PhD Position: The future of coastal wetlands under rising sea levels

The future of coastal wetlands under rising sea levels - Phd PositionAim: The main aim of this project is to develop fundamental new knowledge of how coastal catchments should be managed to protect and conserve important coastal vegetated habitats under future climate change.

Project description: Mangroves and saltmarshes are coastal plants that are well known for protecting human lives and property by buffering coastal areas against the impact of storm surges and other extreme weather events. Essentially, they provide a form of ‘green infrastructure’. There is major global concern, however, that these plants may disappear with rising sea levels. This joint project between Deakin University, Melbourne Water, and The Nature Conservancy will investigate the capacity for Victorian mangroves and saltmarshes to keep pace with rising sea levels, and will investigate optimal management strategies for ensuring the persistence of mangroves, saltmarshes and other important coastal vegetation under future climate change scenarios. By combining state-of-the-art remote sensing, multi-proxy paleoecological techniques and analysis of surveyor records, this project will: (1) measure how mangrove/saltmarsh distribution and extent has changed around Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay over the past 175 years; (2) examine the relationship between sea levels, sedimentation/erosion rates and mangrove/saltmarsh communities; (3) determine how rising sea levels will affect mangrove/saltmarsh survival and the ecosystem services they provide; and (4) investigate strategies to manage coastal areas to facilitate the long-term survival of mangrove/saltmarsh. Overall this PhD project will provide an important advance in our understanding of nature-based strategies for responding to climate change.

Supervisory team: The supervisory team consists of Dr Peter Macreadie (Deakin University) as the Principal Supervisor, Drs Rhys Coleman (Melbourne Water) and Chris Gillies (The Nature Conservancy) as Industry Supervisors, and Prof. Cath Lovelock (University of Queensland) as an associate supervisor.

Closing date: This position will remain open until the 15 January 2016 or until an outstanding candidate is identified, whichever is sooner.

Citizenship: This position is open to domestic and international applicants.

Value: This is a fully-funded PhD scholarship that provides AUD$25,849 per annum (indexed) for 3 years, standard relocation allowance, and tuition fee waiver (4 years) in the case of international students. Also, the student will be covered by the student OSHC policy and there is no expectation to perform any other duties (e.g. teaching) other than research.

Research Environment: Deakin is ranked in the world’s top 50 Universities under 50 years of age (QS World University Rankings), and is in the top 3% of Universities worldwide (according to all three major international university ranking systems: the Academic Ranking of World Universities, Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings).
The current proposal will be hosted by Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology (CIE) – a strategic research centre within the Faculty of Science, Engineering and the Built Environment and the School of Life & Environmental Sciences (LES). The goal of CIE’s research is to foster new conceptual understanding that advances fundamental science, while also making innovative contributions to applied conservation and natural resource management – particularly through protection of biodiversity and areas of high conservation value.
The CIE was founded in 2010 and now has 128 members (38 Academic staff, 28 Research Fellows and 62 PhD students). It is a research-intensive environment and since 2010 has attracted more than $6M investment from Deakin University, $3M in national and international competitive research grants and $8M in contract research income. CIE members have published over 450 papers in peer-reviewed journals since 2010, including publications in prestigious journals like Nature, Science and Nature Climate Change.

Principal accountabilities: The PhD is expected to contribute towards the research effort of the University and conduct research independently and / or team research for the project. It is important that the PhD will contribute to the profile and research reputation of LES and CIE, by means that may include public lectures, seminars, contributing to public debate and policy formation on key research issues.
The PhD will carry out activities to develop their research expertise relevant to the particular field of research.

  • Initiate and conduct research under limited supervision either as a member of a team, or independently (where appropriate), to achieve the objectives of the University, Faculty, School and the CIE.
  • Personally and through active participation in teams, prepare and develop grant applications relating to the project(s), and contribute to the preparation, or where appropriate, individual preparation of research proposal submissions to external funding bodies.
  • Conduct research and engage in scholarly publication, personally and in research teams and prepare findings/results for oral and written communication, producing or contributing to the production of conference and seminar papers and publications from that research.
  • Promote the activities of the University, particularly those relating to research within academic and professional communities in Australia and internationally where appropriate.


  • Undertake experimental design and operation of advanced laboratory/technical/analytical research procedures.
  • Remain up to date with current literature and methods relevant to the area of responsibilities.
  • Be involved in professional activities, including (subject to availability of funds) attendance at conferences and seminars in the field of expertise.
  • Undertake administrative functions related to grant preparation and the area of research.
  • Attend meetings associated with the research project(s) and attend other meetings as appropriate.
  • Complete PhD in 3 years.

Level of supervision and independence: Research is conducted independently in the context of frequent consultation with other team members and with the responsible research investigators.

Selection criteria – essential:


  1. A first class honours degree in ecology, geology, geochemistry, spatial analysis, modelling or related disciplines.

Experience, Knowledge and Skills:

  1. Experience in collecting field data and capacity to undertake independent fieldwork.
  2. Capacity to implement research in collaboration with a range of stake-holders (government agencies, private landholders, conservation groups etc.).
  3. Strong English written communication skills including the capacity to write research results into scientific papers.
  4. A passion and drive for science.

Selection criteria – desirable:

Strengths in some or all of the following fields would be an advantage:

  1. Peer reviewed scientific publications.
  2. Analysis of spatial data and familiarity with statistical, modelling and GIS programs, or evidence of a capacity to learn.
  3. Experience in ecology, geology, geochemistry, spatial analysis, and modelling, particularly in relation to coastal environments (e.g. seagrass, saltmarsh, and mangrove ecosystems).
  4. Engagement with the media and/or experience in public speaking.

Special requirements:

  • Drivers licence.
  • Include in your application a brief cover letter and a CV (please try to point out any achievements that can be considered ‘outstanding’).
  • Address selection criteria 1-8 in no more than two pages.
  • Write up to half an additional page (up to 300 words) describing your ideas for exploring the problem of sea level rise for coastal vegetated ecosystems (any citations may be included in addition to the half page).

For more information please contact Dr Peter Macreadie.