ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

PhD Scholarship Research Topics

Potential PhD projects for 2019 and beyond

If you are interested in any of these topics please contact the listed supervisors to discuss the project.

Topic: Healthy Ageing/Ageing Well in our Communities

Research projects within the scope of this research topic, include, but are not limited to:

Topic:  Gender, Health and Sport

Research projects within the scope of this research topic, include, but are not limited to:

  • The experiences of women in outdoor sports and/or leisure activities. Supervisors Associate Professor Rylee Dionigi and colleagues in the School of Exercise Science, Sport & Health
  • Gender stereotypes and females in male-dominant sports and/or leisure activities. Supervisors Associate Professor Rylee Dionigi and colleagues in School of Exercise Science, Sport & Health

Topic: Acoustic signalling in white-winged choughs

Supervisors: Maggie Watson and Paul McDonald (UNE)

Synopsis: The white-winged chough is a highly vocal, socially living, cooperative bird that lives in groups comprised of both close relatives and unrelated helpers kidnapped from other groups. In this project, communication within and between groups will be examined using genetic and social network analysis. Additionally, individuals will be identified using recorded vocalisations, playback experiments and other acoustic analyses to see how status is reflected in their calls.

Topic: Why isn't the world buried in feathers?

Supervisors: David Watson and Maggie Watson

Synopsis: Birds have feathers which are tasty, tasty treats for bacteria. There is a war going on between birds and bacteria over feathers. Birds don't mind shed feathers getting eaten, but they certainly don't want bacteria eating feathers they are still using. Gloger's Rule suggests that dark feathers are found in more humid, bacteria-friendly environments and light feathers in less humid environments. Could feather-busting bacteria contribute to this global pattern? In this experimental study, we will unravel the effects of micro-climate on feather degradation.

Topic: Freshwater mussel ecology

Supervisors: Paul Humphries and Nicole McCasker

Synopsis: Freshwater mussels perform many important ecological and societal functions, including recycling of nutrients, acting as habitat for many organisms, modifying aquatic food webs, and serving as environmental monitors and water purifiers. They are also some of the most threatened animals in Australia and worldwide. We know very little about the ecology of our freshwater mussels in Australia, which makes conservation or rehabilitation efforts extremely difficult. This PhD project would tackle some of the least explored topics related to Australian freshwater mussel ecology, and could include: ecosystem functions, population dynamics, historic and current distributions, habitat associations, movement, reproduction, feeding and growth.

Topic: The rise, fall and rise again of alien fish species in the Murray-Darling Basin

Supervisors: Paul Humphries and Keller Kopf

Synopsis: The first alien fish species introduced to the Murray-Darling Basin was as early as 1861 and, to date, totals 12 species. The list includes several trout species, common carp, goldfish, European perch and gambusia. Alien species are often characterized by biological and ecological plasticity (i.e. the ability to adapt to new environments), but little is known about how these fish adapted to Australian conditions. All have proved to be pests to varying degrees, but how their populations and traits have changed over time remains uncertain. The rise of common carp has only been relatively recent, since the spread of the Boolara strain in the late 1960s. The current focus is on common carp, and ways to eradicate it, but if this species is eradicated or even reduced in number, it may herald the resurgence of formerly abundant ‘sleepers’ in the system, like tench. This PhD project would explore the locations and dates of introductions of alien fish species, how they adapted to Australian conditions, and, using historical archives and potentially environmental DNA, track the spread, impact and human perceptions of alien species.

Topic: Trophic ecology of freshwater fishes

Supervisor Keller Kopf

More details on how to apply

Research projects that are considered within the scope of these topics, include, but are not limited to:

  • Field and lab studies focused on trophic interactions between invasive and native fishes;
  • Stable isotope and fatty acid analyses;
  • Statistical modelling of food web interactions;
  • Lab experiments examining variation in growth and survival of larvae;
  • Global desktop analyses of fish traits

Topic: Mitigating fish losses into irrigation Systems

Supervisor Lee Baumgartner and Dr Craig Boys of NSW Department of Primary Industries (; 02 4916 3851)

More details on how to apply

An exciting opportunity exists to carry out a collaborative PhD project with the Institute for Land, Water and Society and NSW Department of Primary Industries on industry-funded research of national significance. Each year, millions of native fish are lost from rivers at irrigation diversions. Fish screens are often used overseas to prevent these losses. But currently irrigation diversions are not routinely screened in the Murray-Darling Basin. The successful candidate will work as part of a broader team on an initiative, funded by the Ian Potter Foundation, Charles Sturt University and the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust, which will design, implement and trial innovative screening technologies at select irrigation sites in NSW to demonstrate the benefits to fish and fishers.