Current Vacancies

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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.

Benefits

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.

Emerging technologies for native wildlife assessment

Postdoctoral Research Fellow – Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

This is a new fixed-term position funded by a grant to the Faculty of Science Engineering and Built Environment, School of Life and Environmental Sciences (LES) from the Bushfires and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, in collaboration with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

This project will draw on expertise from Deakin’s schools of LES, Information Technology and Business and Law, in collaboration with Parks Victoria and the Arthur Rylah Institute. The project aims to develop, implement and evaluate new approaches to monitoring wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas and ducks. It will use field surveys alongside a range of sources of imagery of wildlife and machine (deep) learning to identify improved monitoring approaches.

The Research Fellow will initiate and conduct research, including field research, by implementing the funded project “use of emerging technologies for native wildlife population assessment and management”.

The Research Fellow is expected to contribute to the research output of the TechnEcology Research Network and the Centre for Integrative Ecology by publishing research in high impact peer-reviewed journals.

The Research Fellow will contribute to honours, postgraduate and staff supervision.

The Research Fellow will be responsible for project management, coordinating research activity, reporting and training across three subprojects addressing monitoring of kangaroos, koalas and ducks. Field components within the remit of this position include surveying kangaroos and koalas, with assistance and advice from other project staff and students.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Professor Don Driscoll, Director @ Centre for Integrative Ecology.

Full details about the position and how to apply is available HERE (PDF)


Niche segregation in sympatric short-tailed and wedge-tailed shearwaters

PhD Opportunity – Deakin University, supervised by Professor John Arnould

Despite weighing only 500-600 g, with an estimated population size of ca23 million, the short-tailed shearwater (STSW) is Australia’s most numerous bird and the most significant avian marine predator in Australia, consuming over 300,000 tonnes of krill, fish and squid over the annual summer breeding season.

Its nesting distribution is restricted to south-eastern Australia, currently one of the fastest warming oceanic regions in the world. The anticipated oceanographic changes are likely to alter the diversity, distribution and abundance of prey for seabirds in the region with the potential to impact their breeding distributions. The wedge-tailed shearwater (WTSW) has a circumpolar distribution in sub-tropical/temperate regions. It breeds sympatrically with the STSW on islands along the New South Wales coast and allopatrically further north.

Over the last few decades, the abundance of WTSW has been observed to increase in NSW while the STSW has been decreasing in numbers and the northern extent of its distribution is receding. A new colony of WTSW recently established (alongside STSW) at Gabo Island, eastern Victoria, making it now the most southerly known breeding colony for the species (by several hundred km), a potential direct impact of the strengthening East Australia Current.

The presence of this rapidly growing colony provides a unique opportunity to compare the breeding and foraging ecology of both sympatric species in an area where one is expanding. Such information is crucial for understanding the factors which will control the breeding distribution, reproductive success and population trajectories of both species in response to climate change.

The project will involve GPS tracking to determine at-sea movements, accelerometry to assess foraging behaviour and energy expenditure, stable isotope analyses to investigate trophic niches and colony monitoring to assess reproductive success and nesting habitat needs.

The ideal candidate for this PhD project would have extensive field experience, well-developed statistical/numerical skills and writing ability.

Interested candidates should contact Professor John Arnould (john.arnould@deakin.edu.au).


Ecology of Falkland Steamer ducks

PhD Opportunity – Deakin University, supervised by Professor John Arnould and Dr Alastair Baylis

The Falkland steamer duck (Tachyeres brachydactyla) is endemic to the Falkland Islands and is one of three flightless steamer duck species (the other two occur in southern South America). They are common around the coastline of the Falkland Islands, and pairs defend territories throughout the year. Surprisingly, little is known about the species.

