PhD Opportunity: Biogeography of Plant Traits that Govern Bushfire Risk and Drought Vulnerability

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Monday, August 31, 2020

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) at Western Sydney University is looking for a highly motivated and qualified candidate for a 3-year PhD commencing in 2020.

Globally, the incidence of large forest fires is increasing due to a changing climate and altered land uses. Large forest fires generally coincide with extended drought, with dry fuels (i.e. biomass) increasing the probability of fire ignition and resultant rate of fire spread and fire severity. Quantifying when and where forests are approaching critical dryness levels is vitally important for assessing fire risk and for planning prescribed (i.e. management) burns. For live fuels (i.e. living plants), there are different responses to soil dryness among species due to differing structural and physiological traits. This project aims to understand and quantify the spatial variation in these plant traits.

This studentship contributes to the research program of the NSW Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub. The Hub is a consortium of four universities working closely with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, the NSW Rural Fire Service, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and ACT Parks and Conservation. 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, air quality, carbon stocks and cultural heritage.

This project aims to model the spatial variation in plants traits that affect vegetation responses to drought and control temporal dynamics of forest flammability. The project will involve fieldwork at HIE’s world-class research facilities to model the response of live fuel moisture content to declines in soil water content. Additional fieldwork will be conducted at sites across NSW to measure variation in key plants traits across environmental gradients (e.g. climate).

Note: Some aspects of the project, including the project start date, may be modified subject to COVID-19 regulations.

What does the scholarship provide?

> A tax-free stipend of $30,000(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs
> Substantial benefits in terms of additional operational funding for project fieldwork and data collection, and travel and conference attendance

For further details and to apply, see: https://bit.ly/3d8S7BZ .