PhD scholarship: Tree Mortality and Forest Recovery Following Unprecedented Drought and Bushfires


Western Sydney University


Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, NSW

About the project

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 early 2021. The project will contribute to our understanding of patterns of tree mortality and forest recovery following severe drought and bushfires.

The 2019-20 Black Summer fires burnt over 5 million hectares, of predominately temperate forests, in eastern and south-eastern Australia. Much of Australia’s temperate eucalypt forests are usually highly resilient to fire. However, many of these forests were subject to the lowest rainfall and highest temperatures on record preceding the fires. This raises important questions about the capacity of these usually resilient forests to recover from the combined impacts of fire, drought and heatwaves.

This project aims to quantify variation in post-fire recovery across different forest types following the Black Summer fires, and investigate underlying causes of variation in post-fire recovery, such as plant traits, fire severity, and pre- and post-fire climatic conditions.

The successful applicant will join the fire research group, led by A/Prof Matthias Boer, and be co-supervised by Dr Rachael Nolan, A/Prof Boer and A/Prof Brendan Choat (who leads the plant hydraulics and water relations group at HIE).

Note, the PhD will involve remote area fieldwork in NSW, subject to COVID-19 restrictions. Given this project requires significant amounts of remote area fieldwork, we are seeking a candidate who currently resides in Australia, or is an Australian resident, who will be able to be based locally for the duration of the PhD.

What does the Scholarship provide?

  • 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.

Eligibility Criteria

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 25% research component, (iii) a Research Masters degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
  • demonstrate strong academic performance in plant ecology, plant ecology, plant physiology, biogeography, forest science or related disciplines.
  • demonstrate willingness to undertake remote area fieldwork.
  • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
  • possess excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • have good numerical, computational, and statistical skills.

How to apply:

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