PhD Scholarship: Plant-Soil Ecology


University of Southern Queensland


University of Southern Queensland

Salary etc:

$32,000 p.a. (Stipend) Full-time.

A PhD position is available to work with Dr Adam Frew at the University of Southern Queensland.

Preferable start in early (Jan-Jun) 2022.

The PhD student will work on an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project that: Investigates how agricultural management practices shape the diversity and community composition of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, and how these communities differentially impact plant outcomes (growth, nutrient uptake, defenses to insect herbivory).

The Project:

The symbiosis between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and terrestrial plants is one of the most widespread and successful plant symbioses, one that includes the majority of crops. Mycorrhizal fungi have important roles in ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and decomposition. They are also critical to soil ecosystems due to their role in enhancing soil aggregation and in reducing soil nutrient loss. If we are to effectively utilize AM fungi to enhance sustainable plant production in Australia, we need to understand (i) how agricultural practices in Australia drive AM fungal diversity across climate zones, (ii) how these communities may differentially affect plant growth and nutrient uptake.

The PhD candidate will conduct field sampling across eastern Australia and, using a DNA metabarcoding approach, will identify and characterize AM fungal communities. Using manipulative glasshouse experiments the candidate will investigate how AM fungal diversity and community composition affect crop growth, nutrient status. Exploring the effects on plant defense chemistry may also be incorporated, depending on the interests of the student.
The PhD candidate will have a unique opportunity to learn and apply a wide range of ecological and experimental techniques and technologies. They will share their research through publications, conference participation, and by connecting with world-class collaborators from a range of disciplines.


  • Stipend of AUD$32,000 per annum.
  • Full tuition fees for a period of 6 semesters (full-time equivalent). Domestic students will be allocated a Research Training Program (RTP) Fees Offset Place, whereas international students will be offered an International Fees Research Scholarship.
  • Maximum period of tenure of an award is three years. Periods of study already undertaken towards the degree will be deducted from the period of tenure.


To be eligible applicants must:

  • Have completed a Bachelor Degree with First Class Honours, or equivalent.
  • Be eligible to be enrolled, full-time on-campus in a PhD.
  • Not be in receipt of similar funding from the Australian Government.
  • Be fluent English speakers and/or meet USQ's English Language Requirements.
  • Commence the PhD in 2022.

Selection criteria:

Applicants must:

  • Have a strong academic record and hold a qualification equal to (i) an Australian Bachelor honours degree with First Class Honours, or (ii) a Masters degree (with significant research component).
  • Have a strong academic performance and experience in microbial/plant/soil ecology.
  • Have experience with ecological data analysis using R, and any experience in biological sequence data analysis is advantageous.
  • Be enthusiastic and highly motivated.
  • Possess excellent verbal and written communication skills.

How to apply:

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Date published:


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