While the student will be encouraged to develop additional avenues of research, this PhD project will have four main components:

  1. Asses how breeding territory size relates to habitat quality, and breeding success. Deploy archival GPS tags and accelerometers to understand home ranges and time budgets of steamer ducks. In addition, transect surveys of the nearshore environment would be undertaken to develop metrics for habitat quality relevant to steamer ducks. In turn this will be used to quantify how habitat influences home range size.
  2. Census steamer ducks to update population estimate. This will involve ground surveys and fine-scale habitat mapping using UAVs, combined with satellite derived habitat data to develop and ground truth estimates of habitat and steamer duck density for the entire Falkland Islands coastline.
  3. To quantify pollutant exposure, and effect on breeding success.
  4. Quantify the winter dispersal of juvenile steamer ducks using novel tracking technology.

The PhD project will be a collaboration between several research organizations including Deakin University (Professor John Arnould), Australia, and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (Dr Alastair Baylis) in the Falkland Islands. We are looking for a student with extensive field experience and well developed statistical/numerical skills.

Interested candidates should contact Professor John Arnould (john.arnould@deakin.edu.au) or Dr Alastair Baylis (al_baylis@yahoo.com.au).


Winter distribution and habitat use in adult and juvenile Australasian gannets

PhD Opportunity – Deakin University, supervised by Professor John Arnould

Globally, seabirds are considered the group of avian species at most conservation risk from anthropogenic impacts. Knowledge of their habitat needs and responses to environmental variability is crucial to predicting how these species may respond to changes in their ecosystems.

While extensive research has been conducted on foraging ecology and habitat use in seabirds during the breeding season, comparatively little information is currently available for many species on the winter non-breeding period. However, this annual phase is known to be the most detrimental for adult survival in seabirds, with winter conditions also having carry-over effects for the next breeding season.

In addition, the conditions encountered during this time by juvenile birds, especially in their first year after fledging, can determine recruitment into the breeding population. Therefore, knowledge of the factors influencing winter habitat use, and how it impacts foraging success, survival and future breeding performance, is vital for understanding the drivers of population dynamics in these species.

The Australasian gannet is an important marine predator species in south-eastern Australia, contributing to substantial fish and squid biomass consumption over the region’s continental shelf. The area is also one of the fastest warming oceanic regions in the world, with anticipated alterations to oceanographic currents expected to lead to changes in the diversity, distribution and abundance of prey species.

This project will determine the at-sea movements, habitat-use and foraging ecology, and investigate their relationships with survival and future breeding success, in juvenile and adult Australasian gannets. The study will be conducted at two breeding colonies in northern Bass Strait that experience contrasting oceanographic regimes.

For this PhD project, we are looking for a candidate with extensive field experience, well-developed statistical/numerical skills and writing ability.

Interested candidates should contact Professor John Arnould (john.arnould@deakin.edu.au).


Determinants and consequences of personality in Australasian gannets

PhD Opportunity – Deakin University, supervised by Professor John Arnould

Understanding how individuals adapt to niche variability is central to predicting how populations and species may respond to environmental change.

Within all populations, especially within higher vertebrates, there is intrinsic inter-individual variation in how animals respond in various behavioural contexts due to what is commonly referred to in humans as “personality”. Such variability, also known as the “bold-shy continuum”, can have fundamental consequences for energy acquisition in foraging, avoidance of predators, and reproductive outcomes. Quantifying and determining the factors influencing this in free-ranging species, however, is inherently difficult.

This project will use a well-studied model species (the Australasian gannet), at two colonies of contrasting oceanic regimes, with unique data collection opportunities to address this fundamental question in seabirds, the group of avian species at most conservation risk from anthropogenic impacts.

In particular, understanding the degree of, and which factors influence, inter- and intra-individual variability in this species is important for predicting how it may respond to the anticipated environmental changes in the south-eastern Australia marine ecosystem, one of the fastest warming oceanic regions in the world.

For this PhD project, we are looking for a candidate with extensive field experience, well-developed statistical/numerical skills and writing ability.

Interested candidates should contact Professor John Arnould (john.arnould@deakin.edu.au).


