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Joint PhD with Shanghai Jiao Tong University: The influence of site-scale characteristics of urban greenspaces on biodiversity related to human health and wellbeing: A comparative study between Shanghai and Melbourne

Chancellery Research and Enterprise

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Dr Amy Hahs No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
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About the Project

Please note that as of 17 December 2020, applications for this project will no longer be accepted as the project context will change. The new project will become available late January 2021 and candidates who have previously not applied, are welcome to submit an expression of interest to the supervisor.

The unfolding pandemic of 2020 has placed a clear spotlight on the complex interlinkages between urban greenspaces, biodiversity and human health and wellbeing. This project will focus on greenspaces as a distinct component of urban green infrastructure, and will investigate how site level characteristics (e.g., standing water, vegetation, management activities) influence the biodiversity that directly affects human health and wellbeing, particularly those with a positive influence (e.g. insect predators) or associated with negative outcomes (e.g. mosquitos). By comparing Melbourne and Shanghai our results can be used to inform broader public health  and greenspace policies in temperate cities around the world.

This project will focus on greenspaces as a distinct component of urban green infrastructure that links directly to Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities via Target 11.7 “access to safe and accessible green space”. The overarching research question that will be addressed through this project is: How do the site level characteristics of urban greenspaces (e.g., standing water, vegetation composition and structure, management activities) in two temperate zone cities (Melbourne and Shanghai) influence the biodiversity that directly affects public health and human wellbeing?

To address this question, the Melbourne based PhD student will identify a set of 30 urban greenspaces within both Melbourne and Shanghai, using a stratified random approach to ensure there is an appropriate representation of urban greenspace types (e.g. public parks compared to residential gardens), site characteristics (e.g., standing water, vegetation composition and structure, management activities), and urban landscape context (e.g., varying levels of human population density and time since development). For each site, they will then conduct   a series of site visits to 1) quantify the site characteristics; and 2) sample the composition and abundance of insects related to positive health and wellbeing outcomes (e.g. insect predators, charismatic species such as butterfly or blue-banded bees) and those related to negative public health outcomes (e.g. mosquitos and other zoonotic disease vectors). We will also seek to include an environmental microbiome component subject to securing additional external funding, that can build on CI Hahs and Dr Mavoa’s Australian Microbiome Initiative seed project.

This project will be based at UoM as it is highly aligned with CI Hahs’ existing research and expertise, and CI Hahs has several colleagues within SEFS who are also experienced with sampling, identifying and analyzing insect community data from urban greenspaces. The student would commence in March 2021, to ensure that they have time to complete their confirmation meeting prior to commencing field work during the period of peak insect activity and sampling conditions (November – March).

The UoM based student would spend 15 months at SJTU (March 2022 – May 2023), where they would undertake the equivalent field sampling around Shanghai during the northern hemisphere peak insect sampling season (June – September). As field work is best conducted in pairs, the Shanghai-based PhD student can spend two months assisting the Melbourne based student with their field sampling as they become orientated and more familiar with the greater Shanghai area. CI LI has existing projects which also involve the collection and analysis of insect data from urban greenspaces, and he will be able to provide support and facilities to complete this sampling during this time. The UoM student will also complete the mandatory coursework component of the SJTU PhD program during this period.

Funding Notes

The Universities of Melbourne and Shanghai Jiao Tong have created a new, joint PhD program. Joint PhD candidates spend a minimum of 12 months at each institution. PhD candidates engaged in the project will be enrolled at both institutions. Successful candidates will have access to support funding which includes tuition fee waivers, a full living allowance, health insurance and relocation support.


The project will be complemented by the project on The spatio-temporal pattern of urban green infrastructure and its associations with urban human mortality: A comparative study between Shanghai and Melbourne and the collaboration will ensure a successful completion of the project.

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