Student Opportunities

PhD Project: Rivers as vectors of microplastic pollution, University of Canterbury

A fully funded PhD position is available in the College of Science, University of Canterbury (Christchurch, New Zealand). The student will be part of larger NZ MBIE Endeavour funded project which addresses the role of rivers as dynamic transport vectors of plastic pollution. This PhD project will focus on microplastic pollution by examining the sources and fate of microplastics in an urban catchment.

The successful PhD candidate will be responsible for determining the relationship between different microplastic sources and the types and sizes of microplastics in an urban river. The candidate will also investigate the fragmentation potential of different plastic polymers and increase our understanding of microplastic formation. This will involve microplastic analysis using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), analysis of plastic degradation, and genetic analysis of biofilm communities using Next Generation Sequencing.

The ideal candidate will have experience working in freshwater or marine environments, skills in spectroscopy or bioinformatics, and strong experimental/laboratory skills. There will be travel between Christchurch and Wellington for field work. The position begins in July 2019 and includes funds covering a stipend, tuition and operating costs. There will be opportunities to seek additional funding and the student should be comfortable with grant applications. Domestic and international students are encouraged to apply. Applicants must meet the University of Canterbury entrance requirements.

Amount: $27,500 per annum & fees to $7,500 per annum
Tenure: 3 years
Closing Dates: Always open

To apply, please send a cover letter stating your interests and experience relevant to the project and a CV to Dr. Sally Gaw apply on-line via:

PhD Project: Antimicrobial resistance burden in migratory and resident bird species in the northern Adelaide coastal zone, University of South Australia

A scholarship opportunity exists for a PhD student to undertake research into the microbiome and resistance profiles of resident and migratory bird species in the northern Adelaide coastal zone. The Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park provides a key feeding and roosting site for tens of thousands of birds who migrate annually along the East-Asian Australasian flyway. Data will be collected to investigate correlations between local habitat and water quality and bird health. The role of birds in harboring and transporting antimicrobial resistant bacteria and genes to/from natural wetlands and human impacted habitats such as wastewater treatment lagoons will also be assessed. The project will have close links with SA Water and SA EPA.

This scholarship is a thematically-badged living stipend for domestic students valued at $27,596 per annum.

Further information can be found here or at

For all enquiries please contact: Assoc. Prof. Erica Donner Email:
Phone: (08) 8302 3624

PhD Project: NORM scale in the ocean: Assessing radiological and ecotoxicological effects on aquatic organisms, ANSTO

A PhD top up scholarship is available at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in southern Sydney for a potential PhD student affiliated with a partner university.

Successful decommissioning of subsea oil and gas infrastructure requires an effective and safe approach of assessing and managing radiological residues. Scale residues frequently accumulate on the interior surfaces of pipes and other structures, and may persist long after extraction operations have ceased. Within such scale materials are a range of metal contaminants, as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), dominated by the U-238 and Th-232 decay series. On older, uncleaned pipes, the resulting accumulation of scale can be substantial enough to reduce the internal diameter of a typical pipe by >20%.

The project will provide for a more valid assessment of the risk posed by NORM scale to aquatic organisms as compared with current methods which rely on default/reference parameters which may greatly misinterpret the risk. It is intended that this will enable improved strategies to be developed and potentially implemented, creating large cost-saving for both industry and government, whilst demonstrating environmental protection (stakeholder acceptance). Specifically, the project will address a critical step in achieving this goal: developing a data set of bioaccumulation (transfer) and organ distribution of NORM within pipe scale to bottom-dwelling (benthic) organisms from oil and gas distribution lines under several scenarios of pipe usage.

Please see the project outline for more details of the project.

For further information, please contact Dr. Tom Cresswell (; (02) 9717 9412.

International PhD Opportunities

Under the European Research Council grant “Monitoring Biodiversity from Space”, ITC and University Twente have opened three PhD positions which are fully funded for 4 years in the area of environmental DNA and remote sensing. These include:

  1. Connecting biodiversity estimated with eDNA point samples with hyperspectral imaging
  2. Identifying impact of vegetation structure and function on microbial phyllosphere communities
  3. Linking biodiversity policy with science