From Canberra to Cambridge: The Academic Adventures of Dr Matthew Adeleye

21st July 2022

He’s a dad, a husband, a movie buff, a music enthusiast, a keen researcher, and he’s now a PhD graduate. Dr Matthew Adeleye recently completed his PhD thesis and graduated from the ANU School of Culture, History & Language.

Academically, he’s travelled the world already. From Nigeria to Canada and then to Canberra, Matthew came to Australia to explore his passion of learning about new types of ecosystem communities. His next stop? The University of Cambridge.

We recently caught up with Matthew to hear more about his research interests, his experience at ANU and the roadmap for the future.

Congratulations on becoming a PhD graduate! What has your journey at ANU been like? Tell us about yourself and how you came to ANU.

Thank you! I have studied in different parts of the world, including Africa and North America, and my academic journey at ANU has been the best phase of my academic career.

I completed my Bachelors in Nigeria in Botany and Palynology. My journey to the ANU started in Canada, where I completed my Masters in Forest ecology and Palaeoecology, and decided to explore more areas of palaeoecological research, especially in a new environment where I can learn about new types of ecosystem communities.

What is your thesis subject, and why does this fascinate you?

My thesis focuses on the use of palaeoecological records to inform current ecosystem management strategies in SE Australia. By the way, palaeoecology is the study of past changes in ecosystems from few hundred to thousands of years.

My thesis research is interesting because it is timely and fills a major knowledge gap in our understanding of SE Australia’s landscape history, including bushfire and Aboriginal land management history.

The results from my thesis also revealed several new areas of research opportunities to explore in order better understand climate and Indigenous land use history in SE Australia.

Adel1Matthew with David Bowman from the Tasmania Fire Centre, combining palaeoecology and pyrogeography to develop a transdisciplinary understanding of fire in the Southern Hemisphere

What has been the highlight of your PhD journey here?

Being able to refine and freely pursue my research interest with multiple publications (>7) is something I really appreciate about my PhD, and this would not have been possible without the huge support of my supervisor Professor Simon Haberle and the supervisory panel. I was able to explore multiple research ideas during my PhD and I learnt a lot during the process to become a better researcher.

What has been the biggest challenge, and what were the lessons learned from it?

Given that my thesis was by publication, I had to read multiple papers and write every day. I was always writing or revising a paper. But this got better every day as well, as it got me familiar and up to date with many literatures in my field and made writing even more interesting.

What is your advice to anyone who might want to follow in your footsteps or along your chosen academic pathway?

My advice is to try as much as possible to be in charge of your own research by being specific and consistent all the way through your PhD. For example, be specific in your goals, be clear about what you want to get out of a panel meeting and ask your supervisory panel specific questions.

Students should never be afraid to ask questions, even if they have to ask the same question multiple times just to be sure.

And finally, if a student has a broad research interest, they should still try not to deviate from the original goal of their thesis; there should be an overlap between their main thesis research and other interests (e.g., overlapping methodologies, overlapping data, overlapping hypothesis, and so on). This would make for a much smoother and interesting research experience.

Can you share your favourite fieldwork research trip? Why is it your favourite?

My favourite research trips were the trips to King Island and Three Hummock Island in 2021 and 2022, respectively. They were my favourites because the trips were in autumn, and there were no snakes in the forests, and I didn’t have to use insect repellents either! The field trip I went for in 2019 was in summer on Cape Barren Island, with several tiger snakes hanging out, and I don’t like snakes!

Congratulations on your position at Cambridge. Tell us more.

Thank you. I will be joining the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge permanently, starting as an Assistant Professor next January, where I will teach and also continue with my palaeoecology research.

What are your future plans, at Cambridge and beyond?

I plan to continue conducting research in Australia while in Cambridge and also develop new and existing research projects in Africa over the next couple of years.

When not immersed in study, what does Dr Matthew Adeleye like to do?

I love watching and reviewing movies, and playing musical instruments as well. I used to play the piano, drums and bass guitar for a band, but now I play at my leisure, especially the piano.

Adel2Matthew on Graduation Day (15 July) with his supervisor, Professor Simon Haberle

Adel3Matthew and his adorable family with Simon

All the best, Matthew, for your onward journey. We hope you’ll keep us posted from time to time about all your amazing research discoveries and how the next chapter in your academic adventure unfolds!

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster