PhD scholarship opportunities in Community Ecology and Freshwater Biodiversity

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

We are seeking applicants for two PhD Scholarships, one at the University of Tasmania (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) and the other at Murdoch University (Perth, Western Australia). The project revolves around replicated field experiments across a range of agricultural catchments in northern Tasmania and south-west Western Australia.

The research seeks to test the common assumption that high biodiversity makes ecosystems resilient to disturbances. Observational studies documenting change after disturbance cannot identify ecological processes connecting diversity and ecosystem function, making field experiments that manipulate identical disturbances in ecosystems with different biodiversity essential.

Freshwater streams are excellent model systems to test these ideas. This project will use field experiments that manipulate flow disturbances in streams replicated in low (south-west WA) and high biodiversity (Tasmania) regions and across gradients of chronic background stress imposed by agriculture to investigate how biodiversity sustains functional ecosystems, and how much diversity can be lost before the resilience of a stream is irrevocably compromised. Both benthic biodiversity and ecosystem processes will be measured.

There will be laboratory and smaller-scale field investigations to further unravel the underlying mechanisms, and the results will support food-web and community assembly modelling as the initial step to providing a synthetic platform to make predictions and test further hypotheses. The project is a collaboration between the University of Tasmania, Murdoch University (hosting the WA PhD student) and Massey University (New Zealand), and is funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Program.

Applicants for these scholarships should be able to address the following eligibility criteria:

• A First Class or high Upper Second Class Honours degree or equivalent qualification.
• A good understanding of community ecology, biodiversity, limnology or freshwater ecology.
• Willingness to use microscopes to identify macroinvertebrates and/or benthic algae.
• Sound quantitative skills.
• Good written and verbal scientific communication skills.
• Ability to work as part of an interdisciplinary research team.
• Willingness to work in remote locations including supervising volunteer field assistants.
• Current driving licence, preferably with manual or 4WD experience.

Applicants should send a CV and Expression of Interest (one A4 page maximum) to either:

Associate Professor Leon A. Barmuta ( for the scholarship at the University of Tasmania
Associate Professor Belinda Robson ( ) for the scholarship at Murdoch University.

Due date for applications is 31st July 2019.

Please contact either Leon Barmuta or Belinda Robson for more information about this project.