PhD oppurtunity: Unravelling the complex coupling of temperature and wetness in soil and litter layers affected by fire. - Perth, WA

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Saturday, August 1, 2020

Important fire properties such as rate of spread, intensity and severity are controlled in part by spatial patterns of fuel and plant moisture. These patterns arise from the complex interplay of rainfall inputs, redistribution of moisture between litter and soil layers, plant water uptake and climatic drivers of drying in heterogeneous landscapes. The magnitude of soil heating, an important driver of post-fire vegetation recovery and recruitment, is also a function of soil wetness and soil type. Thus, soil and litter moisture and temperature are coupled with the fire regime of the region to form a post-fire recovery envelope. These complex interactions, however, remain poorly understood on scales ranging from micro (1D soil column) to macro (burn scar) scales.
Understanding the complex coupling between temperature, wetness, soil, vegetation, climate and fire is becoming increasingly important as the Australian climate dries and warms, altering fire seasons nationwide. For example, in the 2019/20 fire season, severe fire weather in NSW extended from June 2019 through to February 2020. In Western Australia, we are seeing reduced opportunity for prescribed burning as a result of changes to rainfall patterns in autumn and spring.
In collaboration with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), UNSW and UWA, we are looking for a PhD student to work across scales to understand how soil temperature, soil moisture and surface litter dynamics vary within burns, between burns and between burns undertaken in different seasons. This project will examine the complex relationship between soil moisture, soil temperature, litter fuels and fire dynamics. By understanding these interactions we can better understand the driver post-fire recruitment in fire-prone ecosystems under climate-induced changes to fire regime.
This position would suit a candidate who has achieved or will achieve a First Class Honours or a high achieving Masters Student in a Science or Engineering area, with candidates experienced in ecology and also remote sensing and spatial data, soil physics and modelling highly regarded.
The position will aim to start early 2021 and will be based in Perth, WA.
To be successful in the role, you will have:
• Bachelor Honours (First Class) or Master’s degree in either Science or Engineering
• Proficiency in the R statistical programming or/and Python or ability to become proficient quickly
• Familiarity with Hydrus 1D modelling
• Excellent written and communication skills in English
How to apply and further information
Applicants should email Dr Ryan Tangney directly at R.Tangney@unsw.edu.au expressing your interest. In your email include a cover letter of no more than 1 page expressing your motivation to apply for this position, your CV and a copy of your academic transcripts with all subjects studied and grades obtained.