Determining the resilience of Australian alpine plants and communities in a future climate

3 PhD opportunities – Deakin University, eXtreme Plant Ecology Research Team & EcoGenetics Lab

The Australian Alps are among the most vulnerable to climate change worldwide. Alpine plant communities are already showing signs of climate stress, are under threat from exotic pest plants and animals, and are recovering from a legacy of stock grazing. There is urgent need for progressive management strategies to maximise restoration success through consideration of future soil water availability, plant thermal tolerances, and the adaptability of functionally important species. To bolster the resilience of alpine landscapes under climate change we must understand the interactions between the physical and biological processes underpinning the health of alpine environments and adaptability of alpine plant communities.

The Australian Mountain Research Facility brings together leading institutions and researchers across four states and territories to produce world-leading ecosystem, evolutionary and biophysical science to guide adaptive management of High Mountains across Australia. It supports research to assess the extent and effects of changing climate, water and fire regimes on ecosystem processes and their feedbacks and provide a structure for integrated research, management, and governance of Australia’s mountains.

Excellent PhD candidates with a background in ecological science, population genetics and/or botany/zoology are sought to join our highly collaborative AMRF-aligned project team to explore the climate resilience of alpine plant and invertebrate communities through field and laboratory experimentation. Projects are based at Deakin University Burwood or Warrnambool campus, co-funded by the Australian Research Council and our industry partners Parks Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Mount Hotham Alpine Resort, and Southern Alpine Resort Management Board.

Within the eXtreme Plant Ecology Research Team and the EcoGenetics Lab both in the Centre for Integrative Ecology with Susanna Venn, Adam Miller, Virginia Williamson, and Adrienne Nicotra (ANU), we seek 3 PhD candidates to work on the following projects:

  1. Heat and frost tolerance of regenerating alpine plants and interactions with drought (Deakin Burwood)
  2. Adaptive genomics, plasticity and regeneration strategies of alpine plants (Deakin Warrnambool or Burwood)
  3. Alpine plant water relations with drought (Deakin Burwood)

Applicants are expected to have an excellent grade (e.g., H1 or HD) in an Honours or MSc research program and proven skills in scientific writing. Successful candidates will be awarded a 3-year PhD scholarship (~AU$28,000 p.a. tax free), commencing Spring 2021 or by negotiation. Australian and New Zealand residents will be prioritised due to Australia’s current border restrictions. Interested candidates should contact us via email:

Susanna Venn (Susanna.venn@deakin.edu.au) or Adam Miller (a.miller@deakin.edu.au)


Conserving koalas in a complex landscape

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 dwhisson@deakin.edu.au.

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 (dwhisson@deakin.edu.au; Ph: 03 9251 7302) to discuss the project and experience/skills required prior to submitting an application.


The effects of wetland management on microbial carbon breakdown in Australian wetlands

PhD position within the Blue Carbon Lab @ Deakin university

The PhD candidate will investigate how wetland restoration and management influences a key part of the carbon cycle – plant litter decomposition. It is a multidisciplinary project that combines microbial ecology, biogeochemistry and wetland ecology. This work sits within a larger research program investigating global wetland decomposition, TeaComposition H2O.

3-year program inclusive of a AUD$28,600 per year stipend, tax exempt. International applications contingent on COVID-19 restrictions. Domestic applicants may be prioritised.

Who should apply? The scholarship would suit a highly-motivated candidate with an interest in coastal and freshwater wetland ecology, biogeochemistry and/or microbial ecology. Applicants will require a first-class honours (or equivalent) or a Masters degree in a similar field. We are looking for a candidate who is independent and works well in an interdisciplinary team environment. Excellent written communication skills are desired. A driver’s license is required for the fieldwork component. Selection will be based on prior academic experience.

Research Environment: The PhD candidate will be principally supervised by DECRA fellow Dr Stacey Trevathan-Tackett and will work within Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab, led by A/Prof. Peter Macreadie, the School of Life and Environmental Science and the Centre for Integrative Ecology. The position is based at the Melbourne/Burwood Campus.

Applications open now until the position is filled. To apply, send strevat@deakin.edu.au your CV and a cover letter outlining your research interests and experience and why you want to do this PhD. Please include contact details for two referees.


