Applications for this PhD have now closed.
Location Western Sydney University, Graduate Research School
App. deadline 01/03/2018
  • Scholarship available
Project ID 2018-062
Eligibility Open to international applicants

Research Theme PhD Scholarship - Environmental Sustainability

Heat has been identified as the number one natural hazard impacting urban ecology and social systems in the Sydney Basin. The hottest temperatures are regularly measured in the western metropolitan areas of the Greater Sydney Basin, Australia’s fastest growing urban landscape where heat islands are common and heat stress can be high. The most effective way to reduce heat islands is to increase tree canopy cover. Indeed, expanding urban tree canopy is the most prominent cooling strategy throughout local governments of Greater Sydney.

We are now offering a scholarship to a highly motivated PhD candidate to investigate cooling benefits of trees, where tree plantings will deliver most effective cooling and identify social and biophysical limitations that prevent expansion of urban canopy area. This project will merge Urban Ecology and Planning with documented excellence in the research fields of Plant Biology, Forestry Sciences and Ecological Applications, for which Western Sydney University has achieved the top 5-star national ranking of ‘well above world standard.’

The transdisciplinary nature of this project involves field-based assessments of tree canopies, heat-transfer modelling, spatial analyses of green space as well as characterising social and economic factors associated with urban green infrastructure.

The project will be based at the School of Social Science and Psychology (Urban Studies), with strong links to the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment. It is imbedded in the University’s Research Theme of Environmental Sustainability. This theme explores global problems within local environments. Research within the theme takes an interdisciplinary approach to develop solutions that help increasing mindful use of ecosystems resources and services in times of global environmental change.

Western Sydney University is ranked amongst the top two per cent of universities worldwide. We value academic excellence, integrity and the pursuit of knowledge. We are research-led and committed to making a positive impact on the lives of our students.

What does the scholarship provide?

  • The successful domestic or international candidate will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000 per annum to support living costs.
  • International students with a strong track record will be eligible for a tuition fee waiver and are eligible for Overseas Student Health Cover.

Support for conference attendance, fieldwork and additional costs as approved by School/Institute.

Eligibility criteria

We welcome applicants from a range of academic backgrounds, who are keen to apply their skills to key issues in urban planning, plant biology or urban forestry. In particular, the project is suitable for candidates with demonstrated interests in urban ecology, tree physiology and environmental change.

The successful applicant should:

  • hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, (iii) Research Masters degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
  • demonstrate strong academic performance in subjects relevant to plant physiological ecology or urban ecology, urban planning and green infrastructure.
  • be willing to learn taxonomic classification of major tree and shrub species in the Sydney Basin.
  • be willing to learn analytical techniques applicable to natural as well as social science.
  • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.

International applicants must also meet English language proficiency

How to apply

  1. Contact Sebastian Pfautsch ( to discuss your eligibility, project requirements and your intention to apply.
  2. Complete the scholarship application form (PDF, 222.11 KB).
  3. Compile your CV, contact information for two referees and a statement of research interests (max. 2 pages) that outlines how your research interests and past academic experiences align with the project.
  4. Prepare a 250-word statement outlining how the proposed research contributes to the priorities of the University Research Theme of Environmental Sustainability.
  5. Ensure all documentation is certified according to Western Sydney University requirements.
  6. All applications and supporting documentation must be submitted directly to the Graduate Research School as follows:
  • Use the email subject line: Application_2018_062_SSAP
  • Submit to
  • All attached documents must be submitted as PDF.
  • In the body of your email, include your full name, your student ID (if you are a current or previous Western Sydney University student) and the full title of the scholarship.

Incomplete applications or applications that do not conform to the above requirements will not be considered.

Please contact the Graduate Research School via email at for more information.

Please Note: Should this listing mention details of an available scholarship, it is your responsibility to confirm the specifics with the university / institute prior to applyiing. Terms and conditions are in some cases subject to change and are not always reflected immediately within listings.

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Further Information / Application Enquiries

Prof Kenny Kwok

Dr Sebastian Pfautsch
+61 2 9685 9081