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The Biogeography Of Fire: Mapping Key Fuel Types Across NSW

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Boer
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

New South Wales is characterised by strong gradients of climate, terrain, soils and vegetation types that combine to form a unique diversity of fire regimes. Key aspects of the fire regime, such as the frequency, intensity, and season of fires, are determined by fuel types. Current fuel classifications are essentially based on a reclassification of major vegetation types. Variation in fuel composition and structure within the broad fuel types, due to variation in climate, terrain, soil fertility, species composition (e.g. leaf and bark traits) and the severity of previous fire, is currently not quantified but generates fine-scale variation that affects fire regimes.

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) within Western Sydney University is looking for a highly motivated and qualified candidate for a 3-year PhD commencing in 2019. This studentship is part of the Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, funded by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The Hub is a consortium of four universities working closely with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Rural Fire Service and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Hub is providing the evidence base to meet the competing demands of fire management: mitigating risk to human life and property whilst concurrently mitigating risk to environmental values such as biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, carbon stocks and cultural heritage.

This project aims to predict spatiotemporal variation in fuel composition and structure. The project will utilise georeferenced observations in flora databases and gridded environmental covariables (e.g. climate, substrate, terrain, soils, fire history) to predict the occurrence of key fuel-forming plant functional types within broad vegetation classes. This project will also utilise satellite data products to map spatial variation in canopy density and spatial/vertical biomass profiles across NSW.


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 plant ecology / biogeography, GIS, forest science or related disciplines.
- be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
- possess excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- have good numerical skills and an interest in ecosystem modelling.
- International applicants must also meet English language proficiency

How to apply:

- Contact Associate Professor Matthias Boer [Email Address Removed] to discuss your eligibility, the project requirements and your intention to apply.
- Complete the application form via the link http://
- Compile your CV, contact information for two referees and a one-page proposal stating how your research interests align with the project aims.
- Ensure all documentation is certified according to Western Sydney University requirements.
- All applications and supporting documentation must be submitted directly to the Graduate Research School as follows:
- Use the email subject line: Application_2019_078_HIE
- Submit to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

- Domestic students will receive a tax free stipend of $30,000 per annum and a funded place in the doctoral degree.
- International students will receive a tax free stipend of $30,000 per annum. Those with a strong track record will receive a fee waiver.
- All International students are required to hold an Overseas Student Health Care (OSHC) policy covering the duration of their studies in Australia. The HIE will provide funding for a single Overseas Student Health Cover policy.
- The project will also provide substantial benefits in terms of additional operational funding for project fieldwork and data collection, and travel and conference attendance.

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