HDR Scholarship - Drivers of change to woody plant distributions with environmental uncertainty

Applications now open

A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Drivers of change to woody plant distributions with environmental uncertainty'.

Project Supervisors

Associate Supervisor


Melbourne Burwood Campus

Research topic

Woody species around the world, notably shrubs, are responding to environmental changes such as climate warming, changes to fire regimes and disturbances, and changes in precipitation. Australian native shrubs are expanding their range and infilling across various environments, from the mountains and temperate regions to the arid and semi-arid zone and the coast. Environments with an increasing proportion of shrub cover may reduce local plant diversity and promote more frequent fires in the landscape, thereby altering the state of the environment and causing widespread and directional environmental change.

Little is known about whether there are common drivers of change among congeneric shrub species, from different environments or whether species-specific responses are the general rule.

The focus of this project will be to investigate the varying responses of shrub species to a changing climate and disturbance regimes. Shrub responses to change could be investigated using a combination of recruitment studies, analysis of intra- and interspecific plant functional traits, and determining the adaptive capacity of shrubs via genetic and/or plasticity studies and investigating such responses across a range of environments.

Project aim

The project aims to unravel the various environmental drivers of shrub species that may lead to changes in their current range. This broad aim may be achieved by investigating selected congeneric woody shrub species from different functional groups (with respect to fire response) and are either broadly distributed, or have a narrow distribution within a mesic/xeric environment. Germination responses, thermal tolerance, drought tolerance and extent of genetic differentiation among populations of these species may also be tested to gain a better understanding of the impact of a changing environment on woody plant populations. The results of the study may also be useful to inform restoration in degraded systems as well as predict future occurrences of shrub populations.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Monday 20 May 2019


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $27,596 per annum tax exempt (2019 rate)

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be a domestic candidate (domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship).
  • 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:

  • This project will suit a student with experience in plant ecology and/or environmental genetics, who is willing to do fieldwork in remote locations for extended periods.
  • The project will involve a combination of field and laboratory work, and the student and will work collaboratively with other PhD and honours students in the Plant Ecology group.

How to apply

Please apply using the expression of interest form


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Tricia Wevill or Dr Susanna Venn

Dr Tricia Wevill
Lecturer in Environmental Sciences
Email Dr Tricia Wevill
+61 3 924 46439

Dr Susanna Venn
Senior Lecturer
Email Dr Susanna Venn
+61 3 924 68979