The biosocial shaping of conservation and biodiversity in Australia’s capital

Overview

Interested in a PhD on the biosocial nature of ecology and conservation? We are seeking PhD applicants from a range of academic backgrounds to join an exciting inter-disciplinary and mixed-method collaboration exploring the complex relationship between natural and social systems in various biodiversity conservation domains in the Australian Capital Territory. There are currently two PhD positions to be filled. We welcome proposals that address either of the two projects listed below.

The PhD projects are:

  1. Feral Animals, Invasive Plants and Ecosystem Management: Deliberating in the Common Good

    How can we navigate the risks and opportunities of different invasive species control methods as a society?

    Controlling the impact of invasive species (plant and animal) is an essential part of ecosystem management in Australia. Conventional methods of invasive species management include fencing, trapping, poisoning, shooting, and burning. Novel interventions involving the use of biological control agents, immunocontraception, and gene technologies are currently the subject of scientific research. Any method involves some risks as well as opportunities for ecosystem restoration. So how can we collectively make sense of the issues at stake and devise ways forward in the common good? How do we balance harms to individual animals against harms to species or ecological communities? How should we judge methods for invasive species control by comparison with other ways in which species (e.g., snakes) might come to be killed? How can ecosystem managers and publics engage in ways that enhance mutual understanding and acceptance? What processes of collective deliberation can bridge competing perspectives and support effective control strategies in the common good? How do new forms of social media and activism influence public perceptions of and responses to invasive species control methods? This project will bring together a range of publics and experts to address these questions, and develop competencies in collective societal assessment of invasive species control strategies in the ACT. We will draw from a suite of deliberative methods in science communication and public engagement, and conceptual frameworks in public good research.

  2. The visual field of 'future natures': experiencing ACT's woodlands

    How do conservationists and diverse publics cultivate shared and competing ecological visions through image circulation?

    How do flows of images from camera traps, social media apps such as Instagram, citizen science platforms such as iNaturalist and news media heighten or reduce the significance of ecological and political 'caring'? This project will explore photo-sharing and social media practices from the ACT's Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary and other conservation areas. The aim is to investigate how 'future nature' imaginaries stabilise around particular topics, places, animals, plants, and times, and how these imaginaries shape perception of environmental threats and commitment to conservation. The project will use visual content analysis and ethnography based in the Mulligans Flat Woodland Learning Centre to map how sanctuary educators, sanctuary managers, government communicators, environmental scientists, guides, volunteers, visitors, locals and others make, use and view ecological images. The project could involve elements of environmental media design or participatory design methods.

    Successful candidates will work closely with Australian National University faculty, the ACT Government, The Woodlands and Wetlands Trust, Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary (mulligansflat.org.au), Mulligans Flat-Goorooyarroo Woodland Experiment (www.mfgowoodlandexperiment.org.au) and other relevant stakeholders in the government, industry and community sectors as the projects develop. Each project will be supervised by an interdisciplinary panel comprising leading scholars, knowledge brokers and practitioners in ecology and biodiversity studies, sociology, science communication, public health, science and technology studies, cultural and media studies, and gender studies. Candidates will be exposed to complementary and cutting-edge methodological approaches and conceptual frameworks, and benefit from diverse disciplinary and substantive networks as well as 15 years of woodlands research and 10 years of Sanctuary development. Successful applicants will be co-located across the ANU School of Sociology, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Centre for Public Awareness of Science during the tenure of their programs, as well as taking up periodic residences in the new Woodlands Learning Centre in Throsby. We see collaboration and cross-fertilisation of knowledges and approaches as key to the building of capacity in this exciting and critical area of socio-ecological studies.

Field of study

Sociology, human ecology, reintroduction biology, conservation biology, ecology, science communication.

Eligibility

These are interdisciplinary PhD projects. We will consider candidates from a range of disciplinary backgrounds. First class Honours (or equivalent academic qualifications) is a prerequisite for appointment. This scholarship is for Domestic students only.

Benefits

The successful candidate must obtain admission to a relevant HDR Program in the College of Science or the College of Arts and Social Sciences and secure an Australian Government Research Training Program (AGRTP) PhD Scholarship or similar ANU PhD scholarship of $28,092 AUD tax free (2020 rate for 3 years). We can advise on the best college to apply to, depending on academic background and project design.

Upon confirmation of the scholarship(s), an $8,000 per annum top-up scholarship (for 3 years) will be awarded.

How to apply

Interested individuals are invited to submit an expression of interest to Professor Adrian Mackenzie (Visual Cultures project; adrian.mackenzie@anu.edu.au) or Associate Professor Sujatha Raman (Common Good project; sujatha.raman@anu.edu.au) by 30 September 2020 stating their interests and ideas for a proposal, and including their academic transcript(s) and CV.

Further information

As above.