About me


CV photoHairCaliforniaMobile

DSC00106Box-38 Slide-12ID card 1999

I’m a New Zealander – paleontologist, geologist, photographer, traveler.

I was born in Dunedin, but a few months later my family shifted to the small town of Alexandra (pop. c. 3,000 at the time). We (my sister came a little later) grew up next to a semi-wild pine forest that was on the other side of the road. A little later again, we moved a few kilometers out of town into the country. We had a big (very big) house, and much of the upstairs was devoted to my ‘museum’. These were the fossils I had started to collect from when I was 8 or 9 years old.

Box-07 Slide-15 red

Our house in autumn. The tree was the largest in the whole basin. Apparently it was the tree the original run-holders used to tether their horses to. When a wild storm finally felled it, the upper branches impaled themselves in the nearest wall of the house.

Box-38 Slide-13 red

And our house in winter. My 1952 Ford Anglia is sitting between the house and the big tree.

A family trip to the Haast when I was 10 turned up my first plant fossils – and those have been the focus of my research interests ever since.

Me and Princess Di

I was THAT fresh-faced when I photographed Lady Di?

School was a bus or bike-ride away back in Alexandra, and then at 17 I left the mountains to start at the University of Otago. Towards the end and after finishing my PhD, I was a self-employed photographer in Dunedin, before shifting to Australia. After a post-doc in Tasmania and Queensland, I lectured ecology to groups of visiting American students. In 2007 I left the university and spent five years as a geologist, working mainly in Mongolia, Indonesia and Turkey.

With one of my University of California classes in the Border Ranges rainforest.

With one of my University of California classes in the Border Ranges rainforest.

Travelers love to brag about how many countries they’ve visited. Well,  I’ve traveled to over 76 – but what really is a ‘country’ and what does it mean to have ‘traveled  it’? As a kind of alternative list – I’m seeing how many of the World Wildlife Fund  ‘ecoregions’ I can travel to – and get a representative photo.

My Research

My main interest is in the deep past of New Zealand- how its vegetation, landscape and climate changed over some 200 million years. I’m primarily a paleobotanist, but with some competence in sedimentology. When I started my research, looking at fossil leaf cuticle was barely known in New Zealand. After realising that it was ‘unknown territory’ I stated a programme of sampling all known carbonaceous sediments in New Zealand and sieving them to see what they contained. The answer has been a wide range of cuticle fragments, and much else besides. To identify these, I’ve had to create a database of extant plant cuticle – and this is now one of the most extensive anywhere.

As well as my New Zealand-wide survey. my key research themes are:

  • Central Otago prehistory
  • Manuherikia Group – Gore Lignite Measures (Miocene) ecology and stratigraphy
  • Cretaceous floristics
  • Jurassic paleobotany, sedimentology and stratigraphy of the Catlins Coast

Starting with first-year University, when no-one seemed to work out if I was a botanist or a geologist, I’ve tried to be both. Anyone doing paleobotany should look at real vegetation as much as they can. So far I’ve traveled to over 76 countries, and tried to see their characteristic vegetation. A little sub-theme here has been seeing how many WWF ‘ecoregions’ I can get to.

My research has been published in over 80 papers and you can get pdfs of most of them on this page.

Also check out:




I’ve also published my research in over 80 papers.

Where have I been?

Well, a couple of ways to look at this:

How many countries I have been to. Visited Countries Map Maker
Visited 78 UN countries (40.4%) out of 193.
Make your own visited countries map.

  1. World Wildlife Fund  ‘ecoregions’ I have traveled to – and got a representative photo.
  2. The standard countries and some regions/provinces:

Mikes Travel Map2