PhD scholarship opportunity in Community Ecology and Freshwater Biodiversity in Tasmania

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Friday, February 14, 2020

I am seeking applicants for a PhD Scholarship at the University of Tasmania (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia). The project revolves around replicated field experiments across a range of agricultural catchments in northern Tasmania and south-west Western Australia, and we already have a companion PhD candidate at Murdoch University (Perth, Western Australia) to undertake the WA portion of this research.

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 (hosting the Tasmanian PhD student), Murdoch University (hosting the WA PhD student) and Massey University (New Zealand), and is funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Program.

Applicants for this scholarship should be able to address the following selection criteria:

• A First Class or high Upper Second Class Honours degree or equivalent qualification (e.g. Masters degree by research).
• 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 interested in this project should contact Associate Professor Leon A. Barmuta (Leon.Barmuta@utas.edu.au , phone +61 (0)3 6226 2785) as soon as possible.