HDR Scholarship - Dynamics of biodiversity and Indigenous values of Tiwi ecosystems

Applications now open

A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Dynamics of biodiversity and Indigenous values of Tiwi ecosystems'.

Project Supervisor

Associate Supervisor


Melbourne Burwood Campus

Research topic

Sustainable development is critical to reconciling economic growth, human well-being and biodiversity conservation across the globe. The complexity of planning for sustainable development is exemplified in the Tiwi Islands, 60km north of Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia. The Tiwi Land Council, the primary decision-making body for land use on the Islands, is seeking to expand economic opportunities for Tiwi communities and to improve social, economic and health outcomes for the Tiwi people, while sustaining the Islands’ unique cultural and biodiversity values. The Tiwi Land Council has identified a fundamental need to develop their capacity to make informed decisions about integrated land use planning.

This project aims to support decision-making on the Tiwi islands, through new methods for collaborative land-use planning that advance knowledge about trade-offs between sustainable economic development and biodiversity conservation on Indigenous lands. Our approach is trans-disciplinary and participatory, integrating Indigenous and scientific knowledge and methods.

This project includes three PhD projects to start in early 2019, a project postdoctoral researcher and research assistants on the Tiwi islands and in Darwin – making an outstanding team-based research environment. All three students will work collaboratively with each other, with all investigators and project postdoctoral researchers, and with Tiwi research assistants, rangers and communities.

The research team includes: Emily Nicholson (Deakin), Kate Hadden (Tiwi Land Council), Brett Murphy (Charles Darwin University, CDU), Margaret Ayre (University of Melbourne, UM), Jane Elith (UM), Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita (UM), Alan Andersen (CDU), Brett Bryan (Deakin), Tom Kompas (UM). This research is partially funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council. For more detail see our project website.

Project aim

This project will be funded by and primarily based at Deakin University, but the student will be a member of both the Conservation Science Research Group at Deakin and Qaeco at the University of Melbourne.

Project description: Effective management requires information on the distribution, dynamics and values of ecosystems of high importance to biodiversity conservation and Indigenous cultural values. The Tiwi Islands support unique biodiversity in their ground-water dependant ecosystems, which include endemic rainforests, riparian forests and swamps of high conservation value internationally and locally. The mangrove ecosystems of the Tiwi Islands are extensive but hold very high local cultural values for food and important sites. Extensive data and knowledge on these ecosystems are found across disparate sources, including Indigenous and western scientific knowledges, and remotely sensed and field data.

This project will:

  1. map past and current distributions of these ecosystems and associated biodiversity and cultural values, drawing on these different sources, working with Tiwi communities and research assistants, and scientists across Australia;
  2. develop models of potential future dynamics under scenarios of climate and land-use change, and different management strategies; and
  3. quantify how projected change will affect Tiwi goals (see Project 2), and national and international goals (e.g. UN Sustainable development Goals).

This information will enable informed management on the ecologically and culturally significant Tiwi Islands.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Thursday 31 January 2019.


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $27,596 per annum tax exempt (2019 rate)
  • International students only: Tuition fee and overseas health coverage for the duration of 4 years

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • Undergraduate and honours or masters degree in ecology, environmental science or a related discipline
    Demonstrated high-level skills in written and verbal communication (e.g., scientific publications)
    Quantitative skills in statistics, data analysis and/or process-based modelling
    Skills in programming in languages such as R (or similar), spatial analysis (in R and/or GIS), and/or experience working with remotely sensed data
    Field ecology skills (especially flora) or willingness to learn
    Willingness to travel to remote Tiwi Islands and stay for periods of field work in tropical environment
    Current driver’s license
    Experience working with indigenous people

How to apply

Please apply using the expression of interest form and email to A/Prof Emily Nicholson


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact A/Prof Emily Nicholson

A/Prof Emily Nicholson
Associate Professor of Conservation Science
Email Emily Nicholson
+61 3 925 17430