Integrating urban transitions into global system models

This financial support is currently not available.


How human-dominated complex systems like cities behave is critical to understanding and solving the world's sustainability challenges.  Yet cities are treated as little more than consumers of resources and producers of waste in conventional Earth system models. This project will study sustainability transitions in cities and build prototype models for including sustainability transitions with cities as active agents in Earth system models. Project outputs could include: (1) A typology of sustainability transitions at the city scale. (2) A series of models of sustainability transitions, informed by case studies from East Asia, South Asia, Africa, South America, Europe and Australia. (3) Linking these models of sustainability transitions to Earth system models, possibly using the COPAN:CORE World-Earth modelling platform. 

Field of study

Urban studies / Environmental change / Complex systems science


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 AGRTP International Scholarship. Selection is based on academic merit and the candidate's research proposal.

The successful candidate will ideally have experience in system dynamics modelling, ABMs, and/or other computer modelling; some statistics skills; knowledge of urban theory, social-ecological system theory, and/or other relevant social science theory; and be capable of writing quality scientific articles for leading international journals.

Domestic students must obtain a PhD stipend scholarship at The Australian National University. International students must hold an AGRTP  International Scholarship.


A top-up payment of AUD$7000/year, tax free in fortnightly instalments, additional to a PhD stipend obtained by the candidate.

Project funding of AUD$5000/year to support conference travel, fieldwork if deemed necessary, and other project costs. Some additional School support is also available for project costs.

How to apply

The successful candidate will be invited to apply for a PhD stipend scholarship at The Australian National University (AUD$27,082 tax free (2018 rate) for 3 years). The closing dates for applications for a PhD stipend scholarship at The Australian National University are: International - 31 August 2018; Domestic - 31 October 2018.

Interested individuals are invited to discuss the project with Professor Xuemei Bai (02 6125 7825 or or Dr Steven Lade (0409967248 or and must submit a CV and a one page statement of possible research directions to by 1 October 2018 for domestic students or 20 August 2018 for international students.

Queries regarding scholarship matters can be directed to Amy Chen. The candidate would be expected to commence the doctoral program in early 2019.

Further information

Research at The Australian National University

In the latest World University Rankings, The Australian National University was the top institution in Australia for environmental research and ranked within the world top ten. The Fenner School of Environment and Society has a large, dynamic community of PhD students who are provided with high quality office facilities and computer and statistical support. Students are encouraged to collaborate widely and attend national and international conferences