WASSON, Robert |

WASSON, Robert

Robert Wasson

Senior Research Fellow

Robert Wasson
Contact Details
DID: +65 6516 8006
Office Location

469A Bukit Timah Road
Level 2, Tower Block
Singapore 259770


Professor Robert (Bob) Wasson is a Senior Research Fellow in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. Trained as a geomorphologist he began his career doing fundamental research into processes of landform creation, landscape history, and climate change. But working in the semi arid lands of Australia made him painfully aware of the land and water degradation caused by domestic stock. This awareness grew during five years as a Research Fellow in the Department of Biogeography and Geomorphology at the Australian National University (ANU) where he worked in the Australian and Indian desert dunefields to unravel their history and formative processes. A career change came about when he joined the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), charged with the task of working out how Australian landscapes and waterways had reached their current states following European settlement in 1788. It became clear that the methods of geology and geomorphology could be used to chart change but only environmental history could explain how and why change had occurred. So began a career involving both science and environmental history aimed at policy and management of river catchments. By working with natural resource managers he became aware of the constraints within which they work and has tried to fashion advice and science to meet the real world needs of policy makers and managers. But if relevant science is to be provided you have to stay up to date and so some work of a more fundamental kind has continued.

Leaving CSIRO he returned to the ANU where he became Head of the Department of Geography and Human Ecology, Dean of Science, and then Director of the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies. These positions allowed him to return to research in Asia where he has worked in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, The Philippines, and Timor Leste. During this time he served on many Australian Government water and land advisory committees, and continued his work with the International Geosphere and Biosphere Program (becoming Deputy Chair of the Science Committee) and the International Human Dimensions of Global Change Program.

Another change occurred when he became Deputy Vice Chancellor Research at Charles Darwin University in the Australian tropics prior to joining NUS in 2011. This management role enabled some understanding of the workings of higher education policy and practice.

At NUS he has focused on histories of floods and human vulnerability to floods in northern Thailand, the Indian Himalayas, and northern Australia using multi-disciplinary methods and with many collaborators.

Research Areas

  • Ÿ Natural resource management
  • Ÿ Climate change
  • Ÿ Science for policy
  • Ÿ Integration of science into policy
  • Ÿ Environmental History
  • Ÿ River catchment processes and change
  • Ÿ Extreme hydro-climatic events
  • Ÿ Cross-disciplinary methods


Referred Publications

The Geomorphology and Sedimentology of Rivers and Mass Movements

  • Wasson, R.J.  ‘Intersection Point Deposition on Alluvial Fans:  An Australian Example’ Geografiska Annaler, 56, Ser.A., 1974, 1-2, 83-92 (reprinted in: T.H. Nilsen (ed) Modern and Ancient Alluvial Fan Deposits, Benchmark Papers in Geology v. 87, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York).
  • Wasson, R.J.  Australian Landform Example No. 27:  ‘Alluvial Fan’.  Australian Geographer, 13(2), 1975, 157-159.
  • Wasson, R.J.  Catchment processes and evolution of alluvial fans in the lower Derwent valley, Tasmania. Zeitschrift fur Geomorphologie, Vol. 21(2), 1977, 147-168 (reprinted in:  T.H. Nilsen, ed., Modern and Ancient Alluvial Fan Deposits, Benchmark Papers in Geology, v.87, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York).
  • Wasson, R.J.  Last-glacial alluvial fan sedimentation in the Lower Derwent Valley, Tasmania’ Sedimentology, 24, 1977, 781-799.
  • Wasson, R.J.  The Late Cainozoic evolution of the Carpentaria Plains, North Queensland: A Discussion’.  B.M.R. Journal of Australian Geology and Geophysics, 4(1), 1978, 77-78.

Aeolian Processes and Landforms

  • Wasson, R.J.  ‘Holocene aeolian landforms in the Belarabon area, southwest of Cobar, N.S.W.’  Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of N.S.W., 109 (3 & 4), 1976, 91-102.
  • Wasson, R.J. (ed)  Quaternary Dust Mantles of China, New Zealand and Australia, Aust. National University, 1982, 253pp.
  • Wasson, R.J.  Termination of dune building in the Strzelecki desert, South Australia, 15-10KA; Alluvial and aeolian record in semi-arid and arid south-eastern Australia, 7+2KA. In: Chappell, J.M.A. and Grindrod, A. (eds).  CLIMANZ 1, A.N.U. Canberra. 1983, p. 86, 118.
  • Wasson, R.J., Hyde, R.  ‘Factors determining desert dune type’.  Nature, 304, 1983, 337-339. (recently identified as a ‘Classic in Physical Geography’: Bullard, J.E. and Livingstone, 1. 2010; Progress in Physical Geography, August 13, 1-6).
  • Wasson, R.J., Hyde, R.  ‘Factors determining desert dune type – a reply to comments by D.M. Rubin’.  Nature, 309, 1984, 92.

