Understanding trout populations in Australia to balance environmental, economic and social priorities

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Sunday, September 1, 2019

Little is known about the ecology of trout in Australia despite their environmental, economic and social importance. Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) and Rainbow Trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss) were introduced to southern Australia for recreational fishing in the 1800s, and over 1 million are released into lakes and impoundments annually. These species are highly valued by recreational fishers and provide considerable social and economic benefit to regional Victoria. However, ecosystems change when new species are introduced, and trout have clearly contributed to population declines of several native species, including fish and frogs. The ongoing viability of wild trout populations and the fisheries they support are also threatened by a warmer and drier future. Wild alpine Australian trout are often relatively small and occur at higher densities relative to elsewhere in the world and therefore rarely reach the larger trophy sizes desired by anglers. An increased understanding of trout populations, including their growth rates, densities and dynamics could help to sustain the recreational fishing industry and permit the development of strategies to minimize impacts on native fauna. Research, conservation and recreational fishing groups all recognise this importance and are committed to working together to achieve the balance between the economic, environmental and social concerns.

Two complementary PhD projects are available to conduct research to inform the management of Brown and Rainbow Trout populations, which in turn will support the recreational fishing industry and improve native biodiversity outcomes, particularly for threatened fauna. PhD Project One will focus on understanding trout demography, growth rates and their prey items in Victorian waterways, in the context of river health. PhD Project Two will compare traditional and novel survey techniques to optimise trout population assessments and clarify the population demography and distribution of trout species in southern Australia. The successful PhD candidates will work together and have opportunities to develop or expand upon their skills in fish ecology, field survey techniques, genetic analysis and population and species distribution modelling.

The students will need to obtain an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) scholarship at the University of Melbourne (or be competitive for an international postgraduate scholarship: IPRS, MIRS). Thus, a first-class honours or master’s degree, and/or evidence of publishing in international peer-reviewed scientific journals will be essential. Information regarding scholarships and admission for University of Melbourne can be found here: https://study.unimelb.edu.au/find/courses/graduate/doctor-of-philosophy-....

The successful applicants will have an appreciation of fish biology and general ecological theory, with an interest and/or background in basic programming, statistics and genetic analysis being highly desirable. Importantly, this project requires a candidate with excellent communications skills as you will be required to work effectively with managers and researchers across multiple industries and disciplines. The preferred starting date for this project is early-2020.

Closing date for expressions of interest is 5pm 1st September 2019 for both international and domestic applicants. Please submit a cover letter outlining your interest in the project, your academic transcript, and CV with contact details for two referees to: Dr Matt West or Dr John Morrongiello, School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, matthew.west@unimelb.edu.au, john.morrongiello@unimelb.edu.au. For further information, contact Dr Matt West, Dr John Morrongiello www.morrongiellolab.com or Dr Jarod Lyon (jarod.lyon@delwp.vic.gov.au).