Spatial Ecology, Survivorship and Behaviour of Important Australian Game Waterfowl

Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Lead Researcher: Professor Justin Welbergen

About the project

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) is offering a research scholarship to a highly motivated PhD candidate to work within the Lab of Animal Ecology on the spatial ecology, survivorship and behaviour of important Australian game waterfowl.

Duck hunting in various forms (i.e., recreational, damage mitigation) is permitted in a number of states and territories in Australia.  To ensure hunting remains sustainable, it is important to understand the population dynamics of the main game duck species, their response to environmental drivers and the impact of harvest offtake. In developing a model of duck population dynamics to support adaptive harvest management, data are required for estimating the survival and movement/dispersal of game ducks in response to habitat availability (see Ramsey et al. 2017).

Large-scale GPRS/GSM telemetry of individual ducks will be used to estimate age and sex-specific survival rates as well as movement between habitat types across Australia’s different bioclimatic zones. Species of interest are the Pacific black duck Anas superciliosa, the grey teal Anas gracilis and the Australian wood duck Chenonetta jubata. The large movement and accelerometry datasets generated by this study should also provide opportunities to investigate the behaviours and energetics of these species in detail.

​Learnings from this project will complement existing datasets on game duck abundance as well as habitat distribution and extent. It will contribute to an improved understanding of these species and their relationship with the environment, and lead to improved conservation and management outcomes.

The work will supervised by members and affiliates of the Lab of Animal Ecology at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in close collaboration with the members from the independent Game Management Authority and from the Arthur Rylah Institute within the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action in Victoria.

What does the scholarship provide?

  • Domestic candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $31,500(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs, supported by the Research Training Program (RTP) Fee Offset.
  • International candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $31,500(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs. Those with a strong track record may be eligible for a tuition fee waiver.
  • International candidates are required to hold an Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance policy for the duration of their study in Australia. This cost is not covered by the scholarship.

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

Eligibility criteria

We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds who are keen to apply their skills to key issues in animal spatial ecology. In particular, the project is suitable for candidates with a background in bird biology and strong interests in movement ecology and/or remote sensing.

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 Master’s degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
  • demonstrate strong academic performance in subjects relevant to ecology, conservation biology, and/or wildlife management.
  • have an understanding of the importance of wildlife conservation management in the context of environmental change.
  • be willing to learn the latest analytical techniques applicable to animal spatial ecology.
  • have an ability to engage with a range of stakeholders from government and industry.
  • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.

International applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency.

How to apply

Follow the step-by-step instructions on the how to apply for a project scholarship page.

* Note: You do not need to complete 'Step 5: Submit an online application for admission' when applying for this scholarship. You must complete 'Step 6: Submit an online application for a project scholarship'.

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

For questions and advice about the research project, please contact the Lead Researcher, Professor Justin Welbergen:

For questions and advice about the application process, please contact the Graduate Research School:

Use the email subject line: Application PS2023_001

Applications close 31 March 2023

*Applications close at 11.59pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT).

Scholarship reference code: PS2023_001