Postgraduate projects with research support: Drivers of climate change responses in the Australian Alps

These projects will suit students with interest and knowledge in plant evolutionary ecology, ecophysiology, and/or ecological genetics.

Overview: Alpine regions are among the most vulnerable to climate change worldwide. Understanding the capacity for resilience and response to warming and drying conditions and more extreme events in these communities is a research priority. What is the relative importance of fundamental physiology, phenotypic plasticity, and interspecies feedbacks in determining climate change response at the community level? What is the potential for resilience and contemporary evolutionary response of species within these communities?

We are looking for PhD and Honours students to contribute to a new project that explores the capacity for resilience and drivers of response of highly vulnerable alpine species and communities to climate change.

Project descriptions: The students will work as part of a dynamic collaborative team that aims to determine how communities of interacting alpine plants, soil invertebrates, and microbes can cope with or evolve to novel climatic conditions.

Prof Adrienne Nicotra (ANU), in collaboration with a network of researchers in the Australian Mountain Research Facility (AMRF), including Prof Saul Cunningham (ANU), Prof Justin Borevitz (ANU), Dr Susanna Venn (Deakin), Dr Grant Duffy (Monash), and Dr Pieter Arnold (ANU), are seeking enthusiastic students interested in studying ecological and evolutionary responses to climate change. The AMRF have recently established field sites with monitoring infrastructure across the Australian Alps and this exciting project will use a combination of field monitoring and experimental approaches to develop an understanding of alpine plant and invertebrate responses to drying, warming, and extreme events.

Depending on your interests and skills there are multiple options for PhD and Honours projects. These include: 1) Combining field and controlled growth experiment to probe how variation in thermal tolerance limits and trait plasticity among plant species affect the capacity to respond to altered climatic regimes and extreme events. 2) Experimental evolution of soil invertebrates to quantify ecophysiological and life-history traits and their evolutionary responses to simulated climate change and extreme events. 3) Combining community-level vegetation surveys with monitoring of soil invertebrates and microbial diversity using eDNA approaches to explore changes and interactions between above- and below-ground communities of organisms under altered climatic conditions.

Eligibility: Suitable applicants need to be highly motivated with strong academic and research backgrounds; skills in evolutionary ecology, ecophysiology or ecological/evolutionary genetics are required. Demonstrated ability to conduct fieldwork and independent research experience are highly desirable. Interested students must apply for admission and scholarship online at ANU. Successful applicants will receive scholarship stipend, tuition fee waiver, and research funds including computer and travel grants.

Location: We are based in the Division of Ecology & Evolution in the Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. The facilities and intellectual environment are outstanding, and the Nicotra group is a diverse, friendly, supportive, and enthusiastic group to be a part of. We strive to do excellent, fundamental research that is relevant in the context of rapid global change. Canberra is a great place to live and offers a balance of community and outdoor activities, amazing bushland and surrounds, connections to the mountains and beaches, while having the conveniences and amenities of a larger city.

Application deadline: Applications for international(onshore only) and domesticstudents are due by 15 April 2021 for a mid-2021 start. For further information, please contact Further information about postgraduate study in the Research School of Biology can be found here.