ANU Supplementary Scholarship for Research into Spatial ecology and population dynamics of elapid snakes in Booderee National Park

Overview

The Fenner School of Environment and Society at The Australian National University is seeking applications from highly qualified and motivated candidates for a PhD program of research on the spatial ecology and population dynamics of the Eastern Small-eyed Snake (Cryptophis nigrescens) and the Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) at Booderee National Park in the Jervis Bay Territory on the south coast of NSW.

The aim of this project is to understand the spatial population structure of two predatory elapid snakes, the Eastern Small-eyed Snake Cryptophis nigrescens and the Red-bellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus at Booderee National Park. The candidate will collect high-quality baseline field data, undertaking a radio-tracking program for the Red-bellied Black Snake and a mark-recapture program for the Eastern Small-eyed Snake. The candidate will also have the opportunity to investigate dispersal using genetics in a well-resourced laboratory. A key motivation for this study on elapids is the planned re-introduction to the Park of several threatened mammal species, including a top order predator, the Eastern Quoll Dasyurus viverrinus. Part of the study will address the question: What does the spatial ecology of elapids tell us about park management and can it inform future re-introductions of mammals?

The project will be supervised by ARC Laureate Fellow Professor David Lindenmayer (ANU), Dr Damian Michael (ANU), and Dr Jonathan Webb (University of Technology, Sydney).

Background to the project

Recent surveys by the ANU research team in Booderee National Park have found high numbers of the Eastern Small-eyed Snake Cryptophis nigrescens. This snake is a medium-sized elapid which preys on lizards. The species occupies a variety of habitats and congregates beneath weathered surface rock and bark. Our ability to find these snakes beneath established artificial refuges (corrugated tin) within the Park provides a unique opportunity to investigate population demographics, social behaviour and dispersal. In addition, sightings of the Red-bellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus have also increased in the Park.

The successful candidate will work closely with Senior Research Officers Dr Damian Michael and Mr Chris MacGregor who have established a mark-recapture study on the Eastern Small-eyed Snake in the Park, and Dr Jonathan Webb who has over 20 years experience of working with elapid snakes. The candidate will be able to carry out a variety of investigations that will build on the mark-recapture study by using radio tracking, field investigations and molecular analysis in the laboratory. The candidate will gain experience in spatial ecology, population ecology and molecular analysis techniques.

Specific areas of investigation could include: radio tracking (Red-bellied Black Snakes); colonisation and seasonal use of artificial refuges; thermal constraints of refuges use; microhabitat preferences; effects of fire on population demographics; or population genetics and dispersal.

Field of study

Environmental science

Eligibility

Bachelors degree with first-class honours, or a research Masters degree from a recognised university. Australian and New Zealand citizens; permanent residents of Australia; international students who hold an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS). Selection is based on academic merit and the candidate's research proposal.

The successful candidate will have experience in environmental science or ecology and management, and be capable of writing quality scientific articles for leading international journals. A background in genetics, and a demonstrated ability to independently plan and execute field-based research will be advantages.

The successful candidate will be invited to apply for a PhD stipend scholarship at The Australian National University (AUD$25,849 tax free (2015 rate) for 3 years). For application dates for a PhD stipend scholarship, see http://students.anu.edu.au/scholarships/gr/off/.

Benefits

A top-up payment of $5,000 AUD tax free in fortnightly instalments, additional to a PhD stipend obtained by the candidate.

Funding and other support will be available for the significant amount of fieldwork that will be required to successfully complete this exciting project.

How to apply

Interested individuals are invited to discuss the project with Professor David Lindenmayer (02 6125 0654 or david.lindenmayer@anu.edu.au) and must submit a CV and a one page statement of possible research directions to david.lindenmayer@anu.edu.au by 1 October 2015.

The candidate would be expected to commence the doctoral program in early 2016.

Further information

The Fenner School of Environment and Society has a large, dynamic community of PhD students who are provided with modern office facilities, computer and statistical support, and access to field equipment and a fleet of 4WD vehicles. Students are encouraged to collaborate widely and attend national and international conferences. The successful candidate will become part of the Environmental Decisions Group - a network of some of the world's leading applied environmental scientists that provides travel support for national and international collaboration.