top of page

Matt McDowell


About me

I am employed as a Research Fellow in the University of Tasmania’s CABAH node. I will be researching the impacts that Aborigines, megafaunal extinction and Europeans have had on Australia’s biodiversity by studying animal remains from zooarchaeological and palaeontological assemblages from across Australia, but with a focus on the fauna of Tasmania. I also hope to continue studying island faunas to better understand how island area influences the rate and structure of species extirpation.

Key interests

  • Holocene

  • Pleistocene 

  • fossil

  • bone

  • palaeobiogeography

  • climate change

  • baseline shift

Students I supervise

  • Diana Fusco (PhD, Flinders University)

  • Ariel Marcy (PhD, University of Queensland) 

My research history

I study the palaeontology and palaeoecology of late Quaternary Australian native vertebrates. I’ve collected and studied fossil assemblages from the across western, central and southern Australia that accumulated between almost 0 to 1 million years ago. I’m really interested in what Australia’s biodiversity was like before human colonisation, how it changed with the arrival of Aborigines, the extinction of Australia’s megafauna and the arrival of Europeans. My PhD focused on how the fauna of Kangaroo Island responded to the effects of climate change and isolation due to rising sea-levels, providing insight into pre-human and pre-European native mammal biogeography and how species might respond to future climate change and isolation.

Matt McD.jpg


McDowell, MC, Eberhard, R, Smith, TR, Wood, R, Brook, BW, Johnson, CN (2022) Climate change without extinction: Tasmania's small-mammal communities persisted through the Last Glacial Maximum–Holocene transition. Quaternary Science Reviews 291, 107659.

Delannoy, J-J., David, B., Fresløv, J., Mullett, R., GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, Green, H., Berthet, J., Petchey, F., Arnold, L. J., Wood, R., McDowell, M. C., Crouch, J., Mialanes, J., Ash, J. & Wong, V.N.L. (2020). Geomorphological context and formation history of Cloggs Cave: What was the cave like when people inhabited it? Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 33, 102461.

McDowell, M. C. (In press). Desert bettong, Bettongia anhydra. A. Baker & I. Gynther (Eds.). Strahan’s Mammals of Australia (4th edition) New Holland Publishers.

David, B., Fresløv, J., Mullett, R., Delannoy, J.-J., Petchey, F., GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, Mialanes, J., Russell, L., Wood, R., Arnold, L. J. McDowell, M. C., Berthet, J. Fullagar, R. Wong, V.N.L., Green, H., Urwin, C., Metz, L., Crouch, J. and Ash, J. (In press). Paradigm shifts and ontological turns at Cloggs Cave, GunaiKurnai Country, Australia. In O. Moro Abadía & M. Porr (Eds.). Ontologies of Rock Art: Images, Relational Approaches and Indigenous Knowledge. London: Routledge.


Damien A. Fordham, Stephen T. Jackson, Stuart C. Brown, Brian Huntley, Barry W. Brook, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Anders Svensson, Spyros Theodoridis, Janet M. Wilmshurst, Jessie C. Buettel, Elisabetta Canteri, Matthew McDowell, Ludovic Orlando, Julia Pilowsky, Carsten Rahbek, David Nogues-Bravo (2020). Using paleo-archives to safeguard biodiversity under climate change. Science . Vol. 369, Issue 6507.

Roberts, G. L., Mullett, R., David, B., Fresløv, ., GLaWAC, Mialanes, M., Petchey, F., McDowell, M. C., Wong, V. N. L., Szabó, K., Stoessel, D., Krusic-Golub, K. & Russell, L. (2020) Community research in a public place: Wangangarra 1 rockshelter, Mitchell River National Park, East Gippsland (Australia). Australian Archaeology

Peters, K. J., Saltré, F., Friedrich, T.,  Jacobs, Z., Wood, R.,  McDowell. M.,  Ulm, S. &  Bradshaw, C. J. A. (2019). FosSahul 2.0, an updated database for the Late Quaternary fossil records of Sahul. Scientific Data.    


Saltré, F., Chadoeuf, J., Peters, K. J., McDowell, M. C., Friedrich T., Timmermann, A., Ulm, S. & Bradshaw, C. J. A. (2019) Climate-human interaction caused southeast Australian megafauna extinctions. Nature Communications.    


