PhD opportunity - Northern bettongs, fire and cats

Wed, 07 Mar 2018

The University of Queensland is seeking applications from highly qualified and motivated candidates for a field-based PhD project on the ecological impacts of cat predation and fire on northern Bettongs, Bettongia tropica. The student will be based in Associate Professor Diana Fishers's group in the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, with joint supervision from Qld State Government staff, and other members of the NESP TSR hub. The student will be part of a team of managers and researchers who are collaborating to improve conservation outcomes for the northern bettong.


Northern bettongs are nationally endangered small macropods. They have declined dramatically across their range, and now only occur in national parks in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. Northern bettongs live in the open grassy savanna adjoining rainforest. They eat native truffles, and build nests of grass. Fire is needed to maintain bettong habitat, however we lack information on the most appropriate fire frequency and intensity to maintain foraging and shelter resources. The role of cat predation in northern bettong declines is unknown. The impacts of cats may increase immediately after fire, when shelter is temporarily removed. It is critical to the management of this species that we understand how fire regimes interact with risk of predation by cats.

Images: Fire. Photo Robert Miller.  Motion camera image of cat with a mammal.  Photo: Rosie Willacy.  

The PhD candidate will work at the last stronghold for the species- Davies Creek National Park on the Atherton Tablelands, and will use trapping and radio tracking to monitor individual bettongs, and measure their habitat use and breeding success in relation to experimental fire treatments Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Three years full-time with a possible six month extension.

Candidate requirements
Candidates must have a Bachelor's degree with first-class honours and be successful in gaining an Australian Postgraduate Award or equivalent at the University of Queensland to fund their stipend. The recommended submission date for the next scholarship round is the 20th of April (

Candidates require skills in vertebrate field ecology and data analysis and be willing to do extensive fieldwork. Selection will be based on academic merit.

The successful student will have access to $7500pa for 3 years from the TSR NESP Hub to support the operational costs of their research. 

National Environmental Science Programme Threatened Species Recovery Hub

The National Environmental Science Programme's Threatened Species Recovery Hub is a partnership between the Commonwealth of Australia through the Department of the Environment and multiple research partners across Australia.

The conservation of Australia's rich and extraordinarily distinctive biodiversity should be secure or achievable relative to that of most other nations. Yet, Australia's extinction rate is one of the worst in the world, and that rate of decline and loss is continuing unabated. The Threatened Species Recovery Hub tackles this ongoing ecological challenge through research focused on informing policy and improving on-ground management of Australia's threatened species. It brings together leading ecological experts to work on the outlook for Australia's threatened species and ecological communities.

Research at the University of Queensland
The UQ School of Biological Sciences ( is one of Australia's leading schools in biology. It has 47 academic staff with interests in ecology, conservation biology, evolution and genetics ( The school's culture is research-intensive and supports a diverse and vibrant postgraduate community of >200 research students, based in St Lucia, Brisbane. We have frequent visits from international researchers, school-funded postgraduate conferences and international student travel awards.

PhD Project:

For more information about the project, please contact Jane McDonald on or

Send application including a CV and academic transcript to    

Closing date for applications: 6 April 2018

For information on the Threatened Species Recovery Hub visit:

Top image: Northern bettong.  Photo: Stephanie Todd

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