Population genomics of Australian alpine plants: Identifying vulnerable plant species and climate-ready seed sources

PhD opportunity – Deakin University (Warrnambool campus)

The ECOGENETICS LAB is seeking a PhD candidate to contribute to an Australian Research Council funded research program aimed at enhancing the resilience of Australian alpine plant communities through strategic restoration practices.

The Australian Alps are recognized as one of the world’s major biodiversity hotspots and critically vulnerable to climate change. Here, plant communities are already showing signs of climate stress, threatening environmental and associated cultural and socioeconomic values in the region.

The persistence of alpine plant species under climate change will largely depend on plastic responses or rapid evolutionary change. Some species will likely tolerate substantial environmental fluctuations via existing plasticity, while others are expected to be pushed to physiological limits and become increasingly dependent on evolving to maintain current distributions.

The PhD candidate will use a combination of common garden and genomic approaches to decipher the likely contributions of plasticity, local adaptation and gene flow to future adaptive responses in a range of functionally important alpine plant species. This study will help to improve biodiversity outcomes under climate change by identifying key plant species with reduced adaptive potential and in need of intervention, as well ‘climateready’ seed sources for restoration purposes.

This exciting project will involve a combination of field work in the Australian alps and lab-based activities, and partnerships with a number of government agencies and Australian universities. The position is based at Deakin’s Warrnambool campus and is available to both domestic and international students. The student will be supervised by Dr Adam Miller, Dr Susanna Venn (Deakin University), Prof Adrienne Nicotra (Australian National University) and Prof John Morgan (La Trobe University).

Applicants are expected to have an excellent grade (e.g., H1 or HD) in an Honours or a MSc research program, and proven skills in scientific writing. We are seeking candidates with a specific interest and experience in wildlife ecology, botany, or ecological genetics (not essential). The successful candidate will be awarded a 3-year PhD scholarship (~AU$28,000 p.a. tax free) through the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

Contact Adam Miller (a.miller@deakin.edu.au) or visit our lab page (ECOGENETICS LAB) for furture details.


PhD position – Determining the resilience of Australian alpine plants in a future climate

The eXtreme Plant Ecology Research Team in the Centre for Integrative Ecology is seeking a PhD candidate to contribute to an Australian Research Council funded research program aimed at enhancing the resilience of Australian alpine plant communities through strategic restoration practices.

The Australian Alps are recognized as one of the world’s major biodiversity hotspots and critically vulnerable to climate change. Alpine plant communities are already showing signs of climate stress, are under threat from exotic pest plants and animals, and are recovering from a legacy of stock grazing.

As a result, large areas of alpine environments require ongoing restoration works across National Parks and Alpine Resorts. There is urgent need for progressive management strategies to maximise restoration success through consideration of future soil water availability, plant thermal tolerances, and the adaptability of functionally important plant species.

To bolster the resilience of alpine landscapes under climate change; we must understand the interactions between the physical and biological processes underpinning the health of alpine environments and adaptability of alpine plant communities.

An excellent PhD candidate with a background in ecological science and/or botany is sought to join an exciting project, co-funded by the Centre for Integrative Ecology and the Australian Research Council and our industry partners Parks Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Mount Hotham Alpine Resort and Southern Alpine Resort Management Board, and will make use of the Australian Mountain Research Facility.

Depending of the project scope, the candidate will have a unique opportunity to focus on aspects of:

  • Plant water relations and ecophysiology
  • Plant regeneration and recruitment
  • Seed ecology
  • Snow ecology
  • Plant thermal tolerance

The results of the project will assist alpine land managers choose the right species for restoration projects, thereby building resilience into these vulnerable environments.

The candidate will join the new and supportive eXtreme Plant Ecology Research Team at Deakin Burwood campus, and will be jointly supervised by Susanna Venn, Adam Miller, John Morgan (La Trobe University) and Adrienne Nicotra (Australian National University).

Applicants are expected to have an excellent grade (e.g., H1 or HD) in an Honours or a MSc research program, and proven skills in scientific writing.

