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   Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

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  Prof D Ellsworth, Dr B Smith  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Rising atmospheric CO2 poses a potential for significant changes to forest functioning in the future. The world’s first ever mature forest free-air CO2 enrichment experiment, EucFACE, has continued over the past ten years with the critical nutrient phosphorus (P) identified as key to our understanding of forest responses to elevated CO2. To directly address how P interacts with elevated CO2, we have a novel opportunity to experimentally add P to the forest ecosystem both with CO2 enrichment and without, and understand how this interaction is manifested. The unique experiment will shed new light on how P cycling and availability interact with elevated atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to control tree physiology and growth in the field. The student will initially undertake measurements and data analysis based on the response of the mature eucalypt forest ecosystem to the experimental manipulation. They will then work with an ecosystem process model, configured to emulate the environment and ecosystem of EucFACE, to explore the mechanistic basis for the responses they observe.

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) is seeking a highly-motivated candidate for a 3-year PhD program of research to commence in 2022 in the field of global change ecology. The successful candidate will conduct research in the world-recognised EucFACE experiment to investigate plant processes altered by P addition in combination with elevated CO2. This work will support and interact with the simulation modelling work to understand the implications of P and elevated CO2. The PhD candidate will join a vibrant research team with opportunities to interact with a group of world-class collaborators in an inter-disciplinary environment. The candidate is also expected to take a key role in disseminating research results through scientific publications and conference presentations. The PhD program is based at the Hawkesbury Campus of Western Sydney University in Richmond, New South Wales, Australia. The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment houses Australia’s 2nd highest ranking institution, and the 16th highest in the world, for Ecology.


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 First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, (iii) Research Masters degree, or (iv) equivalent international qualifications.
  • demonstrate strong academic performance in plant ecology or plant physiology or plant biophysics with a concrete interest in climate change/rising CO2.
  • demonstrate a willingness to undertake field-based research.
  • • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
  • • possess excellent written and verbal communication skills. International applicants must demonstrate 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 Researchers; Professor David Ellsworth: [Email Address Removed] or Professor Ben Smith: [Email Address Removed]

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

Use the email subject line: Application PS2022_048_HIE

Closing date: 31 August 2022

*Applications close at 11.59pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).

Funding Notes

• 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 ($6,000 per annum) in terms of operational funding for project fieldwork and data collection, and travel and conference attendance.
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