Ph.D. scholarships in ecology & conservation

phdPh.D. projects now offered in the Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patterns (D.E.E.P.) research group, based at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania. We study ecological and evolutionary dynamics, global change, and conservation biology. Our study systems include plants and animals, with a focus on the unique Australian environment.

The Ph.D. project topics include the response of biota to global change, dynamics of ecological communities, ecosystem modelling, conservation biology, threatened species management, and impacts of land-use change on biodiversity. The three major research themes are:
(i) using ‘patterns’ to understand the processes shaping ecosystem structure and dynamics;
(ii) technology and biology: never the twain shall meet? and
(iii) faunal habitat use and the impacts of disturbance (biodiversity and conservation).

We are also open to the possibility of exploring other projects and welcome students to express their own research ideas.

DEEPCandidates from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply. In addition to TGRS, APA or IPRS scholarships (which covers course fees and provides a tax-exempt stipend of $26,288 p.a. [2016 rate]) there will be substantial operational and logistical support, funded by a 5-year research grant to Prof. BW Brook (ARC Australian Laureate Fellow). An additional top-up award of $4,000 p.a. will also be considered for outstanding applicants.

Click on the hyperlinks above for more detailed information on the topics, and how to apply. See here for an overview of Projects and Opportunities for students in D.E.E.P.

Open Thread 25

Time for a fresh open thread! (the old one being weighed down by over 1000 comments).

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the general content of this blog.

The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the broad BNC themes of sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and policy, energy security, climate impacts, etc.

On the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission

NFCRCBack in February 2015, I posted on BNC about the announcement of a Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle (henceforth NFCRC) in the uranium-mining state of South Australia (SA).

This was followed up by a post on The Conversation by Ben Heard and me, entitled “Royal commission into nuclear will open a world of possibilities“. In that article, we speculated on what the NFCRC might conclude. I was later appointed as a member of the Expert Advisory Committee.

After more than a year of compiling evidence, analysing facts and opinion, and testing ideas, the NFCRC handed down its 320 page final report, in May 2016. You can read it here. (Yes, it’s worth reading in full…but at least look at the summary!)

In caricature (at least by my abstracting), the NFCRC report says:

  1. Mining, milling and further processing of radioactive ores — activities that already occur in SA — will continue to be pursued and developed, but not expand greatly. There is limited scope here for substantially increased economic activity.
  2. Development of uranium enrichment capability and advanced manufacture of fuel elements (including international fuel leasing) in SA would require quite specific techno-economic circumstances to be worthwhile, and raises proliferation issues. It is not likely to happen in isolation of other developments.
  3. IFR vs LFTRElectricity generation from nuclear fuels would probably not, in the present circumstances, be economically competitive in SA. Advanced reactor designs such as the IFR or LFTR should not be built (first) in SA, but a watching brief ought to be kept on small modular light-water reactors.
  4. Hosting of an international nuclear used fuel repository in SA ought to be considered seriously. Very seriously. Although it  would face many logistical and policy obstacles, and would inevitably involve a long-term strategy, the ultimate and ongoing socio-economic benefits it could deliver to SA are stunning (hundreds of billions of $ income).

My interpretation…

Continue reading

What “On the…”?

I’ve never liked titles of scientific papers that being with “On the[whatever]”. It’s always struck me as simultaneously pretentious and uninformative. These days I usually try to give the main result in a paper’s title, or at least, make it clever, or humorous… (Another irk is when people introduce a speaker with the phrase “Without further ado…”. Please.)

But despite myself, I’m going to start a new “On the” series on BNC (3.0). In this case, it seems to fit. You see, there are a whole range of topics on which I have been holding myself back from commenting over the last year or two (…for various reasons). Now, it’s time to unleash. Or counter. Or muse. Or speculate. Whatever befits the topic, really. You know all those soapboxes I’ve been erecting for others in the Open Threads? My turn, again.

I’ve made a start on a few of them in Evernote. In no particular order: “On Fukushima”. “On Solar Thermal”. “On Sc[k]eptics”. “On Ideologues”. “On Expertise”. “On the Energy Mix”. “On Science and Philosophy”. “On Space”. “On the Future”. “On Supervision”. “On Qualitative Research”. “On Positive Discrimination”. “On Religion”. And so on. Who knows, if I write enough of them, I might have myself a(nother) publishable manifesto!

Other topics are planned, but I won’t give away their titles. It’d spoil the effect. Suffice to say that they’ll be wide ranging (across the broad techno-climate-energy-environment-ecology-evolution-philosophical theme of BNC at least), variable in length, quality and evidence base, and always with a strong lashing of personal opinion. It is BNC 3.0 after all…

The first “On the…” will come soon – tomorrow(ish)… I hope! It’ll feature the NFCRC. Given my involvement on the science expert panel, I’d better say something about its findings.

P.S. I did some minor updates to the blog’s theme, cleaned out that awful background image that was well past the ‘grating on me’ stage, and restored the topic categories on the side-bar. I also updated my icon ‘photo’. It seemed appropriate.

BNC 3.0

3pointzeroThe 6th January 2015. That was the last time I posted an original contribution to Brave New Climate (BNC)  — at least something that wasn’t a re-post (e.g., from The Conversation), a guest post, an Open Thread or a side note… In other words, the BNC blog has fallen fallow for well over a year. I think it’s about time for a reboot! So here’s to BNC 3.0..

The original blog started back in August 2008 (first post here). It got a real reboot in late 2009, and then a false dawn in 2014. This time, I think it’ll stick.

So what’s been going on? I moved down to the far south in 2014 to take up a research and teaching position as the Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania (based in the School of Biological Sciences). At UTas I started a new research programme on the dynamics of eco-evolutionary patterns (D.E.E.P.), which has a new website at and a Twitter handle @ecol_evo. I work on projects spanning Wildlife, Ecosystems & Landscape Dynamics (WELD), Forests, Trees & Agroforestry (FTA), and Evolutionary Ecology (EE). There are plenty of opportunities for students!

113In May 2016 I was awarded a 5-year Australian Laureate Fellowship by the Australian Research Council, which will fund a >$4M research project looking at disaggregating the drivers of land-use change, and assessing the implications of different development pathways on biodiversity. The big vision thing is to establish a multidisciplinary Institute for Future Landscapes and Ecosystems in Tasmania. Here’s a summary of the ARC project:

The success of biodiversity conservation depends on how effectively society can ‘decouple’ environmental impacts from economic growth and rising human prosperity. This project will involve a systematic analysis of contemporary and historical data on agriculture, energy use and urbanisation, to identify the consumption and technology pathways that can most effectively mitigate the future extent and impact of land-use change. This synthesis will underpin the development of new forecasting and optimisation tools using an innovative hierarchical meta-modelling approach, and seeks to identify key intervention points where policy or technological change can most effectively mitigate negative impacts at regional and global scales. A key outcome will be the resolution of inherent trade-offs between ongoing human development and the competing need to conserve habitats, ecosystems, and species.

Obviously, these goals tie strongly to the themes of BNC, focused as it is on the intersection between technology, global change and environmental sustainability.

logoOver the last year or so I’ve been in involved with the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in South Australia, serving on the Expert Advisory Committee. The final report was released on 6 May 2016, and I would encourage BNC readers to look through it. For this reason I have necessarily been relatively quiet, publicly, on nuclear matters over the last year.

I now plan to start posting regularly (but not to a schedule!) on BNC again. One thing I hope to do is write a collection of short posts to critique some key issues/arguments that have been propagated over the last few years; ones that really cry out for critical scrutiny. These will be written largely for my own edification, but I hope you’ll find them useful.

More soon!