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Urban Forest: testing tree performance to future hotter and drier conditions

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) is a research institute within Western Sydney University. HIE has rapidly become a research leader in environmental and ecological research, with a strong reputation for delivering research outcomes of the highest quality. HIE is home to a team of over 50 academic research scientists and more than 60 PhD students, with access to a unique suite of world-class research facilities.

We are looking for a highly motivated and qualified candidate for a 3-year PhD program of research at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, commencing in 2019. This studentship is part of an exciting research programme established under Hort Innovation’s “Green Cities” initiative (Which Plant Where project), investigating the performance of urban trees under climate change.

This project aims to test fundamental ecological principles to inform the selection of trees in urban areas across Australia. The studentship will explore questions relating to whether trees are adapted to their climate-of-origin and the extent to which climate and traits are good predictors of tree performance in different urban contexts. The PhD research program will focus on a large Urban Forest Experiment established with a wide range of tree species in the hot and dry conditions in Western Sydney (Richmond NSW) – a future climate scenario for much of metropolitan Sydney. The inclusion of a watering treatment will allow evaluation of the extent to which irrigation can alleviate drought and heat stress under field conditions. The applied outcome of the Urban Forest Experiment will be a robust field test of climate suitability for Sydney’s future urban forest.

Applications are open to international candidates as well as Australian or New Zealand citizens or permanent residents of Australia. The position is based at the Hawkesbury campus of Western Sydney University, Richmond, NSW and is in collaboration with the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. Candidates will work with Western Sydney University’s partners and the horticulture industry to achieve key applied outcomes in plant and soil science


» 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.
» The project will also provide substantial benefits in terms of additional operational funding for project field work and data collection, and travel and conference attendance

As a minimum, 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 ecological data analyses with a focus on plant biology
» be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
» possess excellent written and verbal communication skills.
» have relevant fieldwork experience, including driving license.

Experience in the plant physiology, functional traits and/or UAV -spectral analyses will be viewed favourably

International applicants must also demonstrate a high level of proficiency in the English language. Please refer to the English language requirements at international/home/admissions/entry_requirements


» Applicants should discuss their eligibility and interests with Dr Paul Rymer (), Professor Sally Power () or Professor Mark Tjoelker ()
» Contact the Graduate Research School at .
» Please submit an application form, CV, names and contact information of two referees, and a one-page document stating how your research interests align with the project’s aims.

Closing date: 31 March 2019

» The application form can be downloaded:

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