PhD Scholarship top-up opportunity: Enhancing climate-resilience of ecological restoration

PhD Scholarship top-up opportunity: Enhancing climate-resilience of ecological restoration

An exciting opportunity exists to undertake a PhD in ecological research at the Research School of Biology (RSB) at the Australian National University.  The successful applicant will be offered a PhD top-up of $10,000/yr in addition to the standard stipend for a period of 3 years plus a possible six-month extension.  The project will also have access to operating expenses, including support for attendance at national and international conferences.


Australia’s high country presents an iconic landscape of significant biodiversity, environmental, economic, and cultural value. Wildfire, drought, and other extreme climate events are increasing in both frequency and severity within the high country.  Ecological restoration is potentially an important tool for managing the impacts of extreme climatic events and understanding what drives growth and establishment of native species is crucial.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service have an expanding ecological restoration program within the iconic Kosciuszko National Park (KNP), focusing on areas that have been impacted by historical disturbances (e.g., The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme), frequent wildfire, ski resort development and other infrastructure.  Current restoration practices may however not be optimal for ensuring long-term persistence in the context of changes in the frequency of extreme events.

Thus, there are fundamental questions about whether current restoration practices can be modified to improve future resilience. This includes consideration of the selection of species and traits, and the adoption of practices that improve the capacity of the restored ecosystem to capture and store water, organic carbon, and soil nutrients. These questions are particularly timely and relevant to management of KNP.

PhD project

The project will develop an understanding of drivers of variation of climate and fire resilience traits, growth, establishment, and survival of the dominant montane species, particularly those targeted in restoration efforts. Plant functional traits relevant to growth and establishment under water and heat stress will be of particular interest. It is expected that the project could investigate how variation partitions among individuals, populations, and species, to better inform rehabilitation efforts and improve outcomes. The intent is that the project will inform restoration practice through improved species and provenance selection and that results will also help guide NPWS assessment of those rehabilitation sites that may be most vulnerable to future fire and drought.

Within this broad scope, the successful candidate will have the opportunity to collaboratively design an appropriate project that suits their interests and skills.

Supervision and collaboration

The project will be undertaken in close collaboration with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment Conservation and Restoration Science Branch and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).  The supervisory panel will be chaired by Prof Adrienne Nicotra, along with Dr Josh Dorrough.  The research project will also be undertaken in close collaboration with Gabrielle Wilks and Mel Schroeder of the NSW NPWS.  Additional supervisors within either the Fenner School of Environment and Society or RSB may be identified, depending on the student and project requirements.


Suitable applicants need to be highly motivated with strong academic and research backgrounds; skills in field biology, plant evolution or ecology, environmental physiology and/or ecological and evolutionary genetics are ideal. Demonstrated ability to conduct fieldwork and independent research experience are highly desirable. A bachelor’s degree with first-class honours or a research master’s degree from a recognised university is a prerequisite. Peer-reviewed publications are an advantage.

Domestic students must obtain and maintain a PhD scholarship stipend at The Australian National University (2022 rate: AU$28,854 p.a. tax free). Candidates are required to commence their doctoral programs before the end of March 2023.

Application process and closing dates

Interested domestic candidates should initially send CV and discuss potential projects with Prof Adrienne Nicotra ( 

The closing date for domestic applications for a PhD stipend scholarship at The Australian National University is 31 October 2022. See

The Australian National University Research School of Biology

PhD students within Research School of Biology have access to state-of-art field and laboratory facilities and are part of a dynamic and active research community.  The Nicotra lab focuses heavily on the Australian alpine and sub-alpine zone and runs the Australia Mountain Research Facility.  The facilities and intellectual environment are outstanding, and the lab is lively, hard-working and inquisitive. We strive to do excellent, fundamental research that is of applied relevance for managing natural systems in the context of rapid global change (