PhD Scholarship – Coral Reefs

From: Stephen Whalan <>
Subject: [Coral-List] Expressions of interest – PhD project on coral
reef ecology
To: “” <>

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”us-ascii”

Expressions of interest –  PhD project

Climate change and the net growth of coral reefs: the neglected role of bio-eroding sponges

We are seeking candidates who would be willing to apply for a prestigious AIMS@JCU PhD scholarship linked to the project proposed below.  AIMS@JCU is a joint venture between the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University, based in Townsville, Australia.  A full  AIMS @JCU scholarship comprises a  four year stipend, tuition fee waiver, and annual research fund allowances. AIMS@JCU students also enjoy access to world class facilities at both institutions with a recognised pool of leading marine scientists.

Project proposal synopsis.  Coral reefs exist in a dynamic balance moderated by processes of accretion and erosion. A large focus for assessing reef resilience in the face of climate change has been associated with the accretion cycle of coral reefs, particularly on processes that contribute to the maintenance and persistence of hard corals. In comparison, bio-erosion has largely been ignored resulting in significant knowledge gaps about the overall growth of coral reefs, thereby constraining efforts to manage and conserve these ecosystems.

The proposed project is linked to the hypothesis that bio-eroding sponges will contribute to increased rates of bio-erosion under climate change thereby re-positioning the fulcrum of the accretion -erosion dynamic, and the potential for net growth of coral reefs. This project will collect empirical data from field and manipulative laboratory experiments to determine key ecological traits of bio-eroding sponges. Results obtained during experimental research will be used to develop predictive models to understand the role of bio-eroding sponges in coral reef ecosystems under forecast changes to global climate.  The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr Nicole Webster (Aust. Inst. Marine Science), Assoc. Prof.  Marcus Sheaves (James Cook University) and Dr Steve Whalan (Southern Cross University).

We are seeking people who have an interest in understanding key ecological process contributing to the functioning of coral reefs, and who would be willing to apply for an AIMS@JCU PhD scholarship. Applicants require an Honours or Master’s degree in science, with a background in ecology and strong skills in experimental design and data analysis. Ecological modelling knowledge and/or molecular microbiological skills will be highly regarded.  In the first instance, interested applicants should submit a 1 page letter (expression of interest) and a 1 page CV by the 12th August 2013. Suitable candidates will then be required to submit a full application under the guidance of the supervisory team.

Please send applications or queries about the proposed project to:

Dr Nicole Webster:<>

Dr Steve Whalan:<>

Steve Whalan.  PhD.

Post Doctoral Research Fellow
Marine Ecology Research Centre,
School of Environment, Science & Engineering,
Southern Cross University,
PO Box 157, Lismore, 2480, NSW.

Ph: (+61) 02 6620 3486
mob: (+61) 0429 709 852

Marine Ecology Research Centre website <>