PhD scholarship - Biogeography of Fire @Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Australia

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Friday, May 31, 2019

The fire research group at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (Western Sydney University) at is seeking a PhD candidate for a research project on the biogeography of fuels in New South Wales.

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment ( within Western Sydney University is looking for a highly motivated and qualified candidate for a 3-year PhD commencing in 2019. This studentship is part of the Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, funded by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The Hub is a consortium of four universities (University of Wollongong, Western Sydney University, University of Tasmania, University of New South Wales) working closely with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Rural Fire Service and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Hub is providing the evidence base to meet the competing demands of fire management: mitigating risk to human life and property whilst concurrently mitigating risk to environmental values such as biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, carbon stocks and cultural heritage.

New South Wales is characterised by strong gradients of climate, terrain, soils and vegetation types that combine to form a unique diversity of fire regimes. Key aspects of the fire regime, such as the frequency, intensity, and season of fires, are determined by fuel types. Current fuel classifications are essentially based on a reclassification of major vegetation types. Variation in fuel composition and structure within the broad fuel types, due to variation in climate, terrain, soil fertility, species composition (e.g. leaf and bark traits) and the severity of previous fire, is currently not quantified but generates fine-scale variation that affects fire regimes.

This research project aims to predict spatiotemporal variation in fuel composition and structure at landscape and regional scales. The project will utilise georeferenced observations in flora databases and gridded environmental co-variables (e.g. climate, substrate, terrain, soils, fire history) to predict the occurrence of key fuel-forming plant functional types within broad vegetation classes. This project will also utilise satellite data products to map spatial variation in canopy density and spatial/vertical biomass profiles across NSW.

The PhD candidate will be based at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment and work under supervision of Associate Professor Matthias Boer and Dr. Rachael Nolan, but will also collaborate with other researchers at HIE and researchers within the Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub. The HIE is an exciting research institute with world-class research infrastructure and an international staff and student community, consisting of 55 academics, many recognized as world leaders in their particular fields, 23 technical and support staff, and 52 postgraduate students from a wide range of disciplines. The HIE provides an ideal research environment for a PhD in the environmental sciences.

Please check out the link ( for further details about the PhD scholarship and how to apply. Application closes 31 May 2019. Contact Associate Professor Matthias Boer ( to discuss your eligibility, the project requirements and your intention to apply.