Honours Projects

Interested in doing Honours and need to find a research project? Below are the current projects on offer. Please remember that you may also contact a BEES academic staff member to discuss your own project.


Project Title: Mineralisation and alteration of the epithermal sphalerite-rich Strauss deposit, Drake

Supervisors: Dr Ian T Graham, Ms Hongyan Quan (PhD student), Dr Dane Burkett (UNSW Research Fellow) and Mr Rohan Worland (White Rock Minerals Ltd)

Synopsis:
The Drake Goldfield is located within far north-eastern NSW, close to the Queensland border and some 55 km east of Tenterfield. This goldfield is within the New England Orogen, with most of the mineralisation hosted within the Middle Permian Drake Volcanics. The Strauss deposit is one of the richest deposits within the Drake Goldfield and contains both Au and Ag resources, along with Zn and Pb. Although previously mined in the 1980’s, little if any research has been conducted on this deposit.

Aims:

  • To map the Strauss open-cut in detail
  • To determine the structural evolution of the Strauss deposit
  • To characterise the vein assemblages within the Strauss deposit
  • To develop the relationship between host rocks, alteration assemblages and ore minerals.

Benefits to student: One year’s industry experience, learn to use and apply a wide range of analytical and statistical methods, learn detailed transmitted and reflected light petrography, learn about volcanic systems and associated epithermal deposits.


Project Title: Origin of secondary copper mineralisation in the Gladstone Hill and All Nations deposits, Drake

Supervisors: Dr Ian T Graham, Ms Hongyan Quan (PhD student), Dr Dane Burkett (UNSW Research Fellow) and Mr Rohan Worland (White Rock Minerals Ltd).

Synopsis:
The Drake Goldfield is located within far north-eastern NSW, close to the Queensland border and some 55 km east of Tenterfield. This goldfield is within the New England Orogen, with most of the mineralisation hosted within the Middle Permian Drake Volcanics. The Gladstone Hill and All Nations deposits are unusual for the Drake Goldfield in that they represent oxide and supergene copper mineralisation occurring at depths in excess of 100 metres below the surface and this does not occur elsewhere within the field. Also, no research has been conducted on these deposits.

Aims:

  • Determine oxide/supergene mineralogy
  • Determine paragenetic sequence
  • Develop model for mineralisation

Benefits to student: One year’s industry experience, learn to use and apply a wide range of analytical and statistical methods, learn detailed transmitted and reflected light petrography, learn about oxide and supergene zone processes.


Project Title: Volcanic stratigraphy and alteration in the Western copper deeps, Drake

Supervisors:  Dr Ian T Graham, Ms Hongyan Quan (PhD student), Dr Dane Burkett (UNSW Research Fellow) and Mr Rohan Worland (White Rock Minerals Ltd).

Synopsis:
The Drake Goldfield is located within far north-eastern NSW, close to the Queensland border and some 55 km east of Tenterfield. This goldfield is within the New England Orogen, with most of the mineralisation hosted within the Middle Permian Drake Volcanics. Three deep diamond holes were drilled below the Gladstone Hill deposit to test a large geophysical anomaly hoping to find porphyry Cu-Au mineralisation. These are the deepest holes so far drilled within the Drake Goldfield and are critical for our understanding of the volcanic stratigraphy and mineralisation within the Drake Goldfield as a whole. Also, no research has been conducted on these deposits.

Aims:

  • To characterise the volcanic facies through the Drake Volcanics
  • Determine the alteration mineralogy through the Drake Volcanics
  • Determine the paleotemperatures of the fluids using illite crystallinity

Benefits to student: One year’s industry experience, learn to use and apply a wide range of analytical and statistical methods, detailed transmitted and reflected light petrography, volcanic processes, volcanic stratigraphy and alteration associated with mineralisation in volcanic arc terranes.


Project title: Evolution of male genitalia in the Plant Bug family Miridae (Insects: Hemiptera)

Supervisors: Prof. Gerry Cassis, cosupervisor TBD

Synopsis: The Miridae is one of the most diverse families of insects, with over 12000 described species. The male genitalia are greatly exaggerated, representing some of the most bizarre structures in the Animal Kingdom. These structures are not only highly diverse they are. also central to the classification of the family. Although the morphology of the male genitalia have been extensively documented, how they have evolved is a matter of great conjecture. In this project the student will analyse the evolution of male genitalia, using molecular methods and observation of fine structures using micro-CT imaging. This will likely result in a new classification of the family, determination of character state transformations, and if character convergence occurs across mirid subfamilies. The combination of molecular and CT methods will likely result in a high impact publication.

Aims:

  • Documentation and determination of male genitalic homologies in the Miridae;
  • Imaging and analysis of fine details of male genitalia using scanning and CT microscopy
  • Phylogenetic analysis of exemplar taxa of the Miridae and optimisation of male genitalic characters
  • Phylogenetic analyses using modern molecular methods.