We are seeking candidates with a specific interest and experience in plant ecology, botany, or plant ecophysiology.

The successful candidate will be awarded a 3-year PhD scholarship (~AU$28,000 p.a. tax free) through the Centre of Integrative Ecology and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

An anticipated commencement date is October 2020 or early 2021.

Please get in touch with us for more information:
Susanna Venn (Susanna.venn@deakin.edu.au) or Adam Miller (a.miller@deakin.edu.au)


Mechanisms underpinning the formation and stabilisation of coastal blue carbon

PhD position within the Blue Carbon Lab @ Deakin university

We are looking for a PhD candidate to join our ARC Discovery grant research on the “Mechanisms underpinning the formation and stabilisation of coastal blue carbon”.

Candidates can apply for either of these two projects:

MICROBIAL COMMUNITY GENOMICS WITHIN BLUE CARBON ECOSYSTEMS
The project will aim to address the following:

  • Characterise the functional capacity of microbial communities associated with recalcitrant Blue Carbon;
  • Investigate sequence variation in taxonomic groups, functional gene repertoires and metabolic potential;
  • Provide significant insight into the higher-order community organisation and dynamics of coastal microbiomes, and their variation among habitat type and depth.

BIOCHEMICAL MECHANISMS OF BLUE CARBON
The applicant will need to:

  • Characterise recalcitrant carbon within Blue Carbon ecosystems using NMR for particulate organic carbon (POC) and FT-ICR-MS for dissolved organic carbon (DOC);
  • Identify mechanisms of formation and destabilisation of recalcitrant carbon and quantify the impacts of environmental controls;
  • Coordinating all relevant analyses (ie. gas flux measurements, elemental analyses, and chemical characterisation).

How to apply: PhD applicants should email the following documents to Dr Stacey Trevathan-Tackett (strevat@deakin.edu.au):

  • 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.

Please note:

  • Both projects are open to PhD applicants, who will be enrolled in a 3-year PhD based at Deakin University’s Burwood campus (Melbourne);
  • We are UNABLE to provide individual feedback on competitiveness. The following features were common among PhD candidates interviewed at the Blue Carbon Lab: (a) First authored-paper in scientific journal, (b) first class Honours/Masters, (c) experience directly related to the project, and (d) an accolade that reflects the student being among the top in their academic cohort;
  • Applications will be received until the position is filled.

PhD opportunity @ Deakin University – (Warrnambool campus)

Conservation genomics of the short-finned eel

The ECOGENETICS LAB is seeking a PhD candidate for a research program aimed at addressing critical knowledge gaps around understanding the resilience of short-finned eel fisheries in south-eastern Australia. The project will have a particular focus on the ancient ‘kuuyang” fishery within the UNESCO Budj Bim Cultural Landscape.

This exciting project will involve a combination of field and lab-based activities, and provides an excellent opportunity to develop key skills and knowledge in conservation and fisheries genomics. The project will be conducted in close partnership with Traditional Owners, local government, and industry.

This project will have three complementary research components:

  1. Undertaking population genomic analyses to gain insights into eel stock connectivity and spatial patterns of recruitment across the species range;
  2. Using eDNA tools to assess patterns of habitat use within catchments;
  3. Applying DNA metabarcoding approaches to assess eel diet based on the genomic analysis of eel stomach samples.

Outcomes from this study will provide new insights into the species life history and a resource for assessing the resilience of eel fisheries to environmental change and informing future management.

The position is based at Deakin’s Warrnambool campus and is available to both domestic and international students. Applicants should have achieved an excellent grade (e.g., H1 or HD) in an Honours or a MSc research program, and proven skills in scientific writing.

We are seeking candidates with an interest and experience in wildlife ecology, fish biology, or ecological genetics (not essential). The successful candidate will be awarded a 3-year PhD scholarship (~AU$28,000 p.a. tax free + $5,000 p.a. scholarship top-up from research partner) through the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

Contact Dr Adam Miller (a.miller@deakin.edu.au) or vist our lab page (ECOGENETICS LAB) for furture details.


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