Mike grew up in Queensland in the 70s and 80s, when Brisbane was a lazy country town dripping with biodiversity; bearded dragons on every wooden fence, and tree frogs in every outdoor loo. A chain of early influences inspired him to be a biologist: from his best friends at Hendra primary school who formed a gang that spent lunch hours ambushing lizards and collecting insects, to Harry Butler on TV and a succession of excellent biology teachers and lecturers at high school and university.
He studied in Marine Biology at the University of Queensland, before obtaining a scholarship to complete a Ph.D at the University of Cambridge. Returning to Australia, he spent three years with Rick Shine’s evolutionary ecology group at the University of Sydney. In 2002 he moved to Adelaide as a joint appointment between the South Australian museum and the University of Adelaide.
His research mainly concerns trying to understand major events in the evolution of life, using evidence from diverse sources such as the fossil record, the anatomy of living organisms, and the wealth of new genetic information. He has published about 120 scientific papers, including several in Nature and Science, and is interested in problems such as why reptiles get legless, and what caused evolution’s big bang (the Cambrian explosion).