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Dr Michael Archer, 1945 –
Mike Archer studied geology and biology at Princeton University, and was awarded a PhD in Zoology, for research on carnivorous marsupials, by the University of Western Australia (1976). He was Curator of Mammals at the Queensland Museum (1972-1978) and became Professor of Biological Science at the University of NSW in 1989.
Much of Archer’s scientific work is based on research undertaken on the significant fossil deposits at Riversleigh, Queensland. In 1990 Archer won the inaugural Eureka Prize for the Promotion of Science.
Archer was appointed as director of the Australian Museum in 1999, and subsequently instigated several high-profile projects. The controversial Tasmanian Tiger Project researched the possibility of cloning the extinct Thylacine using DNA extracted from preserved specimens at the Museum.
He also established the Future of Threatened Ecosystems (FATE) project, which promoted the farming of native Australian animals. In this period two regional museums were established – the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum in Bathurst, and the Age of the Fishes Museum in Canowindra. The GeoFest and Science in the City educational programs were successfully introduced.
In 2003 a team led by Australian Museum scientists identified a spectacular series of rock art sites in the Wollemi National Park. Archer also oversaw the planning for the new Research and Collections building, completed in 2008.
It was discovered that between 1997 and 2002, an employee had stolen over two thousand zoological specimens, many ‘of significant rarity and scientific value’, including ‘skulls, skeletons, skins and complete animal specimens in alcohol,’ which resulted in changes to Museum policies and procedures in collection management, security, and staff supervision and management.
Mike Archer left the Australian Museum in 2004 and took up a position as Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of NSW.