PhD opportunity: Investigating the relationship between lianas and Australian rainforest recovery

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Monday, August 12, 2019


We are delighted to offer an exciting PhD opportunity in tropical forest ecology and conservation funded through the Australian Research Council. The PhD will be trained and working as part of an international team of researchers with more than 30 years of experience in measuring, monitoring and analysing dynamics and recovery of tropical forests and their structure.

The PhD’s overall aim is to identify and quantify the resilience and recovery of tropical forests following disturbance. The primary focus will be on the relationships and trade-offs between lianas (woody vines) and trees, and their interactions with climate and indicators of soil quality, including invertebrate detritivores. Liana growth following extensive forest clearance is slowing or reducing tree growth and productivity across the tropics, with potentially dire consequences for the global carbon sink, biodiversity and other ecosystem services. However, at the same time, lianas are an integral part of forest ecosystems, contributing to nutrient cycles, animal diets and protecting forests from damage.

The PhD is advertised as part of the new, long-term, pantropical, Forest Restoration and Climate Experiment (FoRCE). The student will conduct extensive plant and invertebrate fieldwork, extending an existing network of permanent rainforest monitoring plots to include the Australian Wet Tropics and other rainforest sites all along the eastern coast of Australia, from far North Queensland to southern New South Wales. New and existing data from these plots will be analysed using a range of empirical modelling techniques, testing for positive feedbacks and thresholds in the relationships between liana growth and tree growth. The findings will be further used to project expected regional change and economic impacts through use of Geographical Information Systems. The project will interact with complementary projects located in other biogeographic regions, especially East Africa, contributing to the evidence base in this newly emerging field.

The position will be based at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. Supervision and training will be provided by Associate Professor Andy Marshall, with co-supervision from Dr Marion Pfeifer at Newcastle University (UK). The student will also benefit from input and guidance provided by a world-leading team of collaborating scientists with expertise in tropical forest restoration and landscape ecology (Prof Robin Chazdon) and tropical forest management and socio-economics (Prof John Herbohn). The student will also work closely with the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Queensland Herbarium, conservation volunteer groups and CSIRO, through fieldwork, planning and workshops to discuss project aims/findings. The student will have access to a 4wd vehicle, laptop computer, budget for fieldwork and attending conferences.

More details here:

Enquiries: Dr. Andy Marshall,