Funded PhD opportunity in Canberra

10 July 2013

The following funded PhD is being offered by the Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra and the Australian Alps National Parks Cooperative Management Programme.

An exciting opportunity exists to undertake a PhD aimed at understanding the impacts of European wasp (Vespula germanica) invasion in upland ecosystems in the Australian Alps. Since introduction to mainland Australia in the late 1970s European wasps have increased in distribution and abundance and are now present throughout much of south-eastern Australia. Their abundance appears to be increasing across the Australian Alps and there is growing concern that wasps are having significant negative impacts on native biota in these systems through processes such as predation on native invertebrates, competition for food with native wildlife, and disruption of plant pollination.
We are seeking a motivated candidate to undertake a PhD that will focus on quantifying the direct and indirect impacts of European wasps in these ecosystems. The research will involve a combination of field observations and field experiments designed to measure wasp impacts. Because wasp populations can be manipulated in the field through nest removal this system lends itself to rigorous experimental tests of ecological ideas and the research has the dual aim of: a) testing general ecological theory about the ways in which invasive species disrupt ecosystem processes through direct and indirect interactions and thereby impact other species, and b) providing the basis for management decisions about how to target wasp control in order to minimise these impacts. It would therefore suit a PhD candidate with strong interests in both basic and applied ecological research.

The PhD is a collaborative project between the Institute for Applied Ecology (University of Canberra) and the Australian Alps National Parks Cooperative Management Programme (and its partner organisations), and the candidate will be expected to work closely with staff from both groups. The position is based at the Institute for Applied Ecology but fieldwork will be carried out in National Parks across the Australian Alps in close collaboration with Park’s staff. At the Institute the candidate will be joining an active and dynamic group of researchers with excellent research support.

Find out more about the Institute

The successful candidate will need a first-class honours or Masters degree from an Australian or New Zealand University (obtained within the last 10 years) to receive a PhD scholarship ($24,653/year plus fee waiver for 3 years) along with the opportunity to apply for a scholarship top-up of $10,000/year through the Institute for Applied Ecology. International candidates will be considered but would need to provide or apply for their own funding (see

In addition the project comes with $10,000/year to fund operational expenses associated with fieldwork and other project costs. Additional support for students to attend national and international conferences is available through The Institute for Applied Ecology.
To apply send a cover letter outlining your suitability for the position, a CV with the names and details of two academic referees and a document addressing the following selection criteria to Prof. Richard Duncan: Enquires about the position can be addressed to Richard Duncan or to Brett McNamara (National Parks and Catchments Operations Manager, ACT Government: Applications close on 31 July 2013.

Selection Criteria

  • Completion of 1st-class honours or Masters degree in biology, ecology, environmental science or related discipline from an Australian University within the last 10 years
  • Interest and experience in invasive species ecology
  • Interest and experience in quantitative research design, methodology and analysis
  • Interest and experience in field-based ecological research
  • Experience in insect ecology / entomology
  • Ability to work in remote field locations
  • Willingness to work closely with Park’s field staff and managers, and as part of research team
  • Excellent interpersonal and oral communication skills
  • A current driver’s license