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Food-web dynamics of mixed introduced and native fish communities in Aotearoa New Zealand lakes


   School of Biological Sciences


About the Project

Food-web dynamics of mixed introduced and native fish communities in Aotearoa New Zealand lakes

We are offering a doctoral research scholarship to investigate lake food-web dynamics of mixed introduced and native fish assemblages in Aotearoa / New Zealand lakes. The PhD position is part of the ‘predicting future freshwater fish outcomes’ theme of Fish Futures, a 5-year interdisciplinary research programme aiming to provide knowledge and tools to enable thriving, resilient freshwater fish communities and socially just management. The programme is led by the Cawthron Institute, in collaboration with University of Canterbury, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku and Te Waimāori trust.

Project background

As part of understanding lake food-webs and population dynamics under a changing climate, a Fish Futures aim is to develop better quantitative understanding of interactions between native kōaro (Galaxias brevipinnis), smelt (Retropinna retropinna) and introduced salmonids. Using a nationally distributed selection of lakes, the lake food-web team is combining stable isotope diet quantification with otolith-derived growth rates to assess functional responses of the focal fish community to changes in lake condition (trophic status) and community composition. Individual fish-derived data will be used to calibrate food-web models to evaluate future scenarios under climate-induced changes to the lake thermal regimes and basal resources.

Research aim and approaches

We are seeking a PhD student to work within the lake food webs team to build on the work that is already underway. The scope of the project will be refined by the student, but should complement the diet, growth and modelling work already being undertaken, and contribute to practical solutions for managing fish populations in lakes. Areas of focus could include the roles of tributary or in-lake refugia for native fish, recruitment limitation, native fish thermal/hypoxia tolerance, competitive interactions and multi-species fishery management.

Who you are

The successful applicant will receive high quality mentoring and support but will expected to provide their own insights to the research and show a willingness to communicate their results to a wide variety of groups, including scientists, stakeholders, the general public and our iwi (Māori tribal) partners in particular. Experience in practical field ecology and ecological data analysis are essential and previous freshwater ecology knowledge is desirable. An understanding of stable isotope food-web analysis, simulation modelling, and laboratory techniques for fish population assessments (e.g., Otolith-based age determination) will be viewed favourably. Knowledge of te ao Māori, or a willingness to learn, is also particularly valuable for this project.

Once selected, the preferred candidate would then need to apply to study at UC and meet the institutional criteria for entry prior to the scholarship being confirmed (check whether you meet these requirements here). A Bachelors degree with honours or a Masters degree in ecology or a related field are required for undertaking this scholarship. The position is available to start in the first half of 2023. International applicants will need to apply for and receive the appropriate student visa before taking up the position.

Who you will work with

The student will be based at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC), working with Prof Angus McIntosh together with Dr Simon Stewart of the Cawthron Institute. The successful applicant will benefit from being part of the wider multi-disciplinary Fish Futures collaborative team and partners and UC’s Freshwater Ecology Research Group (FERG), especially Finnbar Lee (Cawthron) and Jonathan Tonkin (UC). These groups are diverse and interdisciplinary in thought and approach, but focused on solving environmental problems. They all strive to cultivate an open, safe and supportive environment that values creativity, diversity, integrity and collaboration, and recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi).

Funding and start date

The 3-year PhD Scholarship provides an annual stipend of NZ$29,000 a year tax-free, will cover full university fees, and the project has additional funding towards research expenses.

How you apply

To apply, please provide: (1) a Cover Letter that outlines your motivation, interests / experience, and a paragraph describing how you might approach the research aim; (2) a Curriculum Vitae; and (3) contact information for two referees able to comment on your academic and other achievements.

Applications should be emailed as a single pdf file with your name in the file name to by 28 February 2023 with “Lake fishery food webs PhD” in the subject line.

Further Information

PhD study at the University of Canterbury - https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/graduate-school/

School of Biological Sciences - https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/science/schools/biological-sciences/

Freshwater Ecology Research Group - http://www.ferg.org.nz/

Fish Futures https://www.fishfutures.co.nz/


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