PhD project #2

RIEL

Conservation biology and landscape genetics in Australia’s Top End

Planning for the persistence of native species in rapidly changing landscapes is a major focus of environmental management and research. The ‘death by a thousand cuts’ scenario is a particular challenge: landscape change and habitat loss occurs incrementally so we rarely have the opportunity to assess the risk of aggregate impacts of future land use change.

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This project will draw on methods in landscape ecology, genetics and computational population modelling to develop approaches to identify the long-term outcomes of landscape change scenarios for the persistence of native mammals in the Darwin region.

Small mammals have undergone rapid declines in recent decades in northern Australia. In the Darwin region, habitat loss through land use change is a key threat. This project aims to improve our ability to anticipate impacts of landscape change, working with environmental researchers and managers to develop approaches for mapping likely biodiversity outcomes under aggregate patterns of land use change. The research will use ecological and genetic approaches to understand patterns of habitat quality and connectivity for populations of declining small mammals such as the black-footed tree rat (pictured). Population network models will be used to understand the value of landscape features for species persistence in the broader landscape and there will be opportunities to develop skills in computational population modelling to predict outcomes of landscape change scenarios.

Required skills and experience

The student will need to have a good undergraduate academic record. They must be able to work independently, showing a high level of initiative. They will need to have field experience, preferably in mammal research, and the capacity to run a field research program. Research experience or an educational background in population genetics and/or simulation-based population modelling is desirable

Project funding and supervision

The project will involve close collaboration between Charles Darwin University and the Northern Territory Government Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The student would need to successfully apply for Research Training Program scholarship ($27,596 per annum) from Charles Darwin University (see www.cdu.edu.au/research/ori/scholarships), and the project will provide a ‘top up’ of $7,500 per annum for three years. The student would be based at CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL; http://riel.cdu.edu.au/), and be supervised by Prof. Sam Banks (www.sambanks.weebly.com) and Dr Brett Murphy (www.tropicalsavannaecology.org/brettpmurphy).

If you’re interested in this project, please send a CV, academic transcript and a brief description of why you want to do this project, to sam.banks@cdu.edu.au.

Closing date: 20 October 2018