ARC Discovery Research Scholarship
Western Sydney University

Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Closing date: 17th June 2016

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) is one of four institutes within Western Sydney University. HIE has rapidly become a research leader in ecosystem function and environmental responses to changing climate, with a strong reputation for delivering research outcomes of the highest quality. HIE houses a team of over 50 scientists with access to a unique suite of world-class research facilities. The ecosystem modelling group at HIE is widely recognised for their work in using experimental data to inform models of plant ecosystem function.

We are now seeking a highly motivated PhD student to contribute to a new Australian Research Council Discovery project that aims to resolve one of the most long-standing questions about the functioning of plants: how much of the carbon that they take up in photosynthesis do they use immediately for growth, and how much do they keep in reserve as insurance for the future? The answer to this question is urgently needed to understand how plants respond to environmental change, and how vulnerable they are to stresses such as drought.

The aim of the PhD project is to use experimental data and optimization approaches to develop models of how plants - and trees in particular - 'should' behave in risky or stressful environments. What is the optimal growth schedule for a tree that maximizes its fitness?

In the project, the student will first quantify how much carbon is kept in reserve in trees growing in a wide range of experimental conditions, capitalizing on a wealth of data from climate change experiments conducted at the HIE, including whole-tree warming experiments and EucFACE, the world's only Free Air CO2 Enrichment experiment in mature native forest (http://www.westernsydney.edu.au/hie/facilities).

The student will then help develop and apply models of tree survival, and compare estimates of optimal storage from these models to the experimental data.

The student will be based at HIE but will also collaborate with Professor Roderick Dewar at The Australian National University and Professor Mat Williams at Edinburgh University (UK).

See here for more information.



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