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Domestic PhD Scholarship – Riparian vegetation ecology, biogeomorphology and river management

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

About the Project

This position is open for Australian and New Zealand citizens and residents.

Macquarie University, Sydney, invites applications for a PhD position in the rivers group led by Prof. Kirstie Fryirs. The river recovery project is fully funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage program and you will collaborate with our industry partners Landcare Australia and NSW Local Land Services (Hunter). You will be working in a team with other PhD students and a postdoctoral fellow as well as other Macquarie University team members, Professor Michelle Leishman and Dr Tim Ralph, and with Professor Gary Brierley from University of Auckland.

After 200+ years of degradation our rivers are now showing noticeable signs of geomorphic and vegetative recovery. River recovery is most pronounced in coastal valleys of NSW. Foundation science is needed to understand the processes by which river recovery occurs, its impact on flood flow hydrology for natural flood management. It will investigate where corridors of recovery are in NSW, where to prioritise rehabilitation and the cost:benefit of working with recovery in management. Fields of research include: fluvial geomorphology, riparian vegetation ecology, flow hydrology and environmental economics.

This PhD project will focus on riparian vegetation ecology and biogeomorphology, consider the role of vegetation on river recovery and flood flows, as well as trial new rehabilitation and vegetation management techniques (inc. hazard reduction and/or cultural burns). There is flexibility in the project to tailor the research to the expertise and interest of the candidate. This project is fieldwork intensive


Domestic candidates to undertake a direct entry 3-year PhD program. To be eligible for this scholarship you will have a Masters by Research degree in plant ecology, botany, fluvial geomorphology, or a related subject. You will also have a record of excellent academic performance and additional relevant research experience and/or peer-reviewed research, in line with the University’s scholarship rating guidelines. Refer to the Rating Scholarship Applicants section for more information about these guidelines.

This project will track historical changes in riparian vegetation coverage and quality, characterise the type, and quantify the extent of returning riparian and instream vegetation. A range of aerial and satellite imagery will be used alongside field investigations of riparian vegetation composition and quality. A range of new technology including Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) and satellite imagery such as Sentinel and Landsat will be used. This project will also undertake field-based experiments to test the effectiveness of hazard reduction and/or cultural burns as a riparian vegetation management technique. This project contains significant fieldwork. You must have training in, or a strong interest in:
• Fieldwork design and execution
• Australian vegetation identification
• Use of GIS
• Biostatistics
• Communicating with a range of stakeholders
• Working as part of an integrative team and with industry partners
• Applications of science in river management practice
• Excellent written and oral communication skills in English

Funding Notes

Position open to:
The scholarship is only open to Australian and New Zealand citizens or residents for a maximum of 3 years. It is comprised of a Tuition Fee Offset and a Living Allowance Stipend. The value of the full-time stipend is $28,092 per annum (in 2020 tax exempt - indexed annually).

Visa and relocation expenses:
The program of research is fully funded by the ARC Linkage project, however candidates on all positions are responsible for their own (and accompanying person’s) visa and relocation expenses, and any COVID-19 quarantine requirements.



Sydney is a vibrant global power city rated in the world’s top-ten for economy, research and development, cultural interaction, live-ability, environment, and accessibility. Macquarie University is a major research-based institution situated in the heart of Sydney’s high technology precinct. It is considered one of Australia’s best universities and is rated among the top 1% of universities globally. Macquarie is a University engaged with the real and often complex problems and opportunities that define our lives. Since our foundation 54 years ago, we have aspired to be a different type of University. Over the years, we’ve grown to become the centre of a vibrant local and global community. Connect with us today.

Macquarie’s departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Biological Sciences provide an outstanding research setting for the study of the environment and environmental management. We have world-leading research strengths in fluvial geomorphology, vegetation ecology, and pride ourselves on undertaking impactful science to inform river and environmental management.

At Macquarie University, we are committed to providing a working environment where each individual is valued, respected and supported to progress. Our priority is to ensure culture, policies and processes are truly inclusive and that no-one is disadvantaged on the basis of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, gender, culture, disability, LGBTIQA+ identities, family and caring responsibilities, age, or religion. We encourage everyone who meets the selection criteria and shares Macquarie University’s values of scholarship, empowerment and integrity to apply. Learn more about our progress towards Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

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