PhD position @ Deakin University – Conserving koalas in a complex landscape

Our Southern Koala Research group is calling for expressions of interest from potential PhD candidates to undertake a project on the ecology of koalas in South Gippsland.

PhD position supervised by Dr Desley Whisson and Dr Adam Miller @ Deakin university

We are seeking candidates with interests in terrestrial wildlife ecology and conservation genetics, and experience in undertaking ecological field research.

The position is available only to domestic students. Applicants should have achieved an excellent grade (e.g., H1 or HD) in an Honours or a MSc research program and have proven skills in scientific writing.

The successful candidate will be offered a 3-year PhD scholarship (~$28,000 p.a. tax free) with potential for a 6-month extension through the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. The scholarship is fully funded by Hancock Victoria Plantations (HVP) who will also provide annual operational funding and in-kind support to the project.

The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr Desley Whisson and Dr Adam Miller. The position is based at the Melbourne (Burwood) Campus but will involve considerable field work in South Gippsland.

The project

The South Gippsland koala population is of high conservation significance due to its genetic uniqueness. However, little is known about this population to inform its conservation (Wedrowicz et al. 2018). The population occurs in a region where habitat is highly fragmented, and where establishment and harvest of forestry plantations result in a spatially and temporally dynamic landscape. Effective conservation of this population relies on an understanding of the population’s geographical extent, gene flow through the landscape, use of forestry plantations, and koala response to forestry management actions.

This project aims to improve our understanding of the spatial and temporal dynamics of the South Gippsland koala population, and the response of koalas to forest management activities.

Specific objectives are:

  • To determine the geographical extent of the South Gippsland koala population and patterns of gene flow/connectivity in the landscape;
  • To understand koala behaviour and use of different habitat types including pine plantations that may provide important shade, cover, or links between native vegetation;
  • To determine the impacts of pre-harvest translocation of koalas on koala health and movements.

This is an applied, multidisciplinary project combining studies of spatial ecology, conservation genetics, and wildlife health. Studies will involve surveys for collection and genetic analysis of scat, koala surveys across a range of vegetation types to identify factors influencing distribution, habitat use and behaviour, and a telemetry study coupled with scat analysis. The PhD student will have considerable input into study design.

To apply

To apply, please complete and send your expression of interest form and CV to Dr Desley Whisson at

Please note that submitting your expression of interest and CV is not a formal application for a Postgraduate Research Degree at Deakin. You will be advised by the faculty if you should proceed to applying for candidature and the scholarship.

The EOI Form and CV must be submitted by 19th July 2021.
Interested candidates may contact Desley Whisson (; Ph: 03 9251 7302) to discuss the project and experience/skills required prior to submitting an application.

For more available positions within the CIE please visit our Current Vacancies page.