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Investigating the connection between individual-based movements and population dynamics of grass finches in northern Australia

Project Description

Grass finches inhabiting Australia’s tropical savannas have decreased in abundance and distribution in recent decades. These declines are perplexing because they have occurred in apparently intact savanna ecosystems over vast spatial scales. This project will use an autonomous biotelemetry network deployed throughout the East Kimberley region to track bird movements and assess how landscape structure influences individual movement, habitat usage, and population processes of tropical savanna grass finches. These movement data will be integrated with diet selection and genomic data to better understand the connection between individual-based movements, landscapes, and meta-population dynamics. The successful applicant can opt to delve further into landscape genetics or movement ecology depending on their interests.

Research group

This project will be undertaken at the Charles Darwin University (CDU) campus in Darwin, Northern Territory, within the Movement & Landscape Ecology Laboratory ( and Molecular Ecology group (, under the supervision of A/Prof. Hamish Campbell, Dr Tara Crewe, and Prof Sam Banks. The successful applicant will be required to spend prolonged periods of time in remote northern Australia, and must have experience with or be willing to learn bird capture, bird bleeding, biotelemetry tagging techniques, landscape genomic methods, and spatial data analysis in R.

Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods

The MLE-lab and Molecular Ecology Group are within CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL). RIEL is a globally recognised leader in tropical savanna and arid research and works with partners in northern Australia to ensure the sustainable management of our unique tropical ecosystems and their resources. RIEL’s unique research approach and deep connection with Indigenous communities, governments, businesses and international research centres, has improved the livelihoods of people in tropical savannas locally and regionally.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the Australian Research Council, with partners Save The Gouldian Fund, WWF-Australia, National Drones Institute, and Kimberley Land Council. CDU scholarships are open to citizens and permanent residents of Australia and New Zealand, cover all fees and a ~$27K pa stipend. Outstanding undergraduate marks and first-class Honours or Masters by research are required.

Expressions of interest: Please email detailed CV, full University transcripts, and brief letter describing your research interests and suitability for this thesis. The successful candidate will be invited to apply to the CDU postgraduate Research and Training program (View Website).

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