Benefits to student: (1) training in insect systematics and evolution; (2) training in molecular and micro-CT methods; (3) participation in a team-based research lab at UNSW; (4) likely publication in high impact journal; (5) experience in research active laboratory and exposure to international collaborators.


Project title: Diet, stress, and the elusive fountain of youth

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: It’s been known for nearly a century that eating less (and, in particular, cutting back on protein) prolongs life in organisms ranging from insects to mammals. However, it’s not clear whether this famous life-extending effect of dietary restriction can work under the stressful conditions experienced by animals in the wild. Dietary protein is important for such functions as wound-healing, immunity and thermoregulation—functions that are vital for animals in the wild but much less important in captivity.  Thus, it’s possible that the dietary restriction effect is just an artefact of benign lab conditions. Answering this question is essential if we are to understand how the dietary restriction effect evolved, and what role it plays in natural environments.  

Aims: In neriid flies, we have found that restricting dietary protein prolongs life by 67%. However, we don’t know whether this life-extending effect would still be observed if the flies were subjected to more stressful conditions, such as those experienced in an natural environment. This project will  determine for the first time whether a restricted diet prolongs life under stressful conditions.

Benefits to student: You will do cutting-edge research on a high-profile question in evolutionary ecology. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project title: Food, fighting and sex

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: The Australian neriid flies are amazing members of the local fauna. A notable feature of this species is extreme variation in body size, shape and behaviour, and experiments in our lab have shown that much of this variation is caused by variation in nutrients in the larval diet. When flies are provided with abundant nutrients as larvae, they grow large, and males develop exaggerated secondary sexual traits and an aggressive disposition. This suggests an intriguing possibility: Since nutrients vary extensively in both time and space in natural environments, could it be that many features of the mating system of these flies in the wild are also shaped by larval nutrition?

Aims: In this project, we will experimentally manipulate larval diet and investigate effects on mating system parameters such as fighting, territoriality and mating. This research will reveal, for the first time, the extent to which environmental variation in nutrient abundance can shape mating systems.

Benefits to student: You will do cutting-edge research on a high-profile question in evolutionary ecology. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project title: Sexual selection in the wild

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: The Australian neriid flies have become a valuable model organism for research on the development and function of exaggerated male secondary sexual traits. These traits are enlarged in males reared on a nutrient-rich larval diet, and their expression varies between neriid populations along the east coast of Australia. However, we still know very little about how sexual selection acts on these traits, and whether variation in patterns of sexual selection can account for differences between populations in male sexual morphology.

Aims: This research project will investigate sexual behaviour and sexual selection in natural populations of neriid flies.

Benefits to student: You will do cutting-edge research on a high-profile question in evolutionary ecology, including field-work. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project title: Biology of the Australian leaf insects

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: The Australian leaf insects are among the most amazingly camouflaged of animals. They also have the remarkable ability to switch between sexual and asexual reproduction. However, practically nothing is known about the reproduction or behaviour of this unique animal.  

Aims: This project will investigate the reproductive and foraging behaviour of the Australian leaf insect Phyllium monteithi  for the first time.

Benefits to student: You will investigate an amazing but previously unstudied member of the Australian fauna. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project title: Insect personality: does larval behaviour predict adult behaviour?

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: Larvae of some flies have the ability to jump—a behaviour that they use to disperse away from their predator-infested feeding substrates.  Remarkably, individual larvae vary enormously in their propensity to jump, and it’s possible that this variation reflects a “personality” trait that carries over into their adult behaviour. For example, individuals that jump more as larvae might be more active or more aggressive as adults.

Aims: This project will investigate, for the first time, whether individual variation in jumping behaviour of larvae predicts behavioural variation at the adult stage.

Benefits to student: You will do cutting-edge research on a high-profile question in evolutionary ecology. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project title: Can animals reduce the stress of group-living?

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: Many studies have shown that living in groups can be stressful, and that the resulting stresses can greatly shorten life. However, it’s not clear whether animals can employ simple strategies to mitigate such stress. One intriguing possibility is that taking a ‘time out’ away from the group could substantially reduce stress and prolong life.

Aims: This project will investigate, for the first time, whether taking a brief daily ‘time out’ away from other individuals can substantially increase longevity of group-housed animals. The experiments will be conducted on neriid flies.  

Benefits to student: You will do cutting-edge research on a high-profile question in evolutionary ecology. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project title: The costs of exaggerated secondary sexual traits

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: In many animals, males express exaggerated secondary sexual traits that they use as weapons or ornaments in competition for mates. A basic premise of sexual selection theory is that such traits impose viability costs – that is, they reduce male survival. Yet, the nature of these costs is still very poorly understood.

