PhD Position: Keystone habitat dynamics in agricultural landscapes

An exciting opportunity exists to study the dynamics of keystone habitat in agricultural landscapes. The impacts of agricultural expansion on biodiversity can accumulate over decades, including weed invasion and loss of keystone habitat features. Accumulation and interaction of these effects may be accelerating species loss from farming regions beyond the rate due to habitat loss alone. Understanding these processes is a critical knowledge gap for species conservation in disturbed landscapes.

This project aims to understand the dynamics of a keystone habitat feature (spinifex Triodia scariosa) in remnant mallee woodlands in central New South Wales, Australia. Spinifex provides important habitat for many other species, but its persistence in agricultural areas may be threatened by weed invasion, competition and alteration of other ecosystem processes. This project will involve field sampling, a manipulative experiment, and habitat mapping using an unmanned aerial vehicle (‘drone’) to assess spinifex availability across a range of site and landscape conditions. For the right student, there may be opportunities to incorporate additional aspects of plant or animal ecology into the current project.

Funding has already been secured from the Hermon Slade Foundation and Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University. The overall project is led by Dr Tim Doherty in Prof. Don Driscoll’s research group at Deakin’s Burwood (Melbourne) campus. The start date can be late 2017 or early 2018.

The successful candidate will have a first class Honours degree (or equivalent). Peer reviewed publications and fieldwork experience will also be an advantage. The candidate will need to secure a PhD scholarship:

For further information, please email with the subject line ‘Keystone habitat PhD’.