Location University of Tasmania, School of Biological Sciences
App. deadline 31/12/2017
  • Scholarship available
Eligibility Open to international applicants

Food webs and ferals: can rabbits control cats to protect native mammals?

Invasive predators are a major threat to native vertebrates in Australia and New Zealand. They have driven declines and extinctions of many native mammals, birds and reptiles in both places, as in many other parts of the world. To restore native species and the ecosystem functions they provide, we need cost-effective methods to reduce the impacts of invasive predators at large scales outside fenced enclosures and islands. Direct control of invasive predators often fails, because it requires very high effort that must be sustained indefinitely over large areas. We will test an alternative approach: harnessing the power of interactions among species in food webs to reduce the impact of invasive predators on native prey. This approach requires manipulation of ‘leverage points’ in food webs, these being nodes at which shifts in abundance of one species produce cascading changes of large effect on many others.
There are three PhD projects, based in Tasmania, the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and in the Otago region of New Zealand, which will experimentally test whether the abundance of rabbits and native predators influence numbers and behaviour of feral cats. We will use remote cameras and structural equation models to quantify the links between habitat alteration, rabbits, native predators and feral cats. Using replicated experiments, we will test whether suppressing rabbits can shift the behaviour of cats and benefit native wildlife.

Value & Duration:

APA or TGRS scholarships will be funded at the 2017 rate (in 2016 the rate was AUD $26,288 per annum) as a living allowance for 3 years, with a possible 6 month extension. This rate is indexed annually.

Eligibility: The following eligibility criteria apply to this scholarship:

  • The scholarship is open to Australian (domestic) candidates and to International candidates.
  • The PhD must be undertaken on a full-time basis.
  • Applicants must already have been awarded a first class Honours degree or hold equivalent qualifications or relevant and substantial research experience in an appropriate sector.
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research and analytical skills.

Candidates from disciplinary backgrounds in ecology are encouraged to apply.  Knowledge and skills that will be ranked highly include:

  • Wildlife ecology and conservation biology
  • Field-based wildlife ecology
  • Applied statistics

Application Process:

Applicants should first contact Associate Professor Menna Jones Menna.Jones@utas.edu.au to discuss their suitability for the project, then complete the application via the University of Tasmania's admissions system and scholarship section (see How to Apply on the Graduate Research Future Students page) and indicate under ‘Scholarship Support: Living Allowance’ that you wish to be considered for a ‘UTAS merit-based scholarship for a living allowance’

The project work is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP170101653: Science to conserve wildlife at landscape-scale: rabbits to control cats


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Further Information / Application Enquiries

A/Prof Menna Jones