Research Supervisor Connect

Disruption and persistence: resolving the Maya climate-collapse hypothesis


This project will to test the climate-catastrophe theory of the Classic ‘Maya Collapse’ of the 8-11th centuries A.D., by generating a detailed record of climate and human response from an historic Maya city known to have survived the Collapse. We will reveal how some historic urban centres developed resilience to climate variability over long timespans while others did not, and determine the implications for the relative vulnerability of our own cities.


Associate Professor Daniel Penny.

Research location

School of Geosciences

Program type



This project will determine why some historic cities are more vulnerable to climatic instability than others. Focusing on the archetypal urban collapse of the Maya, in modern Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, during the 8th-11th centuries of the common era (C.E.), this project will question the dominant narrative of social failure, loss and catastrophe derived from the material disintegration of major urban centres, and seek evidence for persistence, resilience, transformation and adaptation.  
The aim of this project is to test the climate-collapse theory of the Classic ‘Maya Collapse’ by reconstructing a detailed, uninterrupted history of climate and human response from historic Maya cities known to have survived the Classic Maya Collapse. As part of an international team of researchers, you will undertake a range of analyses on sediment archives from lake sites proximal to key archaeological sites in north Belize. Suitable for earth scientists, physical geographers, or archaeologists with a specialisation in environmental or geoarchaeology.

Additional information

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include: 

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision; Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights; Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)
You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2268

Other opportunities with Associate Professor Daniel Penny