Assistant dean (Indigenous); associate professor of geography, University of MelbourneMichael-Shawn Fletcher is an associate professor of geography and assistant dean (Indigenous) at the University of Melbourne. He recently gave invited testimony to Australia's Royal Commission investigating last summer's mega-fires. His research has focused on using palaeoenvironmental records from across the Southern Hemisphere to illuminate the long-term interactions between humans, climate, disturbance and vegetation at local, regional and global scales. In a paper published this year, Fletcher used pollen, charcoal and dendrochronological analyses to demonstrate that the Australian landscape at the time of British invasion in the 18th century was a heavily constructed one—the product of millennia of active maintenance by Aboriginal Australians. His results reveal how the removal of Indigenous burning regimes following British invasion instigated a process of ecological succession and the encroachment of cool temperate rainforest into grasslands of conservation significance. This empirical evidence challenges the long-standing portrayal of Indigenous Australians as low-impact 'hunter-gatherers' and highlights the relevance and critical value of Indigenous fire management in this era of heightened bushfire risk and biodiversity loss.