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Tropical sponge recruitment dynamics in a changing world

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, September 18, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Sponges are important functional components of coral reefs but despite our increasing understanding of how adult sponges are impacted by environmental change we still know little about sponge recruitment dynamics and how sponge early life stages respond to anthropogenic stress. This project will investigate temporal and spatial variation in sponge recruitment patterns, and determine what drives these patterns. There is also the potential to experimentally explore how sponges at different life-history stages are influenced by environmental stress. Given the increasing evidence to support greater domination of sponges on coral reefs in the future, there is increasing need to understand the drivers of recruitment and how they will be influenced by anthropogenic stress. The final nature and project aims will be developed between the Prof Bell and the student, but it is expected that the project will include fieldwork, laboratory experiments/observations and potentially ecological modelling.

This project will be based at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) in New Zealand and supervised by Professor James Bell (VUW) with fieldwork in Indonesia. For information about the research of the supervisor see:

Key attributes/skills/qualifications that are required: 1) Master’s degree or an equivalent standard (see important note below); 2) a minimum of a PADI Rescue Diver certificate with relevant diving experience (or equivalent – no exceptions); 3) IELTS overall band of 6.5, no sub-score below 6 (or equivalent, see - 4) evidence of the ability to work for extended periods in remote locations; and 5) ability to work as part of a team.

Applications in the first instance should be made directly to Prof Bell by 19 th September (or sooner) and include a cover letter outlining why you want this specific PhD position, full CV, academic transcripts, an example of your scientific writing, and the names/contact details of two people who can act as academic references (there is no need to request any reference letters be sent at this initial stage). Email:

Funding Notes

IMPORTANT NOTE: It will be necessary for the PhD student to secure stipend and fees funding, which can be sought from VUW. It is also important to note that PhD fees are the same for domestic and international students in NZ, so these scholarships are open to students from all countries. While we encourage applications from all interested individuals, the VUW PhD scholarship scheme is only likely to fund students with outstanding academic records. The next closing date for VUW scholarships is November 1st 2019 and assistance will be given in preparing for this deadline.

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