2 PhD positions in University of Canberra, Australia

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Two PhD projects to research how temperature and seasonal and daily temperature variability affect biodiversity, temperature tolerance and dispersal.

Predicting effects of changes in climatic conditions on the distribution of species remains highly challenging. Climate change is predicted to increase both mean temperature and variability in temperature, and it is critical to have a strong mechanistic understanding of how organisms are likely to respond to future thermal environments. The Climate Variability Hypothesis (Janzen 1967) relates seasonal thermal variability to species’ distributions, thermal niches, dispersal ability and population genetic structure. Other hypotheses consider how daily and other shorter term temperature variability affects organisms’ thermal tolerance and performance. These PhD projects will test these hypotheses using freshwater invertebrate communities along elevation gradients at different latitudes in Australia and compare to existing data from the Americas.

PhD 1 – will test these hypotheses with respect to the thermal and elevational distribution of stream invertebrate species, their population genetic structuring and dispersal.

PhD 2 – will test these hypotheses with respect to the thermal tolerance of stream invertebrate and their performance (e.g. growth) at different temperature regimes.

Each PhD student will have a scholarships valued at A$36,000/year (tax free) to cover living expenses, plus generous project support from an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project. The scholarship/project is for three years and can be extended only under extenuating circumstances.

The projects and scholarships are open to all outstanding students regardless of citizenship on a competitive basis. International students will receive a fee waiver.

The students will be supervised by: Associate Professor Ben Kefford and Professor Ross Thompson – University of Canberra; Professor LeRoy Poff -University of Canberra and Colorado State University; Professor Jane Hughes – Griffith University; and Professor Damien Burrows – James Cook University.

Both students will be enrolled at the University of Canberra’s high performing Institute for Applied Ecology see It is anticipated that PhD 1 will be based in Canberra at the University of Canberra and PhD 2 will initially be based in Townsville (at James Cook University) and then at Canberra.

Both projects will involve field work and collection of new data in the Australian Alps and the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia. Existing data from Colorado, USA and Ecuador will be incorporated into the project for a large comparative study.

Students must satisfy the entry requirements of the University of Canberra including showing evidence that they meet the English requirements see:

For further information please contact Ben Kefford by email

How to apply

If you wish to apply, please email Ben Kefford no later than 31 May 2018 and provide the following:

  •  your resume;
  •  a cover letter that addresses how you meet each of the selection criteria, below;
  • your academic transcript(s);
  • 1-2 examples of scientific writing that you solely or (in the case of multi-authored documents) predominantly authored (any unpublished MS will be treated confidentially);
  • the details of three referees that we can contact for information about you; and
  • when you would be available to start the PhD.

Ensure that you clearly indicate which PhD project you are applying for or if you are applying for both, which you would prefer.  Please include the following “applying for thermal variability PhD” and your full name in the subject line of your email.

Selection criteria

1.     A relevant undergraduate degree with 1st class honours, research masters or equivalent in one of the following disciplines: Ecology, Freshwater Biology, Ecophysiology or Population Genetics. Ideally students would have some study/experience in more than one of the above disciplines.

2.     An excellent to outstanding academic record. If there are reasons why some of your academic transcript does not show your ability, explain why.

3.     Ability to undertake field work in remote locations.

4.     Ability to undertake laboratory work, including the identification of invertebrates.

5.     A working knowledge of statistical analysis used in ecological studies.

6.     Evidence of high standard of scientific writing.

7.     Show evidence of meeting the English requirements of the University of Canberra see:



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