PhD project: Improving the implementation and integration of biodiversity risk assessments

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Monday, June 1, 2020

Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Integrative Ecology 

Supervisors (Deakin): A/Prof Emily Nicholson and Dr Chloe Sato.

The Earth is currently experiencing a global biodiversity crisis. Ecosystems are collapsing and species extinctions are occurring at an unprecedented rate. The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems was developed to assess risks to biodiversity, and is rapidly gaining traction in informing global conservation targets and national assessments of threatened communities. To further enhance the contribution of the Red List of Ecosystems to biodiversity conservation, it is important to better understand the relationships between different approaches to undertaking assessments, and how the Red List of Ecosystems integrates with other risk assessment processes, such as the Red List of Threatened Species.

In this project, the PhD student will use a combination of literary synthesis, field work and modelling to explore how the Red List of Ecosystems can be implemented and used to improve outcomes, including developing an understanding of:

  1. how temporal and spatial scale of data influence outcomes of assessments;
  2. how different assessment processes (i.e. the Red List of Ecosystems and the Red List of Threatened Species) work together to enhance conservation decision making;
  3. how Red List assessment can improve management recommendations and outcomes.

The project will be co-supervised by quantitative conservation scientists at Deakin University, and will develop new theory and approaches that enhance the application of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems at national and global scales.

This exciting PhD project offers opportunities to work at the science-policy interface with academics and practitioners from Australia and overseas to develop case studies that influence global and national policy approaches and measurement standards. The student should have:

  • Undergraduate degree with honours and/or masters degree in ecology, environmental science
    or a related discipline, with a research component (e.g. thesis/dissertation) and an excellent
    academic track record
  • experience and quantitative skills for data analysis and modeling, ideally in R (or a willingness
    to develop such skills); and
  • some experience in undertaking ecological field work;
  • demonstrated skills in written research outputs (thesis, and preferably a scientific publication)
  • capacity to work in a team environment, particularly an inter-disciplinary team.
    The project forms part of an ARC Linkage grant on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (LP170101143).
​Supervision team: A/Prof Emily Nicholson is a conservation scientist at Deakin University, whose research interests include measuring change in biodiversity, and predicting the impacts of change on biodiversity and the benefits ecosystems provide for people. Emily is co-leader of the Red List of Ecosystems theme within the IUCN. Dr Chloe Sato is a postdoctoral research fellow involved in IUCN Red List of Ecosystem assessments in Australia, with experience in alpine ecology, ecosystems science, and biodiversity indicators.

​This project is largely desk-based (ideal at the moment), but will have strong international and national collaboration networks. Start date is ASAP – ideally by August, but with some flexibility. The project will be funded by Deakin University scholarships, and are open to Australia and international students. Closing date 1st of June 2020. Please send applications (cover letter, addressing the selection criteria listed, and CV) to Emily Nicholson (