PhD Projects in Ecology and Biodiversity at the Fenner School, Australian National University

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Australian National University is Australia’s highest-ranking university globally (QS World Rankings) and is rated well above world standard in the fields of Environmental Science and Management and Ecological Applications (ERA reports). The Fenner School of Environment and Society has a large, dynamic community of PhD students who are provided with a high quality work environment, access to field equipment, laboratory facilities and a fleet of 4WD vehicles. Students are encouraged to collaborate widely and attend national and international conferences. We are offering a number of PhD opportunities in ecology and biodiversity conservation, including studies on the reintroduction of threatened species, and the ecology of urban or agricultural systems. Projects include:

The ecology of crop pollination

We are conducting research on two related areas in relation to crop pollination by bees in Australian agriculture:

  • The role of floral diversity in supporting healthy colonies of social bees (native and introduced)
  • The role of wild insect pollinators in orchard agriculture and how landscapes might be managed better for improved orchard pollination and improved biodiversity.

Contact: Saul Cunningham | saul.cunningham@anu.edu.au  | Scholarship top-up: $8,000 p.a.

Managing mature trees in urban landscapes

Old trees support features not found in young trees (e.g., hollows, exposed perches and large quantities of seed or nectar) and therefore represent important or exclusive habitat for several species. In collaboration with government and a company developing 11,500 new residential dwellings, this PhD provides an opportunity for you to conduct research on one or more of:

  • The value of mature trees for biodiversity (e.g., birds, bats, invertebrates);
  • How trees should be selected for retention in residential developments;
  • Quantifying risk to people or infrastructure associated with retaining old trees in urban landscapes in different configurations or settings;
  • The economics of retaining mature trees in different configurations or settings; and/or
  • Attitudes of residents to old trees in urban areas.

Contact: Philip Gibbons | philip.gibbons@anu.edu.au | Scholarship top-up: $8,000 p.a.

Reintroduction biology of threatened mammals

We are offering an exciting opportunity to undertake research in the reintroduction biology of threatened mammals in south-eastern Australia. The project will be based at Booderee National Park and work with one or more threatened species (e.g. southern brown bandicoot, eastern quoll, greater glider). High value is placed on field-based, empirical projects. The successful applicant will initially work with researchers from the National Environmental Science Programme Threatened Species Recovery Hub. Professor Lindenmayer’s group includes some of the Australia’s leading ecologists and conservation scientists. Past PhD graduates have a strong record of employment in academic, government and NGO sectors.

Contact: David Lindenmayer | david.lindenmayer@anu.edu.au

Biosocial shaping of conservation and biodiversity practices in Australia’s capital

We are seeking applicants to contribute to an inter-disciplinary and mixed-method collaboration which explores the complex relationship between natural and social systems in various biodiversity conservation domains in the Australian Capital Territory. The four linked projects each have a defined focus on understanding the social dimensions, impacts and implications of biodiversity conservation efforts at local, national and international levels. 

  • Exploring pathways to rewilding: How is rewilding being conceptualised, debated, enacted and vindicated? 
  • Wellbeing and participatory conservation: How does participatory conservation work affect wellbeing? 
  • Public Reasoning and Social Licence for Ecosystem Futures: What risks can we take for ecosystem conservation? 
  • The visual field of nature futures: experiencing Mulligans Flat: How do conservationists and diverse publics cultivate shared and competing ecological visions through image circulation?

Contact: Gavin Smith | gavin.smith@anu.edu.au  | Scholarship top-up: $8,000 p.a.

Biodiversity values of Australian farms

Farming occurs across almost half of Australia’s land mass, meaning that research to improve land management practices can have enormous cumulative environmental benefits, while also contributing to the profitability and sustainability of Australian farms. However, achieving good biodiversity outcomes in farmland requires new knowledge, particularly on the value of habitat features such as revegetation plantings, shelterbelts and dams. Potential research projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Biodiversity hotspots on farms: what role do features such as farm dams or revegetation plantings play in providing habitat for different species? Research could focus on a particular taxonomic group, or include multi-taxonomic investigations. 
  • Frogs in farmland: What factors shape the distribution of frogs in agricultural landscapes? How does competition between frog species shape species occurrence (with particular reference to the endangered Sloanes’ Froglet that occurs throughout the study region)?
  • Biodiversity and nutrient flows: What role does biodiversity and vegetation structure play in intercepting and redistributing nutrient flows on farms? How do revegetation plantings affect dam water quality?

Contact: Martin Westgate | martin.westgate@anu.edu.au | Scholarship top-up: $8,000 p.a.

Co-creating knowledge for Sustainable Agriculture 

Sustainable Farms is an interdisciplinary initiative aimed at understanding and communicating opportunities for improved environmental and financial sustainability of Australian farms, and the well-being of the farmers that operate them. We are interested in projects that sit at the intersection of land management, communication and engagement, including:

  • An investigation of the different forms of expertise that exist within agriculture relating to the value of ecosystem services.
  • A specific focus on interactional expertise for creating meaningful exchanges between scientists and non-scientists (farmers, finance actors and policy makers) is preferred.
  • An exploration of the challenges of complex collaborative research

Contact: Michelle Young | michelle.young@anu.edu.au  | Scholarship top-up: $8,000 p.a.

Candidate requirements

A bachelor’s degree with first-class honours or a research master’s degree from a recognised university is a prerequisite. Peer-reviewed publications are an advantage. Selection is based on academic merit and the candidate’s research proposal. Domestic students must obtain and maintain a PhD scholarship stipend at The Australian National University (2019 rate: AU$27,596 p.a. tax free; see below). International students must hold an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS). Candidates are expected to commence their program in 2020.

Application process and closing dates

Interested individuals are invited to discuss the project with the appropriate contact person for their preferred project. Potential candidates must submit a CV and a one page statement of possible research directions by 15 October 2019. The closing dates for applications for a PhD stipend scholarship at The Australian National University is 31 October 2019 [click here for details]. Queries regarding scholarship matters can be directed to hdr.student.fses@anu.edu.au.