Professor Sue Hand
Director of PANGEA
Field of Research: 
Palaeontology, evolution, systematics, biogeography
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 2113

Room 557
Biological Sciences North (D26)
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Member of the Coalition for Research into the Evolution of Australian Terrestrial Ecosystems (CREATE)

Research & Current Projects


Associate Professor Sue Hand is a vertebrate palaeontologist researching the history of Australian mammals, continuing climate and environmental change in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, implications of that change for forest and island faunas, Australia’s first fossil-rich amber, and the biodiversity, global relationships and evolutionary ecology of bats.

Her research interests are largely in the area of palaeontology, phylogenetics and biogeography, and specifically taxonomy, systematics, morphometrics, phylogenetics, biocorrelation, biogeography, palaeogeography, evolutionary biology and palaeoecology.

In these research areas, she has supervised/co-supervised 40 Honours, 3 Masters and 23 PhD students.

Her area of special interest is fossil and modern bats, a major component of Australasia's living and fossil faunas, representing a quarter of Australian mammal species. She is the author of all of Australia's fossil bat species (40 identified and 25 named taxa in 15 new genera from Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits in Qld, NSW, NT, Vic and SA), and is describing other new bat species from digs in Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Oceania.

See also:


Current Projects


1. Dark canaries: new multidisciplinary understanding about the origins, radiation and response to environmental change of Southern Hemisphere bats

ARC DP130100197 (SJ Hand & M Archer)

The overall goal of this project is to generate new evolutionary, palaeoecological and biogeographic understanding about bats, using a suite of quantitative and model-based methods to integrate fossil evidence with acoustic, anatomical, biomechanical, genetic, palaeoclimate, palaeogeographic and geological data. Fossil remains from three critical periods in bat evolution form the nucleus of this research: the world’s oldest bats from the early Cenozoic Tingamarra faunal assemblage, southeastern Queensland (55 million years ago); diverse middle Cenozoic bats from Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland (25 million years ago to present); and late Cenozoic bats (last 2 million years) from targeted Quaternary sites across the Australian continent and the southwest Pacific.

2. Determining the roles of dispersal and vicariance in the assembly of the New Zealand fauna

ARC DP120100486 (TH Worthy, SJ Hand, SW Salisbury, RP Scofield & AJD Tennyson)

The evolution of the terrestrial biota of New Zealand has long fascinated biologists as it represents a model system of dispersal and vicariant origins, but is now the subject of escalating scientific controversy. Was the now mostly submerged Pacific continent of Zealandia completely inundated 23 million years ago, in which case the present biota must have dispersed from Australia or elsewhere after later tectonic uplift? Or did some land persist to harbour Gondwanan relicts like native frogs, crocodilians, moas and mammals? This project uses the unique St Bathans fossil resource to resolve the evolutionary relationships of this enigmatic biota and the role of trans-Tasman dispersal and extinction in shaping the faunas of New Zealand and Australia.

3. Uncovering ancient landscapes with emerging technologies: integrating complex geospatial and fossil data to explore late Cenozoic environmental change

ARC LP100200486 (M Archer & SJ Hand)

This research uses emerging technologies to unravel relationships between prehistoric climate changes and environmental impacts in northern Australia. Given current uncertainty about impacts of contemporary climate change on our biota, it is important to document the outcomes of past climatic changes and, in particular, the globally critical period between 15 and five million years ago that shaped modern Australian environments. Fossil-rich deposits in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of north Qld span this period.  Interpretation of their fine-grained record of impact and change is improving our ability to predict and hence better manage impacts of future climate change on our unique national natural heritage.


In the News

Research Staff

Dr Anna Gillespie

Room LG20, D26 Building

Dr Troy Myers

Room LG20, D26 Building


Postdoctoral Fellows


Dr Karen Black

Room 560, D26 Building

Dr Laura Wilson

Room 558, D26 Building


Research Students 

Hayley Bates (PhD candidate) Ecological constraints keeping Burramys parvus in the alpine zone  

Bok Khoo (MPhil candidate) New zygomaturine from the Plio/Pleistocene of North Queensland

Michael Stein (PhD candidate)  Palaeobiodiversity, function & ecology of crocodiles in Australia

James Strong (PhD candidate)  Geo- and biological basis for extraordinary preservation of Riversleigh fossils



BIOS2061 Vertebrate Zoology (Course Coordinator)

GEOS2071 Life through Time (Course Coordinator)



Google Scholar Suzanne J Hand


Fellowships and Honoraries

  • Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales Fellow
  • Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales President
  • American Museum of Natural History Research Associate
  • Australian Museum Research Associate
  • Australian Geographic Society Inaugural Honorary Treasurer
  • Australian Geographic Research Advisory Board, Inaugural Scientific Chairman
  • Linnean Society of New South Wales Council and Editorial Committee
  • Australian Mammal Society Council and Editorial Committee
  • Association of Australasian Palaeontologists Council and Editorial Committee
  • Riversleigh Society Council and Editorial Committee
  • International bat journal Acta Chiropterologica Editorial Board
  • Australasian palaeontological journal Alcheringa Editor and Editorial Board
  • Department of Environment, Sport and Territories Postdoctoral Fellow
  • University of New South Wales Postdoctoral Fellow