PhD (HDR) Scholarship: Insect Pollination of Crops


About the project

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD candidate to study insect pollinators and crop pollination as part of our major new research project, "Healthy bee populations for sustainable pollination in horticulture", co-funded through Horticulture Innovation Australia's "Pollination Plus" program. The overall project explores the diversity and roles of pollinators in cropping landscapes, and potential threats to pollinator populations from floral resource shortages, climate change, diseases and land management.

This PhD will focus on: 

  1. characterising pollinator communities in cropping landscapes, using field studies and both morphological and molecular (DNA barcoding) taxonomy;
  2. insect pollination of selected crops using manipulative experiments; and 
  3. studying bee foraging behaviour and how this influences patterns of crop pollination in orchards. 

The project is suitable for a candidate with strong interests and preferably research experience in subjects such as entomology, animal behaviour, genetics, ecology or conservation.

Applicants should be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level. A strong background in ecology and/or animal behaviour, and a keen interest in entomology are required. A valid driver's licence, and willingness to travel and work in off-campus field sites are also required.

You will be based at Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University's Hawkesbury campus in Richmond, NSW and will join a large and diverse cohort of scientists at all career levels. You will learn a variety of techniques (in field and laboratory) to sample and describe pollinator communities, assess pollination of crops and characterise bee behaviour. The PhD program will also develop the candidates statistical, analytical and communication skills, and involve collaboration with the wider Pollination Project team and our industry partners.

What does the scholarship provide?

  • Domestic students will receive a tax-free stipend of $26,682 per annum and a funded place in the doctoral degree.
  • International students will receive a tax-free stipend of $26,682 per annum. Those with a strong track record may receive a tuition fee waiver.
  • Funding is available for project costs and conference travel.

Eligibility criteria

We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds, who are keen to apply their skills to key issues in environmental biology. In particular, the project is suitable for candidates with strong interests and previous experience in entomology, ecology and/or animal behaviour. The successful applicant should:

  • hold qualifications and experience equal to an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, Research Masters degree, or equivalent overseas qualifications
  • demonstrate strong academic performance in subjects relevant to ecology, animal behaviour and entomology
  • have an understanding of the importance of pollination services and threats to pollinator populations
  • be willing to learn modern sampling and analytical techniques applicable to insect community ecology (e.g. microscopy and DNA Barcoding), pollination (e.g. pollen analysis), and insect behaviour (e.g. controlled field experiments)
  • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level
  • International applicants must also demonstrate a high level of English language proficiency.(opens in new window)Opens in a new window

How to apply

  1. Contact Professor James Cook ( to discuss your eligibility, the project requirements and your intention to apply.
  2. Complete the scholarship application form (PDF, 222.11 KB).(opens in new window)
  3. Compile your CV, contact information for two referees and a one-page proposal stating how your research interests align with the project aims.
  4. Ensure all documentation is certified according to Western Sydney University requirements.(opens in new window)
  5. All applications and supporting documentation must be submitted directly to the Graduate Research School as follows:
  • Use the email subject line: Application_2017_035_HIE
  • 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.

Applications close 21 July 2017