PhD position @ Deakin University – Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Farm Dams

PhD Opportunity – Deakin University (Blue Carbon Lab), supervised by Dr Martino Malerba & Prof Peter Macreadie

We are looking for a Ph.D. candidate to join an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award on “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Farm Dams”.

The opportunity

Australian farm dams have some of the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per area among freshwater ecosystems. In Victoria alone, we estimated they release over 4,800 tonnes of CO2‐equivalent each day, which is 4.5% of all the State’s agricultural emissions. These recently discovered emissions are triggered by fertiliser and manure run-off increasing nutrients and creating the ideal conditions for the production of methane (CH4) – a gas with 20-30 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide (CO2).

There is an exciting opportunity to join the Blue Carbon Lab (Deakin University) in collaboration with Sustainable Farms (Australian National University) to investigate how enhancing farm dam condition affects methane emissions. The successful candidate will carry out field work, deploy and monitor tailor-made sensors, compile and analyse data from the field, remote sensing, and GIS.

This PhD project will aim to address the following aspects:

  • Capture spatial and temporal variability in greenhouse gas emissions among farm dams;
  • Investigate the role of biotic (e.g., vegetation) and abiotic (e.g., climate) factors on greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Determine the impact of management interventions (e.g., fencing) and land use type (e.g., livestock, crops) on greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Analyse the role of microbial communities on methane emissions.

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The laboratory

Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab is a multi-disciplinary research group at the forefront of global efforts to improve lives and livelihoods sustainably. We led the first study reporting unusually high methane emissions from farm dams (Ollivier et al. 2018). We also delivered a continental-scale map of farm dams in Australia (Malerba et al. 2021). We have collaborative partnerships and projects across 30 countries and are recognised as world leaders in the science underpinning natural climate solutions.

The candidate will work in close collaboration with the Sustainable Farms project at Australian National University. The Sustainable Farms project is among Australia’s leading research groups in sustainable farming. In recent years, Sustainable Farms have been monitoring the positive effects of farm dam enhancements on biodiversity, water security, and farming productivity. For the past two years, Sustainable Farms and Blue Carbon Lab worked together to show that enhancing farm dams can also reduce methane emissions. The successful candidate will further improve our understanding of the drivers of methane emissions at micro and macro scales.

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Selection criteria

  • Experience publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journal (preferably as first author);
  • First class Honours or Masters;
  • Familiar with the statistical software R (or similar);
  • Experience in carrying our research in environmental sciences, ecology, or similar;
  • Experience with spatial modelling or remote sensing.


PhD applicants should email the following documents to Dr Martino Malerba (

  • CV highlighting your skills, education, publications, and relevant work experience;
  • Cover letter (1 page) outlining your interest in the position and how your previous experience and technical skills suit the position;
  • The project will have a strong quantitative component. Extensive experience with the statistical package R (or similar coding languages) is a requirement. Ensure to outline any quantitative experience in the cover letter.

Please note

  • The student will be enrolled in a 3-year PhD. Applicants will be based at Deakin University’s Burwood campus (Melbourne);
  • We are unable to provide individual feedback on competitiveness. The following features are common among successful PhD applicants at the Blue Carbon Lab: (a) A first-authored paper in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, (b) first class Honours/Masters, (c) strong quantitative skills, and (d) experience working in similar topics;
  • Whilst we still accept applications from any persons interested in our roles, due to the impacts of COVID-19, we are currently prioritising applications from those with current working rights in Australia.

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