Grealy, A., McDowell, M., Retallick, C. Bunce, M. & Peacock, D. (2019) Novel mitochondrial haplotype of spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) present on Kangaroo Island (South Australia) prior to extirpation. The Holocene.

Arnold, L.J., Demuro, M., Spooner, N.A., Prideaux, G.J., McDowell, M.C., Camens, A.B., Reed, E.H., Parés, J.P., Arsuaga, J.L., Bermúdez de Castro, J.M. & Carbonell, E. (2018). Single-grain TT-OSL bleaching characteristics: Insights from modern analogues and OSL dating comparisons. Quaternary Geochronology.

Liddle, N.R., McDowell, M.C. & Prideaux, G.J. (2018). Insights into the pre-European mammalian fauna of the southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Australian Mammalogy 40: 262-268. DOI: 10.1071/AM17035

Peakcock, D.E., Fancourtt, B.A., McDowell, M.C. & Abbot, I. (2018). Survival histories of marsupial carnivores on Australian continental shelf islands highlight climate change and Europeans as likely extirpation factors: implications for island predator restoration. Biodiversity Conservation, 28:2477-2494.


McDowell, M. (2018). Faunal Analysis of Jundaru (HN-A9) and PAD 3 Rockshelters, Pilbara, Western Australia. In Cropper, D. & Law, W.B. Rockshelter Excavations
in the East Hamersley Range, Pilbara Region, Western Australia. Summertown: Archaeopress Publishing Ltd.


Gray, J. A., McDowell, M. C., Hutchinson, M. N. & Jones, M. E. H. (2017). Geometric morphometrics provides a more-objective approach for interpreting the affinity of fossil lizard jaws. Journal of Herpetology 51(3): 375-382. DOI: 10.1670/16-145


Fusco, D. S., McDowell, M. C. & Prideaux, G. J. (2017). Fossils reveal late Holocene diversity and post-European decline of the terrestrial mammals of the Murray Darling Depression. Wildlife Research 44(1): 60–71. DOI: 10.1071/WR16134


Haouchar, D., Pacioni, C., Haile, J., McDowell, M. C., Baynes, A., Phillips, M. J., Austin, J. A., Pope, L. C. & Bunce, M. (2016). Ancient DNA reveals complexity in the evolutionary history and taxonomy of the endangered Australian brush-tailed bettongs (Bettongia: Marsupialia: Macropodidae: Potoroinae). Biodiversity and Conservation 25(14:): 2907–2927. DOI: 10.1007/s10531-016-1210-y


Fusco, D. S., McDowell, M. C. and Prideaux, G. J. (2016). Late Holocene mammal fauna from southern Australia reveals rapid species declines post-European settlement: implications for conservation biology. The Holocene 26(5): 699–708.  DOI:   10.1177/0959683615618261


Adams, S. J., McDowell, M. C. & Prideaux, G. J. (2016). Understanding accumulation bias in the ecological interpretation of archaeological and paleontological sites on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 7: 715–729. DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.08.006


Grealy, A. C., McDowell, M. C., Scofield, P., Murray, D. C., Fusco, D. A., Haile, J., Prideaux, G. J. & Bunce, M. (2015). A critical evaluation of how ancient DNA bulk bone metabarcoding complements traditional morphological analysis of fossil assemblages. Quaternary Science Reviews 128:  37–47. DOI:   10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.09.014

McDowell, M. C., Prideaux, G. J., Walshe, K., Bertuch, F. & Jacobsen, G. E. (2015). Re-evaluating the Late Quaternary fossil mammal assemblage of Seton Rockshelter, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, including the evidence for late-surviving megafauna. Journal of Quaternary Science 30(4): 355–364. DOI:  10.1002/jqs.2789

McDowell, M. C., Haoucher, D., Aplin, K. P., Bunce, M., Baynes, A. & Prideaux, G. J. (2015). Morphological and molecular evidence supports specific recognition of the recently extinct Bettongia anhydra (Marsupialia: Macropodidae). Journal of Mammalogy 96(2): 287–296. DOI: 10.1093/jmammal/gyv006


