Applications for this PhD have now closed.
Location Western Sydney University, Graduate Research School
App. deadline 31/03/2017
  • Scholarship available
Project ID 2017-007
Eligibility Open to international applicants

A Scientific Basis For Assisted Gene Migration Under Climate Change

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) is one of three institutes within Western Sydney University. The plant adaptation group at HIE is widely recognised for their work testing the capacity to respond to climate through adaptive genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity.

We are now seeking a highly motivated PhD student to contribute to a NSW Environmental Trust project "A scientific basis for assisted gene migration under climate change". The project objectives are:

(1) Characterise neutral and adaptive genetic variation to estimate demographic and evolutionary processes. Do warm/dry populations harbour adaptive variation for drought resilience?

(2) Determine the ecological and physiological capacity to respond to climate change. Do plants growing under rainfall regimes found in their native source population outperform plants from different climates (‘local-is-best')? Do warm/dry populations have higher resilience to drought?

Understanding the capacity of trees to respond to climate change is essential for the maintenance of biodiversity, forest health and productivity. Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of droughts, which has resulted in tree death and negatively affected essential ecosystem services. Adaptive land management is urgently needed in order to mitigate the risk of large-scale drought mortality in a rapidly changing climate. Assessing genetic adaptation and physiological tolerance to drought across species distributions is critically important if we are to develop management tools, such as assisted gene migration, for sustainable and productive forests in a drying climate.

The project will focus on dominant Eucalyptus species in eastern Australia and compare populations from coastal, tableland, and western bioregions with replication across latitudes. The student will undertake genotyping-by-sequencing (ddRAD) to assess genetic structure and identify adaptive variation for climate change. Temperature and water manipulations under controlled glasshouse conditions will be employed to test for genetic adaptation and determine physiological tolerance to drought and heatwaves.

The student will be based at HIE, working under the supervision of Dr Paul Rymer and Prof. David Tissue, and engage with the project partners Office of Environment and Heritage, Greening Australia, and Local Land Services.

» Domestic students will receive a tax free stipend of $27,000 per annum and a funded place in the doctoral degree.
» International students will receive a tax free stipend of $27,000 per annum. Those with a strong track record may receive a fee waiver.
» Funding is available for project costs and conference travel.

We welcome applicants from a wide range of backgrounds, especially those with a strong grounding in ecology, genetics or plant biology who are keen to apply their quantitative skills to key questions in current biology.

The successful applicant should:
» hold qualifications and experience equal to an Australian First Class Bachelor Honours degree or equivalent overseas qualifications
» hold a full clean drivers licence
» demonstrate strong academic performance in biology
» have an interest in, or be willing to learn, population genetics and plant physiology
» be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level » International applicants must also demonstrate a high level of proficiency in the English language. Please refer to the English language requirements at

» Applicants should discuss their eligibility and interests with Dr Paul Rymer or Prof. David Tissue 
» Contact the Graduate Research School at
» Please submit an application form, CV, names and contact information of two referees, and a one-page document stating how your research interests align with the project's aims.

» The application form can be downloaded from:

Closing date: 31 March 2017

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Further Information / Application Enquiries

Ms Tracy Mills