**PhD** Testing environmental causes of population decline in an Australian song-bird


Supervisors: Prof Loeske Kruuk, Prof Andrew Cockburn, Dr Kara Youngentob

We are seeking applications from highly-motivated and qualified candidates for a PhD at the Australian National University’s Division of Evolution and Ecology, in the Research School of Biology, to start in late 2018 or early 2019.

Project: Many wild animal populations have recently declined in numbers, but determining the exact causes of these declines and the mechanisms by which environmental change affects individual fitness is difficult. The aim of this project is to test the extent to which fine-scale biotic and abiotic environmental variation can explain a decline in a population of a common, cooperatively-breeding wild bird in south-east Australia. Our detailed long-term study of superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) has revealed a dramatic decline in population size over the past three decades. The project will combine the extensive life-history data on the bird population with long-term remote sensing data, terrestrial laser-sensing measures (LiDAR) and ground surveys to assess the contribution of spatial and temporal variation in vegetation structure to population dynamics. It will aim to test the interactive effects of a changing climate and ecological conditions on bird population life-history, including a marked decline in the extent of cooperative breeding in the study population. There is also the potential to use new high-density genomic data to assess changes in spatial genetic structure over time, or to extend the project in other directions particularly suited to the interests of the student.

Eligibility: Applicants should have an Honours degree or MSc in a related discipline, relevant research experience, strong interests in animal ecology or evolution, and good quantitative skills. The project will involve a combination of analysis of long-term superb fairy-wren and remote-sensing data with fieldwork at the study site of the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Experience of remote sensing data and GIS techniques would be a strong advantage but is not a prerequisite.

Funding: Scholarships are available from the Australian National University at a rate of $27,082 per annum for up to 3.5 years (3 years initially, extendable by 6 months).

Applications: If interested, please first contact Loeske.kruuk@anu.edu.au directly. Please send a single pdf file which includes your CV (including your nationality), a brief outline of your past research experience and reasons for applying for this studentship (max. 600 words), and contact details of two academic referees.

Candidates will need to apply to the ANU’s Research School of Biology programme for PhD stipend and scholarship. Funding is available for both domestic (Australian) and international applicants; funding for international applicants is very competitive but not impossible. Applications are also welcome from candidates with their own funding.

Deadlines for full applications to ANU (see links below) are 31 August 2018 for international students and 31 Oct 2018 for domestic (Australian) students - but please contact me prior to these dates.

Further details about the funding are available here:

International students



Domestic (Australian) students



Image gallery

Updated:  16 August 2018/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB