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Desert to the Sea: Managing Rock Art, Country and Culture

2022 – 2027

Project Overview

This Project will expand our understanding of Aboriginal settlement and land-use in north-west Australia by investigating how the mythological narratives of Australia’s deserts enable the transmission of knowledge in water-limited environments.

The Project will address a number of objectives that bring together both Indigenous knowledge and western scientific approaches to develop improved management outcomes for Indigenous ranger groups managing vast cultural estates with significant rock art.


To achieve this Project’s ambitious goals, our researchers and collaborators are organised into four interrelated Research Nodes: Rock art and Jukurrpa, Fire and Plants, Collections, and Managing Cultural Landscapes.

Chief Investigators

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Jo McDonald

Lead Chief Investigator
The University of Western Australia
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Pauline Grierson

The University of Western Australia
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Peter Veth

The University of Western Australia

Richard Fullagar

The University of Western Australia

Stephen van Leeuwen

Curtin University

Judith Field

The University of Western Australia

Rachel Popelka-Filcoff

The University of Melbourne

Emilie Dotte-Sarout

The University of Western Australia

Partner Investigators

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Peter Jeffries

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation

Annie Carson

WA Museum
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Douglas Bird

The Pennsylvania State University
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Justin McKinnon

Desert Support Services

Stefani Crabtree

Utah State University
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Sharon Reynolds


Collaborating Researchers


India Dilkes-Hall

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Michi Meyer

Botanist & Zoologist
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Peter Kendrick

Zoologist & Ecologist

Sarah Bourke


Project Staff

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Sam Harper

Project Manager Research Fellow (on leave)
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Evan Holt

Computational Modeling
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Sarah de Koning

Database Manager /pt Project Manager

Emma Beckett

Heritage Liaison Officer Research Fellow

Chae Byrne



This ARC Funded Linkage Project (LP200300886) is administered at The University of Western Australia, with chief investigators at Curtin University, The University of Melbourne, The University of New South Wales, The Pennsylvania State University, Utah State University, in collaboration with partner organisations Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC), Mungarlu Ngurrarankatja Rirraunkaja Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (MNR), and Jamukurnu Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation (JYAC), with funding from Woodside, BHP, Newcrest Mining, and with partner investigators from the Western Australian Museum, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and Desert Support Services.