[Coral-List] PhD opportunity in Australia

Alan Duckworth A.Duckworth at aims.gov.au
Sun Mar 24 21:26:03 EDT 2013

PhD opportunity: Defining thresholds and indicators of filter feeder responses to dredging-related pressures

Project Description

Coastal Western Australia has incredibly dense and diverse sponge communities that are relatively understudied compared to other marine species. Sponges provide many bioservices including bentho-pelagic energy coupling, nutrient cycling, water purification, creating 3-dimensional habitat, and support for a multitude of other important organisms. Extensive dredging projects for creating new shipping ports pose an environmental risk to sponge communities through increasing turbidity, reducing light and smothering by sedimentation. This project aims to investigate the nature and thresholds of such risks.


This project will provide critical insights into the responses of sponges to dredging pressures with results assisting stakeholders and managers in reducing risks and severity of impacts from dredging developments.


The PhD student will undertake a series of controlled experiments in advanced aquarium facilities at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville to test pressure:response effects and thresholds of stressor combinations (turbidity, sedimentation, light attenuation) on different growth forms of sponges. Response values will include monitoring of smothering (e.g. surface lesions), shading (e.g. bleaching), clogging of feeding apparatus (e.g. pumping activity, histology) shifts in feeding strategies (photo- vs. heterotrophy), loss of symbionts (microbial analysis) and molecular stress responses (gene expression).  This PhD focuses on dredging impacts on sponges and forms a discreet project within a broader research program investigating dredging effects on other marine organisms.

Enrolment Details

The student will be enrolled at the University of Western Australia but will be based at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville.  The student will work directly with the supervisors and an extended research team to develop experimental work that meets the broader project objectives.

The starting date is 1 July 2013.

A stipend equivalent to the Australian Postgraduate Award will be available for three years.

International applicants may attract international student fees.


Nicole Webster, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville: n.webster at aims.gov.au<mailto:n.webster at aims.gov.au>

Gary Kendrick: University of Western Australia, Perth: gary.kendrick at uwa.edu.au<mailto:gary.kendrick at uwa.edu.au>

Alan Duckworth: Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville: a.duckworth at aims.gov.au<mailto:a.duckworth at aims.gov.au>

Application process

Submit letter of interest, CV and three letters of recommendation to Alan Duckworth a.duckworth at aims.gov.au<mailto:a.duckworth at aims.gov.au> by 1 May 2013 with "Sponge-Dredging PhD" in subject line

Alan Duckworth, PhD
Research Scientist
Australian Institute of Marine Science
PMB 3 Townsville MC, QLD 4810, Australia
Phone +61 7 4753 4232; Mobile 04 1977 0999
Email a.duckworth at aims.gov.au

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