Past Environments and Climatic Change

  • Wasson, R.J., Cochrane, R.M.  ‘Geological and Geomorphological Perspectives on Archaeological Sites in the Cagayan Valley, the Philippines’.  In: G-J. Bartstra and W.A. Casparie (eds) Modern Quaternary Research in Southeast Asia, Vol. 5, 1980, 1-26, Balkema, Rotterdam.
  • Wasson, R.J., Cochrane, R.M.  ‘The Cagayan Valley, the Philippines’.  Bulletin Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, 1, 1980, 5-10.
  • Thom, B.G and Wasson, R.J. (eds.). ‘Holocene Research in Australia, 1978-1982’. Occasional Paper No. 33, Department fo Geography, University of New South Wales, Duntroon.1982, 134pp.
  • Wasson, R.J.  ‘The Contribution of Dust to Quaternary Valley Fills at Belarabon, Western New South Wales’.  In: R.J. Wasson (ed) Quaternary Dust Mantles of China, New Zealand and Australia, ANU, 1982, 191-196.
  • Cochrane, R.M., Wasson, R.J.  ‘Geology, Geomorphology and Sediments of Lapuz Lapuz Cave, the Philippines.  In: P. Coutts ‘An Archaeological Perspective of Panay Island, Philippines.  San Carlos Publications, Univ. of San Carlos, 1983, 179-183.

Slopes, Coasts, Soils, Regional Landform Development

  • Clark, M.F., Wasson, R.J., Williams, M.A.J.  ‘Point Stuart Chenier Plain and Holocene sea levels in Northern Australia’.  Search, 1979, 90-92.
  • Wasson, R.J., Hunt, P.A., Clarke, M.F.  ‘A re-evaluation of the “silcretes” of the Cobar area, Australia’.  Geoderma, 22, 1979, 137-159.
  • Wasson, R.J.  ‘Stratified Debris Slope Deposits in the Hindu Kush, Pakistan’.  Zeitschrift fur Geomorphologie, 23(3), 1979, 301-320. 
  • Wasson, R.J.  ‘Landform development in Australia’.  In: Evolution of the Flora and Fauna of Arid Australia.  W.R. Barker and P.J.M. Greenslade (eds)1982, Peacock Publications, 23-34.
  • Callen, R.A., Wasson, R.J., Gillespie, R.  ‘Reliability of Radiocarbon Dating of Pedogenic Carbonate in the Australian Arid Zone’.  Sedimentary Geology, 35, 1983, 1-14.

Natural Resource and Environmental Management

  • Wasson, R.J., Clark, R.L.  ‘Environmental History for Explanation and Prediction’.  Search, 16, 1985, 258-263.
  • Wasson, R.J., Galloway, R.W.  ‘Sediment Yield in the Barrier Range before and after European Settlement’.  Aust. Rangelands J., 8(2), 1986, 79-90.
  • Wasson, R.J.  ‘Detection and Measurement of Land Degradation Processes’.  In: Land Degradation: Problems and Policies.  A. Chisholm and R. Dumsday (eds) Cambridge University Press, 1987, 49-69.
  • Wasson, R.J., Clark, R.L., Nanninga, P.M., Waters, J.  `Pb-210 as a Chronometer and Tracer, Burrinjuck Reservoir, Australia’.  Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 12, 1987, 399-414.
  • Clark, R.L., Wasson, R.J.  ‘Reservoir Sediments’.  In: Perspectives on Australian Limnology.  W.D. Williams and P. De Deckker (eds) CSIRO Publications, Melbourne, 1987, 497-507.

Conference Papers, Notes and Abstracts, and Consultancy Reports, Workshop Reports, Technical Reports

  • Wasson, R.J., ‘The Identification of relict periglacial slope mantles’.  Australian Quaternary Newsletter 13, 26-34.
  • Wasson, R.J. and Galloway, R.W.  ‘Erosion rates near Broken Hill before and after European settlement’, In: Loughran, R.J. (ed) Drainage Basin Erosion and Sedimentation, Univ. Newcastle and NSW Soil Con. Ser., 1984, pp. 213-220.
  • Wasson, R.J., Clark, R.L., Willett, I.R., Waters, J., Campbell, B.L. and Outhet, D.  ‘Erosion history from sedimentation in Burrinjuck reservoir, NSW’.  In: Loughran, R.J. (ed) Drainage Basin Erosion and Sedimentation, Univ. Newcastle and NSW Soil Con. Service, 1984, pp221-230.
  • Wasson, R.J.  ‘Late Quaternary stratigraphy of Australian desert dune fields.’  In: Wilford, G.E. (ed) Quaternary Studies in Australia: Future Directions. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, Record 1984/14, pp. 130-47.
  • Wasson, R.J.  ‘Climate, rates and timing of Quaternary continental dune accumulation in Australia.’ 12th International Sedimentological Congress, Canberra, 1986.

Click here for the full list of publications

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