PhD project: Rewilding with minibeasts for biodiversity and ecosystem function

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Friday, August 30, 2019

The science and practice of restoration ecology has advanced rapidly in recent years, with significant progress in our ability to establish vegetation. More recently, rewilding, the return of “keystone" fauna, has come to the fore. It is now recognized that the success of restoration in returning not only biodiversity, but also ecosystem function, depends very much on the interplay of species. Despite their vast diversity and importance in ecosystem function, invertebrates and microbes have largely been neglected in a restoration context. The result may be that revegetation results in biologically and functionally depauperate habitat islands.

The solution to this problem might be as straightforward as transplanting habitats, along with all their biota. No studies have investigated the effectiveness of active reintroductions of soil and litter biota from biologically rich remnant vegetation. This project will test the efficacy of whole-of-community reintroductions via litter transplants in kick-starting biodiversity accumulation and litter break-down in revegetated sites. Despite the simplicity of this idea, it has never been systematically tested in a restoration context. This work could revolutionize restoration efforts by rapidly returning biodiversity and function to the litter layer.

The PhD project/s will be supervised by Assoc. Prof. Heloise Gibb (invertebrate community ecology), Dr Nick Murphy (ecological genetics) and Prof. Ashley Franks (environmental microbiology) at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia and in collaboration with Dr Sacha Jellinek (Greening Australia).

We are seeking expressions of interest (EOIs) from capable, first class Honours (or Masters equivalent) students with a passion for field-based ecological research and expertise in ecology, entomology, genetics or microbiology. The preferred date for commencement is early February 2020, but start dates can be negotiated. Funding is available to support the operating costs of up to two PhD students on this project. Following a successful EOI, candidates would need to acquire a PhD scholarship to conduct the PhD project at La Trobe University (e.g. Australian Postgraduate Award, La Trobe Postgraduate Award).

Closing date for EOI applications is August 23rd, 2019. Enquiries are welcome by email.

Your expression of interest should include a 1 page cover letter detailing your interest in the project, a CV (up to four pages) and contact details for two referees and should be sent by email to:

Assoc. Prof. Heloise Gibb