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PhD project at The University of Melbourne with industry funding – Modelling shoreline vegetation to inform operations of Lake Victoria, NSW

Graduate & Postdoc
Expiration Date: 

We are seeking a PhD candidate, with industry sponsorship from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), to investigate the dynamics of shoreline vegetation in Lake Victoria, NSW.

Lake Victoria is a large, natural lake in south-western NSW that has been operated as a water storage in the River Murray system since 1928. In 1998, it was recognised that storage operations were endangering the preservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage at Lake Victoria. Since 2002, the lake has been operated to balance water delivery and environmental outcomes as per the Lake Victoria Operating Strategy. Spiny sedge (Cyperus gymnocaulos) is the most abundant and extensive plant species on the shoreline of Lake Victoria. Importantly, it is effective at stabilising shoreline sediments which in turn reduces erosion and subsequent damage to cultural heritage material. Ecological knowledge of spiny sedge is limited. In order to facilitate an increase in vegetation cover and stabilise the lakeshore, a more detailed understanding of spiny sedge (and potentially of other species) biology and factors affecting its survival, growth, reproduction, and recruitment is required.

The proposed project aims to draw upon a combination of the existing literature, monitoring data and analysis, together with targeted field and/or greenhouse work, to gather information that can be used to develop predictive model for spiny sedge. The candidate will enjoy a high degree of collaborative interaction and support from the MDBA. The functional model will be used to inform routine and scenario-planning operations at Lake Victoria, so will need to show what lake operations are required to provide conditions for the continued expansion of this species and potentially others, and once established what operations conditions are required to maintain its cover. This understanding will be used by MDBA river operators to refine lake operations in the interest of cultural heritage protection.

The candidate will be supervised by Assoc Prof Angus Webb (University of Melbourne), Prof Justin Brookes (University of Adelaide) and Dr Joe Greet (University of Melbourne).


Eligibility: Students entering the PhD program in the Melbourne School of Engineering in 2019 and enrolled on a full-time basis. Candidates must be eligible to apply for an Australian Government Research Training Program Stipend Scholarship, and be highly competitive for that award. Australian and international students are eligible to apply. Applicants will be assessed on their scholarship score and relevant previous experience. Candidates with ecology or environmental science backgrounds are preferred, and quantitative skills would be particularly useful.

Value: MDBA funding of $15,000 p.a. for three years in addition to AGRTP scholarship ($27,540 - $30,600 p.a. – 2019 rate). Industry funding can be split between project operating costs and living support / top-up of AGRTP in negotiation with the supervisors and MDBA. Total value of scholarship and top-up funding is between $141,390 and $152,100. The MDBA will also provide considerable in-kind support in the form of staff time, data sets, and field resources if necessary.

Tenure: 3.5 years depending on progress and continuing eligibility.


For further information about this scholarship and the expression of interest process described below please contact Assoc Prof Angus Webb, Water Environment and Agriculture Program, Department of Infrastructure Engineering, University of Melbourne. Angus can be reached at or via telephone on +61 3 8344 9347.


Expressions of interest close Sunday July 14, 2019, 11:59pm AEST.

Please email Assoc Prof Webb the following

Transcripts from your degrees, along with information on the grading system used. This is necessary for us to understand whether you will be competitive for an AGRTP scholarship.

A half to one page statement on your motivation for undertaking a PhD, your research history and experience, including any particular experience particularly relevant to this project, and any preliminary ideas about research specializations within the broad project description above.

We will select a preferred applicant who will then need to complete a standard application for the PhD program in the Melbourne School of Engineering for submission by August 31, 2019.