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Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods

Available postgraduate projects

We're looking for researchers
Kim Hunnam fieldwork Timor Leste

We are seeking students to undertake the exciting projects described below, so if you’re interested in a project please contact the supervisor listed.

You could also check out our postgraduate study page and the CDU prospective research students page. If you’d like to apply for a scholarship, please see our scholarships page.

If you don’t see the exact project for you but are interested in a particular topic, please contact a RIEL researcher with expertise in that topic.

Thirty years of understorey change in the lowland savannas of Kakadu National Park

Supervisor(s): Brett Murphy, Patricia Werner (ANU)

Project suitable for: Honours

Project summary

Northern Australian savannas are experiencing a rapid loss of biodiversity, and altered fire regimes may be to blame.

It has been suggested that highly flammable annual native grasses, especially Sorghum spp. (spear-grasses), have increased in abundance and fuelling high frequencies of intense fires. This hypothesised phenomenon is an example of a grass–fire cycle.

This project will evaluate this hypothesis, by re-visiting a number of sites in the lowland savannas of Kakadu National Park, that were previously surveyed in the late 1980s.

The dataset from the 1980s includes measurements of grass biomass and assessment of the dominant grass species, and similar measurements will be made now. This data will allow us to evaluate whether grass biomass and grass layer diversity have changed over 30 years, and in particular whether Sorghum has become more dominant.

Funding info: Funded. No top-up.

Closing date: Open

More information: brett.murphy@cdu.edu.au

Area of Research Strength: Savanna & Arid Ecology

Project opportunities in conservation biology, landscape ecology and molecular ecology

Supervisor(s): Professor Sam Banks, Molecular Ecology group (https://sambanks.weebly.com/)

Project suitable for: PhD, Masters or Honours

Project summary

Molecular ecology uses methods in genomics and ecology to understand biodiversity and how it responds to environmental change.

My group is seeking students to work on projects that use laboratory genomics, computer simulation modelling and field-based ecology to contribute to the knowledge and conservation of northern Australian vertebrates.

We are interested in broad-scale patterns of biogeography of native mammals across this region, as well as understanding impacts of major ecological processes (such as fire regimes, climate and refugia) on the ecology and persistence of species across this region.

Funding info: tbc

Closing date: Open

More information:

Area of Research Strength:Biodiversity Conservation, Savanna & Arid Ecology

Project opportunities in tropical savanna ecology

Supervisor(s): A/Professor Brett Murphy

Project suitable for: PhD, Masters or Honours

Project summary:

Our research investigates the sustainable management of tropical savanna landscapes. We are seeking passionate and skilled students to work on projects that explore how fire has shaped and maintains the biota of tropical savannas, and how contemporary fire regimes can best be managed for biodiversity conservation, especially in relation to declining small mammals and fire-sensitive vegetation communities.

Funding info: tbc

Closing date: Open

More information: brett.murphy@cdu.edu.au

Research Group: Tropical Savanna Ecology

Area of Research Strength:Biodiversity Conservation, Savanna & Arid Ecology

Distribution of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in seawater and sediment

Supervisor(s) Anna Padovan

Project suitable for: Honours

Project summary

We have detected Vibrio parahaemolyticus in shellfish in Darwin Harbour. 

To understand the ecology of this potentially human pathogenic bacterium, the student will measure the concentration of total V. parahaemolyticus and virulent strains in seawater and sediment from different times and locations with varied physicochemical parameters, in particular, seawater temperature, salinity, rainfall events and nutrients.

Multivariate analysis will be performed to determine if there are conditions likely to lead to the proliferation of V. parahaemolyticus, particularly virulent strains.

Funding: n/a

Specific requirements: Experience working in a PC2 lab; microbiological techniques (culturing, plating); molecular techniques (DNA extractions, gel electrophoresis, PCR, qPCR); understanding of and ability to work with biohazards; well-organised

Closing date: Open

More information anna.padovan@cdu.edu.au  ph 8946 6555

Area of Research Strength: Water & Catchments

Vibrio ecology and associations with algal blooms

Project supervisor(s): Anna Padovan and Karen Gibb

Project suitable for: PhD

Project summary

Vibrio spp. are common in biota, water and sediment in estuarine and coastal environments including Darwin Harbour.

Several vibrio species have human pathogenic strains and globally, are the major cause of bacterial gastroenteritis following the ingestion of uncooked seafood.

This research provides an opportunity to study the abundance and distribution of Vibrio species in seawater over different seasons, and their association with environmental factors.

An additional focus could be an analysis of the annual Trichodesmium bloom holobiont and whether this has an association with Vibrio ecology prior during and after the bloom event. The results will have implications for public health and to inform further research on aquaculture and seafood harvest in tropical coastal areas.

The study will initially focus on Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia, where blooms regularly develop in the months of September and October.

Closing date: Open

Specific requirements: Experience in microbiology and DNA analysis

Funding: tbd

More information: anna.padovan@cdu.edu.au