Division of
Natural and Applied Sciences

PhD projects studying snow gum dieback in Australian Alps. e.g. Carbon and water cycling, ecophysiology, genetics, management and policy, modelling, etc.

The Australian Alps (yes, we have mountains!) contain snowy, rugged environments with vegetation communities dominated by snow gums. The trees are iconic with gnarled trunks, multicoloured ribbons of bark, and widespread presence in Australian snowfields and remote environments alike. Recent years have shown a rapid dieback of trees due to the increased activity of a native wood-boring beetle (Phoracantha mastersi). The larvae of the beetle feed on sapwood of the trees, disrupting tree-level hydraulic function, leading to decline and eventual death. Previously, beetle infestations were isolated and localised where
now they are widespread and moving as a devastating front. What records are available indicate possible interactions between beetle, water availability/climate change, altered fire regimes, management, and landscape features. The trees provide immense ecosystem services for hydrology, carbon cycling, cultural importance, and local and downstream biodiversity. Therefore, the loss of these trees will have transformational changes to the landscape and the services humans benefit from healthy subalpine woodlands.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers and land managers in southeast Australia want to expand our team. We are focused on studying the drivers of dieback, the consequences, and provide management solutions and tools. We seek motivated students for PhD projects. Some example projects include:

  1. Socio-political drivers of management
  2. Carbon and water cycling using eddy covariance, static chambers, and piezometers, etc.
  3. Ecophysiology, traits, and genetics in field and greenhouse environments.
  4. Modelling future dieback for management tools

Students will be based at the Australian National University or Western Sydney University. Scholarships are available through competitive applications and successful candidates are eligible through top-up scholarships directly through our funding sources. Applications are open to international and domestic applicants. You should read the full project description, application deadlines, etc on our webpage here: https://www.amrf.org.au/research-opportunities/

As a US citizen who carried out PhD studies in Australia, I can attest to the great quality of life here. In Australia, most full time PhD students finish in 4 years working flexible, reasonable hours. Stipends are adequate to live comfortably without supplementary income through teaching, etc. The scholarship includes a stipend, tuition waiver, operational costs, generous international conference funding, and a laptop. The facilities and intellectual environment are outstanding; the research team is a lively, inclusive, hard-working and inquisitive community. We strive to do excellent research that is relevant in the context of rapid global change. Canberra and W. Sydney are great places to live with a balance of amazing bushland and outdoor activities, proximity to mountains and beaches, alongside the conveniences of a larger city.

Scholarship applications are due 31 August 2023. To apply, you’ll need to write a very short proposal with some guidance from me. Please contact me (Zachary.Brown@anu.edu.au) or the project leads listed on the full project description available at https://www.amrf.org.au/research-opportunities/.