Professor Malcolm Walter

357, Biological Sciences
(+61 2) 9385 3761
(+61 2) 9385 1483

ARC Professorial Fellow 2010-2014

Professional Experience

  • 2008-current: Professor, School of BABS & Director, Australian Centre for Astrobiology
  • 1990-2007: Professorial Fellow, Biotechnology Research Institute, Macquarie University
  • 1989-1990: Honorary Associate, School of Earth Sciences, Macquarie University
  • 1988-1989: Leader, Basin Hydrogeology, Bureau of Mineral Resources
  • 1987-1988: Leader, Onshore Basin Analysis, Bureau of Mineral Resources
  • 1980-1987: Snr Principal Research Scientist, Officer-in-charge, Baas Becking Geobiological Laboratory
  • 1979-1980: Visiting Scholar, University of California, Los Angeles
  • 1973-1979: Geologist Class 4, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology & Geophysics, Australia
  • 1971-1972: Research Staff Geologist, Yale University
  • 1970: Research Assistant, University of Adelaide
  • 1963-1965: SA Department of Mines and Geosurveys of Australia Ltd

Research Contribution

Professor Walter has been working for 35 years on the geological evidence of early life on Earth, including stromatolites. He is considered one of the world experts on both living and extinct stromatolites. He completed his PhD on stromatolite biostratigraphy and palaeobiology, and has worked at different levels on the oldest convincing evidence of life on Earth. Since 1989 he has been funded by NASA in its exobiology and astrobiology programs, and has made substantial contributions to understanding microbial life in high temperature ecosystems, and the search for life on Mars. Professor Walter conducted seminal work on the earliest evidence of life on Earth, the 3.5 billion year old stromatolites of Western Australia.

Many of his articles on the geology of stromatolites and other ancient formations have been published in the highest impact journals, such as Nature and Science, with several cited over 100 times. Professor Walter has published substantially on the palaeontology and biostratigraphy of the Archaean, Proterozoic and Cambrian in the environmental context of early evolution and the geochemical consequences of that evolution. He has also developed the use of stable isotope geochemistry to investigate the palaeobiological aspects of ancient formations and their significance in determining the composition of the contemporary atmosphere. Professor Walter is a member of the Executive Council of NASA's Astrobiology Institute and helps coordinate Mars exploratory programs. He has developed what has become one of the dominant exploration models for former life on Mars, and the NASA lander "Opportunity" landed at such a site on Mars in January 2004. Professor Walter is one of three people to represent Australia's space interests among 21 space agencies called together by NASA to discuss international involvement in the return to the Moon and further exploration of Mars.

Honours & Awards

  • South Australian Government Studentship (1962-1964)
  • James Barrans Scholarship (1964)
  • CSIRO Research Scholarship (1965)
  • John L. Young Scholarship (1965)
  • Tate Memorial Medal in Geology (1965)
  • Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Research Scholarship (1966-1969)
  • Fellow, Geological Society of Australia
  • Fellow, Australian Academy of Science (2004)
  • Eureka Prize (2005)


Click here for Professor Walter's publications list