Joe Dortch

Dr, BA S'ton, PhD W.Aust.

  • The University of Western Australia (M257), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Joe is an archaeologist with equal experience in academic research and in applied heritage management. He  completed his PhD at UWA on Aboriginal responses to environmental changes in south-western Australia during and after the last glacial period, from 20,000 years ago to present.

Since then he has investigated archaeological evidence for Late Pleistocene faunal extinctions, researched past Aboriginal burning and landscape management in south-western Australia, and collaborated with geneticists and Aboriginal stakeholders on ancient and modern DNA analysis.

As a consultant, he’s advised communities and industry on archaeological heritage, completing more than 200 heritage assessments for Aboriginal organisations, resources companies, private developers and government agencies, and helping integrate cultural heritage protection into major development projects.

Joe has also delivered courses in archaeological field and lab methods, applied theory, and the intersection of environmental and social sciences (e.g. ARCY3003, ARCY4101, INDG2700 and ARCY3013).  

Joe advocates for stronger heritage protection in current state and Federal reforms. He is the current President of the Australian Archaeological Association. 

Roles and responsibilities

Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, School of Social Sciences

Funding overview

Australian Research Council:
Partner investigator, 2012-2014, "Ancient DNA from cave sediments: a new horizon in the archaeology of Aboriginal Australia", Discovery Project with Murdoch and Copenhagen Universities.
Research Associate, 2007-2009, "Aboriginal Landscape Transformations", Linkage Project with Department of Environment & Conservation, South-West Catchments Council, South Coast NRM; co-authored application with CIs J. Balme and J. Dodson.
Australian Post-doctoral Fellow, 2003-05, "Taphonomy of megafauna sites". University of Sydney.

For other funding (industry and community grants) see Socrates page.

Previous positions

Cultural Heritage Advisor, Rio Tinto

Research Manager/Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming ARC Linkage Project

Director, Eureka Archaeological Research & Consulting, UWA

Research Fellow, Archaeology, UWA

Current projects

Reporting and preparation of publications on the ARC Linkage Project: Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming
Archaeological interpretation of ancient DNA from cave sediments.
Study of past Noongar landscape management, through assessment of fire ecology, palaeo-ecology and fine-scale environmental, archaeological, historic and oral records.
Grinding stones and their environmental contexts in the Pilbara, Western Australia.

Industrial relevance

Joe has worked outside academia for much of his career. He provides advice on cultural heritage management and interpretation to commercial, government and community organisations.

Teaching overview

  • 2018-2019 - ARCY3013 - Experimenting with Archaeology
  • 2017-2018 - INDG2700 Knowing Country - From the Dreaming to Darwin
  • 2016 - ARCY4101 Archaeological Theory
  • 2014 - ARCY3003 Archaeological Laboratory Methods
  • 2010 - ARCY7486 Honours - Professional Archaeology

PhD students (years):

  • F. Hook (2016-)
  • E. Beckett (2016-)
  • C. Byrne (2014-)
  • A. Lullfitz (2014-2019)
  • C. Monks (2013-2017)
  • A. Grealy (Curtin University) (2013-2017)
  • D.Murray (Curtin University) (2013-2016) 

Supervised Honours students in Archaeology (except where shown otherwise):

  • 2018: N. Suehrcke 
  • 2017: G. Buck (Biological Sciences)
  • 2014: S. Murray (Natural Resource Management)
  • 2013: N. Bush, D. Tassone, K. Hudson, Z. Shepherd.
  • 2011: K. Forde, S. Curry-Bowran.
  • 2009: R. Cameron, J. Huizen, S. Johnston, I. Seah, E. Rusack, K. Lee (U. Sydney)
  • 2008: H. Worrell
  • 2004: B. Ngo (U. Sydney)

Inquiries are welcome from any prospective PhD, Masters or Honours students, especially on the following topics:

  • Aboriginal/Indigenous land management
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Palaeoecology
  • Human interaction with environment


Environmental archaeology; niche construction; Australian Aboriginal archaeology; ethnography and archaeology; taphonomy; faunal remains analysis; macroscopic charcoal analysis (anthracology); ancient DNA in archaeology.



Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

External positions

President, Australian Archaeological Association

Dec 2021 → …

Director, Dortch Cuthbert

2001 → …

Research expertise keywords

  • Animal Bones
  • Ancient DNA
  • Environmental History
  • Human Origins
  • Aboriginal land management
  • Environmental archaeology including taphonomy, zooarchaeology and anthracology
  • Australian Aboriginal archaeology
  • Ethnography and archaeology
  • Cultural heritage management


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