PhD position @ Deakin University – Animal personality and performance and pace-of-life

PhD Opportunity – Deakin University, supervised by A/Prof Peter Biro (Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus)

Research topic

The inter-relationships between physiology, behaviour, performance and life history are fundamental to understanding the function and evolution of individual phenotypes. Studying these relationships can help us understand why highly flexible traits like behaviour and physiology can consistently differ among individuals. At the same time, studying individual variation in physiology and behaviour can help us understand animal performance (e.g. endurance, maximal oxygen consumption VO2max) and life history, including growth, reproduction and immune function.

This very broad focus includes and combines areas of study such as animal personality, behavioural plasticity, evolution, developmental plasticity and energetics.

The implications of understanding these trait linkages at the individual level are fundamental for understanding animal adaptation to changing environments, and for understanding the highly individual nature of health and disease resistance in humans and other animals.

Project aim

Although the potential projects are flexible, as are the study species, a fey focus would likely be studying correlations among resting metabolic rate, maximum metabolic rate, behaviour, performance and life history at the among individual level. This could involve

(a) longitudinal studies on trait relationships at the individual level,

(b) artificial selection on aspects of performance and/or behaviour to study co-evolution of related traits,

(c) manipulations of developmental environment to understand why traits are linked in particular ways.

Study animals might include invertebrates or zebrafish, but studies would likely be laboratory based. Students with interests in studying individual variation in physiology and behaviour are encouraged to contact A/Prof Pete Biro to discuss these or other areas of study that would be mutually interesting.

Important dates

Applications will remain open until a candidate has been appointed.


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,600 per annum tax exempt (2021 rate);
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate;
  • International students only: Tuition fees offset for the duration of 4 years. Single Overseas Student Health Cover policy for the duration of the student visa.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate currently residing in Australia. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship;
  • meet Deakin’s PhD entry requirements;
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master’s degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • Interest and aptitude for studying behaviour and/or physiology, and for statistical modelling, in particular mixed effects models.

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