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   Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

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  Dr M Riegler  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


The sterile insect technique (SIT) is an environment-friendly and effective control strategy for insect pests and vectors. SIT requires the mass-release of sterile insects that mate with individuals of the target pest population, effectively stopping their reproduction. SIT requires good knowledge of the target pest and the optimisation of mass-rearing conditions in order to cost-effectively deliver high-quality SIT insects.

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) of Western Sydney University is looking for a highly motivated and qualified candidate for a 3-year PhD research project. This studentship is part of a research program established within the SITplus consortium co-funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia and several industry and research partners. SITplus aims to develop and improve SIT for Queensland fruit fly (Qfly), Australia’s most significant horticultural pest species, and is linked to the recently established national SIT Qfly production facility in Port Augusta, South Australia.

This PhD project will investigate Qfly pupation biology and ecology. Pupation and complete metamorphosis are key evolutionary innovations of insects, with massive changes in morphology, physiology, microbiomes and behaviour. In nature, late instar larvae leave infested fruit and pupate in the soil from where adult flies emerge. In the soil, individuals are exposed to many biotic (e.g. pathogens) and abiotic (e.g. suffocation) challenges. Knowledge about Qfly pupation biology and ecology is limited. For SIT, mass-rearing requires a pupation substrate, optimal environmental conditions and careful processing of pupae. This project will study Qfly pupation biology and ecology in natural environments, assess optimal densities and climatic conditions in controlled environments, and test different pupation substrates to evaluate their impact on Qfly life history traits, performance and health.

The position is based at the Hawkesbury campus of Western Sydney University, Richmond, New South Wales. Our collaborating partners are Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), the national SIT Qfly facility and other SITplus consortium partners.


• Domestic candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs, supported by the Research Training Program (RTP) Fee Offset.

• International candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs. Those with a strong track record will be eligible for a tuition fee waiver and an Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) Single Policy.

• Substantial benefits in terms of additional operational funding for project fieldwork and data collection, and travel and conference attendance.


We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds, who are keen to apply their skills to the project topic. The successful applicant should:

• hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian Bachelor Honours degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least a 25% research component, (iii) a Research Masters degree or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.

• demonstrate strong academic performance in insect or animal physiology, insect ecology, insect pathology, soil zoology or related field(s).

• preferentially have some experience with insect rearing, life history experiments, metabolic profiling and/or molecular diagnostic tools.

• be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.

• possess excellent written and verbal communication skills.

• have proven data analysis experience.

• Having an Australian driver license will be useful.

• International applicants must also meet English language proficiency.


Complete the application via the link :

Follow the step-by-step instructions on the how to apply for a project scholarship

Note: You do not need to complete 'Step 5: Submit an online application for admission' when applying for this scholarship. You must complete 'Step 6: Submit an online application for a project scholarship'. Incomplete applications or applications that do not conform to the above requirements will not be considered.

For questions and advice about the research project, please contact the Lead Researcher; Associate Professor Markus Riegler: [Email Address Removed]

For questions and advice about the application process, please contact the Graduate Research School: [Email Address Removed].

Closing date: 31st January 2022

Biological Sciences (4)
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 About the Project