McDowell, M. C. (2014). Holocene vertebrate fossils aid the management and restoration of Australian ecosystems. Ecological Management and Restoration 15(1): 58–63. DOI:  10.1111/emr.12075


Haoucher, D., Haile, J., McDowell, M. C., Murray, D. C., White, N., Allcock, R. J. N., Phillips, M., Prideaux, G. J. & Bunce, M. (2014). Thorough assessment of DNA preservation from fossil bone and sediments excavated from a Quaternary cave deposit on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Quaternary Science Reviews 84: 56–64. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.11.007


McDowell, M. C., Bestland, E. A. Bertuch, F. Ayliffe, L. K., Hellstrom, J. C., Jacobsen, G. E. & Prideaux, G. J. (2013). Chronology, stratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental interpretation of a Late Pleistocene to mid-Holocene cave accumulation on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Boreas 42(4): 974–994. DOI: 10.1111/bor.12015


Macken, A. C., McDowell, M. C., Bartholomeusz, D. N. & Reed, E. H. (2013). Chronology and stratigraphy of the Wet Cave vertebrate fossil deposit, Naracoorte, and relationship to paleoclimatic conditions of the Last Glacial Cycle in south-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 60(2): 271–281. DOI: 10.1080/08120099.2013.758657


McDowell, M. C., Baynes, A., Medlin, G. C. & Prideaux, G. J. (2012). The impact of European colonization on the late Holocene non-volant mammals of Yorke Peninsula, South Australia. The Holocene 22(12): 1441–1450. DOI:  10.1177/0959683612455542


Start, T., Burbidge, A. A., McDowell, M. C. & McKenzie, N. L. (2012). The status of non-volant mammals along a rainfall gradient in the south-west Kimberley, Western Australia. Australian Mammalogy 34(1): 36–48. DOI: 10.1071/AM10026


Kemper, C. M., Cooper, S. J. B., Medlin, G. C., Adams, M., Stemmer, D., Saint, K. M., McDowell, M. C. & Austin, J. J. (2011). Cryptic grey-bellied dunnart (Sminthopsis griseoventer) discovered in South Australia: genetic, morphological and subfossil analyses show the value of collecting voucher material. Australian Journal of Zoology 59(3): 127–144. DOI: 10.1071/ZO11037


Baynes, A. & McDowell, M. C. (2010). The original mammal fauna of the Pilbara biogeographic region of north-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement No. 78. 285–298. DOI: 10.18195/issn.0313-122x.78(1).2010.285-298


McDowell, M. C. & Medlin, G. C. (2010). Natural Resource Management implications of the pre-European non-volant mammal fauna of the southern tip of Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Australian Mammalogy 32(2): 87–93. DOI: 10.1071/AM09020


McDowell, M. C. & Medlin, G. C. (2009). Using the diet of the barn owl (Tyto alba) as an indicator of small vertebrate abundance in the Channel Country, south-western Queensland. Australian Mammalogy 31(2): 75–80. DOI: 10.1071/AM08116


McDowell, M. C. & Medlin, G. C. (2009). The effects of drought on prey selection of the barn owl (Tyto alba) in the Strzelecki Regional Reserve, north-eastern South Australia. Australian Mammalogy 31(1): 47–55. DOI: 10.1071/AM08115


Pate, F. D., McDowell, M. C., Wells, R. T. & Smith A. M. (2006). Additional AMS radiocarbon dates for Wet Cave and the timing of megafaunal extinctions in the Naracoorte region of South Australia. Alcheringa Special Issue 1: 277–279. DOI: 10.1080/03115510609506866


Pate, F. D., McDowell, M. C., Wells, R. T. & Smith A. M. (2002). Last recorded evidence for Megafauna at Wet Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia 45,000 years ago. Australian Archaeology 54: 53–55. DOI: 10.1080/03122417.2002.11682069


Moriarty, K. C., McCulloch, M., Wells, R. T., & McDowell, M. C. (2000). Mid-Pleistocene cave fills, megafaunal remains and climate change at Naracoorte, South Australia: Towards a predictive model using U/Th dating of speleothems. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 159: 113–143. DOI: 10.1016/S0031-0182(00)00036-5

bottom of page