Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Mike was awarded his Bachelor of Science
degree with First Class Honours in 1971 from the
University of Adelaide, where he then proceeded
to complete his Ph.D. in plant ecology, with the
thesis “Long term change in arid zone vegetation
at Koonamore, South Australia”.
He was appointed in 1975 as a botanist by the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, where he switched the focus of his research from ecology to systematics and in particular to the systematics of the Australian legume tribes Bossiaeeae and Mirbelieae, the "egg and bacon peas". Mike commenced a taxonomic revision of the genus Daviesia and gradually became the foremost authority on the taxonomy of the Mirbelieae.
He has continued to work on the taxonomy of the Mirbelieae in parallel with other projects and had published 44 taxonomic papers on this group by 2011, in which over 200 new taxa and new combinations have been published.
Early on he started applying a then new method (which soon came to be known as cladistic analysis) to the study of the evolutionary history of his egg and bacon peas. Mike was also impressed by the potential of cladistic biogeographic techniques for reconstructing biogeographic history that were being actively developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1981-82, Mike was posted to London as Australian Botanical Liaison Officer at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. His ABLO research project mostly involved the identification and photography of type specimens of Mirbelieae and Bossiaeeae held in European herbaria.
Mike also extended his alpha-taxonomic work to the description of new species in other taxa, particularly his first botanical love, Eucalyptus, and the systematics of the subtribe Embothriinae (Proteaceae), including the genus Telopea.
In the 1990s, Mike appreciated the enormous potential of the new field of molecular systematics and initiated a project to test morphology-based cladograms of genera of Mirbelieae and Bossiaeeae using phylogenetic analyses of molecular data sets. In pursuing this project, Mike formed a collaborative relationship with Dr Lyn Cook that matured into an extraordinarily productive and innovative research partnership. Their extensive co-authored papers have covered an impressively diverse range of areas within the fields of phylogenetic and biogeographic methodology, systematics, historical biogeography and evolutionary ecology.
In 1990, Mike took up a lecturer's position in the Division of Botany and Zoology at the Australian National University ("BoZo"), where he smoothly progressed to the position of Reader and was then awarded a personal Chair in 2004.
Mike's term as a Head of School of the Division of Botany and Zoology at ANU (2000-03) was a challenging period and Mike steered BoZo successfully through these difficulties at the same time as maintaining his own research productivity and enhancing the position of systematic and evolutionary biology in the Division's staffing and teaching programs.
In retirement Mike moved from Canberra to Brisbane in early 2020 Mike has served the ASBS as Public Officer (1986-92), Newsletter Editor (1988-92, with Barbara Barnsley), Councillor (1986-90), Vice President (1990-92) and President (1992-95).
Source: Extracted from: Peter Westons Burbidge Medal speech, 2011, in:
Australasian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter 147–8 (June-September 2011) p.5-9
Portrait Photo: 2007 by M.Fagg, ANBG Collection.
Data from 19,939 specimens