovation in Teaching&rsquo


In 2022, I will be teaching the following units:

HUMA319 Rome Field School, Landscapes Past and Present.

GEOG214 Sustainability

GEOG218 Natural Disasters


Previously I have taught:

ENVR200 Landscape Hydrology and Management

GEOG100 Foundations of Physical Geography

GEOG110 Exploring Planet Earth

GEOG202 Coastal Environments

GEOG301 Individual Reading and Research Unit



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