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Determining the optimal mix of forestry systems and reserves under differing wildfire regimes for improving plant conservation

   School of Natural Sciences

  , Prof Greg Jordan  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

How to meet human needs for timber while limiting harm to biodiversity is an urgent scientific goal. The aim of this Australian Research Council funded PhD project are: (i) to quantify the impacts of forestry systems and wildfire on biodiversity; and (ii) to determine the optimal mix of forestry systems and reserves to achieve the best possible conservation outcomes in timber production landscapes. You would join a team applying the land sparing vs land sharing paradigm to forestry (Phalan et al 2011; Betts et al 2021), recognising that for overall timber production at the landscape-scale, there are trade-offs between intensity of management at site-scale and the area available for reserves. Currently it is unknown which mix is better: intensive timber production with more reserves, widespread low-intensity forestry, or a combination of these.

The research will involve field-based plant biodiversity surveys in forests that range from unmanaged areas through to low intensity native forest logging and intensive timber plantation management and wildfire-impacted forests. Data analysis will quantify the biodiversity value of different forest management systems. By integrating plant species’ frequency data with information on timber yield/revenue, modelling will determine the optimal landscape-scale approach to management for best biodiversity outcomes for a given level of timber production. You would collaborate with other team members working on similar projects (we have PhD students studying birds, mammals and beetles), and with land management agencies, providing valuable industry experience. There is also scope to collaborate internationally on analysis of global-scale impacts of logging on plant communities.

Outcomes of the project will provide an evidence base for forest policy and management to improve conservation outcomes in timber production landscapes. This project is at the cutting edge of forest sustainability science, and will position you as an expert in the field. The PhD will prepare you for future careers in research, or with government or non-government land management and conservation agencies.

Please refer to the project advertisement for more information on how to apply:,-forestry-and-fires


·            a tax free living allowance stipend of AUD $31,500. per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years

·            a relocation allowance of up to AUD $2,000

·            a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years 


The successful applicant will join the Biological Sciences Discipline at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. UTAS Biological Sciences is consistently rated as well above world standard in ecology, environmental science and management, and plant science. It is a vibrant and friendly department, with an active postgraduate student society. Hobart has a lively arts, food and music scene, farmers markets, and close access to outdoor pursuits like hiking, surfing, rock climbing, mountain biking, SCUBA diving. There are wonderful opportunities to explore Tasmania’s unique natural environments; around 40% of the land area is protected in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, national parks and reserves. 

Research Group:

The student will join the Forest Sustainability Group, led by Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Ass. Prof. Sue Baker

The primary supervisor for this project will be plant ecologist Prof. Greg Jordan


There is a scholarship round closing on 6 March 2023. There are other scholarship rounds later in 2023 if the project is not filled in the March round.

Eligibility and Selection criteria:

Eligibility into the University of Tasmania PhD program:

See: Candidates are expected to have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class Honours or Masters degree in a relevant discipline, with at least 6 months full time research thesis component, and mark >75%.

Essential Criteria:

Excellent written and verbal English and scientific communication skills;

Fieldwork experience; fit, able, and willing to work in remote field areas, sometimes in challenging conditions and basic living arrangements;

Current driving license;

A good understanding of ecology or conservation biology and interest in contributing to biodiversity conservation;

Relevant experience conducting plant surveys and species identification;

Ability and willingness to both work independently and to collaborate and work effectively as part of an interdisciplinary team, including sharing data, supervising volunteer field assistants and liaising with land management agencies;

The PhD must be undertaken on a full-time basis

Desirable Criteria:

Proficiency with relevant ecological statistical analyses, e.g. in R;

Spatial analysis skills (e.g. training in GIS);

Previous publication of research in international peer-refereed journals

Applicants from the following disciplines are encouraged to apply:

Ecology, Conservation Biology, Biological Sciences, Environmental Studies, Plant Science, Forest Science

Expression of interest:

Please first determine whether you meet the project selection criteria and the eligibility criteria for admission into the UTAS PhD program. If you meet the criteria, then please email Sue Baker the following at

-         your CV

-         your academic transcripts

-         a copy of your research thesis and any journal articles you have authored

-        a summary of your experience conducting fieldwork, plant species identification and data analysis


Phalan, B., M. Onial, A. Balmford, and R. E. Green. 2011. Reconciling Food Production and Biodiversity Conservation: Land Sharing and Land Sparing Compared. Science 333:1289-1291.

Betts, M. G., B. T. Phalan, C. Wolf, S. C. Baker, C. Messier, K. J. Puettmann, R. Green, S. H. Harris, D. P. Edwards, D. B. Lindenmayer, and A. Balmford. 2021. Producing wood at least cost to biodiversity: integrating Triad and sharing–sparing approaches to inform forest landscape management. Biological Reviews 96:1301-1317.

Funding Notes

Project running costs are funded by an Australian Research Council grant. The successful applicant will need to obtain a competitive University of Tasmania PhD scholarship.


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