Do a PhD with us!

Interested in doing a PhD in our research group? Check out the following projects:

Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human well-being

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The health and well-being of urban residents is intrinsically linked to green spaces and their biodiversity. Yet little is known about the mechanisms through which green space design delivers biodiversity and human well-being benefits. This project aims to discover those mechanisms, contributing to theoretical knowledge about socio-ecological interactions, and to practical knowledge about effective urban design.

We aim to:

  1. Investigate the mechanisms linking green space design to biodiversity outcomes;
  1. Investigate the mechanisms linking green space to human well-being; and
  1. Develop best practice urban design guidelines that reflect these mechanisms and supports biodiversity and human well-being.

To elucidate the causal pathways linking green space design with biodiversity and human well-being outcomes, we will implement a series of controlled, manipulative field experiments. We will systematically alter the levels of green space design explanatory variables in a series of modular experimental plots, which we will establish in both a large green space (biodiversity experiment) and within a densely urbanised inner-city context (human well-being experiments). These plots will be designed in close collaboration with our industry partners. We will then quantify in situ the biodiversity and human well-being outcomes associated with the controlled alternative designs. By testing our hypotheses in controlled experimental settings, this project will explore the causal pathways linking green space design to biodiversity and human well-being.

The involvement of a major city council (The City of Melbourne), an international consulting agency (Arup), a landscape design firm (Phillip Johnson Landscapes) and an environmental NGO (Greening Australia) as Partner Organisations on the project provides a unique opportunity to ensure the results of our proposed research will have an impact on urban greening practice.

Required skills and experience

We are seeking either two candidates to work collaboratively on the biodiversity and human well-being experiments OR a highly-motivated interdisciplinary candidate keen on working across the project’s ecological and social dimensions.

Biodiversity experiment

The candidate will ideally have an Honours or Masters degree in biology, ecology, environmental science or related discipline. She/he will have keen interests in conducting fieldwork within an urban environment, predominantly working with plants and insects. Good statistical modelling skills are preferred.

Human-well being experiment

The candidate will ideally have an Honours or Masters degree in sociology, psychology or related discipline. She/he will have a keen interest in conducting fieldwork in a densely-urbanised inner-city context. Experience with eye-tracking technology is preferred but not required as training will be provided.

Project funding and supervision

The project is funded by the Australian Research Council – Linkage Project ‘Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human well-being’ (LP1601003). The Chief Investigators are: A/Prof Sarah Bekessy (RMIT University), A/Prof Richard Fuller (University of Queensland), A/Prof Dieter Hochuli (University of Sydney), Dr Fiona Fidler (University of Melbourne), Dr Cecily Maller (RMIT University), Dr Ascelin Gordon (RMIT University), Dr Georgia Garrard (RMIT University), Dr Christopher Ives (Leuphana University), Dr Luis Mata (RMIT University) and A/Prof Adrian Dyer (RMIT University). It will involve collaborating closely with the project’s Partner Organisations: The City of Melbourne, Arup, Phillip Johnson Landscapes and Greening Australia.

The candidate(s) will need to secure their own PhD stipend or scholarship and the project will provide a yearly top-up of $7,000 for three years. The candidate(s) will be based at the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group at RMIT University, and be supervised by 2-3 of the projects investigators.

If you are interested, please get in touch with Luis Mata (luis.mata@rmit.edu.au) and Sarah Bekessy (sarah.bekessy@rmit.edu.au).

Prospective Australian and New Zealander candidates are encourage to get in touch as soon as possible as the RMIT University deadline for the next round of Higher Degree by Research Scholarships is coming soon (31st of October 2016).

Enquires from prospective international candidates are very welcome!

Improved messaging for threatened species conservation

When asked, most people would agree that the preservation of the natural environment and native species and ecosystems is important.  Yet, at best, biodiversity conservation has a low profile in Australia; and at worst, it is viewed with hostility, fuelled by perceptions of conflict between biodiversity conservation and other socio-economic goals. This project seeks to build a social license for threatened species conservation in Australia, through a better understanding of the way in which communities buy-in to the idea of conservation, and targeted conservation messages designed to increase community support and engagement.

Recent evidence suggests that the way in which a message is framed can have a significant influence on interpretation and success of conservation messages. For example, conservation messages that are framed in a negative light (‘this species is doomed’) are thought to be ineffective at inspiring action. Furthermore, responses to conservation interventions can be influenced by subtle wording changes in statements relating to concepts such as those which reflect their own values. However, much remains unknown about the way in which conservation framing affects social attitudes towards conservation of threatened species. For example, how do individuals respond to conservation messages that emphasise economic benefits, as opposed to those that focus on the awe and wonder of nature?

We aim to understand how message framing influences public attitudes towards threatened species conservation and use this to develop effective communication strategies.

We are seeking a high-achieving PhD student to investigate this topic.

Required skills & experience

The candidate will have an Honours or Masters degree with a dedicated research component, ideally in one or more of the following disciplines: ecology, conservation biology, conservation psychology, marketing or media and communications.  A high level of research and written communication skills are required and the candidate must be prepared to work as part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team. Excellent academic results and existing publications are desirable, but not essential.

Please note that the candidate must satisfy RMIT’s scholarship criteria as outlined here: http://www.rmit.edu.au/research/phds-and-other-research-degrees/scholarships-and-support

Supervision and funding

This interdisciplinary PhD will be based within the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group (School of Global, Urban and Social Studies) but will be jointly supervised by researchers within the School of Media and Communications. The situation of this research within the National Environmental Science Programme’s (NESP) Threatened Species Recovery Hub will ensure that the candidate benefits from access to an extensive network of researchers and decision-makers, and is able to deliver high-impact, applied research outcomes.

The successful applicant will receive an esteemed RMIT postgraduate scholarship plus an additional top-up from the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub (approximate total $35,000/year (tax-free) for 3 years with possibility of a 6-month extension).

Get in touch!  Soon!

For more information, please contact Dr Georgia Garrard (georgia.garrard@rmit.edu.au) of the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group or Assoc. Prof. Craig Batty (craig.batty@rmit.edu.au) of the School of Media and Communications.

Prospective Australian and New Zealand candidates are encourage to act quickly, as the RMIT deadline for 2017 Higher Degree by Research Scholarships is 31st of October 2016.

Enquires from prospective international candidates are very welcome!