Aims: This project will involve innovative experiments to test for costs of expressing exaggerated secondary sexual traits in neriid flies. In particular, these experiments will establish whether males that express the most exaggerated secondary sexual traits suffer reduced viability at the juvenile stage, potentially revealing a novel cost of expressing such traits.

Benefits to student: You will do cutting-edge research on a high-profile question in evolutionary ecology. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project title: How important is natural sunlight?

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: Laboratory animals are kept under artificial lights, including broad-spectrum lights designed to mimic natural sunlight. But basking under natural sunlight could be important in development, and animals deprived of natural sunlight might develop abnormally.  

Aims: This project will involve innovative experiments to test for effects of basking in natural vs. artificial light on the development of laboratory insects.

Benefits to student: You will do cutting-edge research on a high-profile question in evolutionary ecology. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project title: Are aggressive males harmful for females?

Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Synopsis: In neriid flies, males vary enormously in body size, secondary sexual trait expression, and aggressiveness, and these traits function in male-male competition for mates. But how do such male traits affect females?  

Aims: This project will investigate how interaction with males of varying sexual phenotypes affects female longevity and fecundity.

Benefits to student: You will do cutting-edge research on a high-profile question in evolutionary ecology. Through this project, you will learn how to design and carry out experiments, how to carry out sophisticated statistical analysis, and how to write an influential scientific paper. Honours students in the Bonduriansky lab often publish their work in prestigious journals, such as The American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Scientific Reports.


Project Title: Assessing spatial variability in urban climate and air quality

SupervisorsMelissa Hart, Angela Maharaj, Giovanni Di Virgilio (Climate Change Research Centre)

Synopsis: Sydney’s population is predicted to grow by 30% within twenty years, most of which is slated for the semi-rural fringes. The resulting urbanisation will adversely impact temperature and air quality in these areas of rapid population growth. Currently there are few meteorological and air quality observational sites to adequately monitor the effects of this increased urbanisation on local weather and air quality. The Sydney Schools Weather and Air Quality (SWAQ) network aims to place instruments in Sydney schools to fill these gaps. www.swaq.org.au

Aims: This honours project will contribute to the development of the SWAQ network  and assess the influences of spatial variability in urban climate and air quality. We are looking for a student with GIS knowledge, statistical skills, and interest in urban environmental monitoring. Some familiarity in R or Python would be an advantage, or a willingness to learn.

Benefits to student: Involvement in a large federally funded citizen science project. Working in a growth area for applied environmental research- smart cities. Enhanced understanding of data analysis. Opportunity to work with multiple stakeholders. Eligible to apply for ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes honours scholarship.

Project Title:Annually-Resolved Records Of Fire And Climate In Western Australia At The Time Of Australia’s Demographic Explosion
 
Supervisors: Pauline Treble (ANSTO), Andy Baker* (UNSW), Tim Cohen (University of Wollongong)
*interested students should contact Andy by e-mail: a.baker@unsw.edu.au
 
Synopsis:Speleothems from WA have recently been demonstrated to contain continuous annual trace element laminae (Nagra et al 2017). This region therefore provides the best-possible chronologies from Australian speleothem records of past climate and fire. This project will utilise already sampled and dated specimens from Treble’s collection, which have deposited over the last 10ka from Yanchep Cave (north of Perth) and Quinninup Cave (Margaret River). Trace element and oxygen isotope data collected at annual to sub-annual resolution for time-periods of climatic and archaeological interest will provide records of fire frequency and intensity (applying the methods of Nagra et al 2016) and hydroclimate (using existing modern oxygen isotope calibration studies of Treble et al 2016), including cyclone frequency. The results will provide insights into the climate and fire history along a N-S gradient along west coast WA.
 
Nagra, G., Treble, P.C., Andersen, M.S., Bajo, P., Hellstrom, J. and Baker, A., 2017. Dating stalagmites in Mediterranean climates using annual trace element cycles. Scientific Reports, 7, Article number: 621.
Nagra, G., Treble, P.C., Andersen, M.S., Fairchild, I.J., Coleborn, K. and Baker, A. 2016. A post-wildfire response in cave dripwater chemistry. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 20, 2745-2758.
Treble, P.C., Fairchild, I.J., Baker, A., Meredith, K.T., Andersen, M.S., Salmon, S.U., Bradley, C., Wynn, P.M., Hankin, S., Wood, A., McGuire, E., 2016. Roles of forest bioproductivity, transpiration and fire in a nine-year record of cave dripwater chemistry from southwest Australia, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta  184, 132-150
 
Aims: To produce records of fire frequency and intensity and hydroclimate, including cyclone frequency, for the last 10,000 years, along a N-S gradient along west coast WA.
 
Benefits to student: This project is aligned with the aims of the Australian Research Council funded Centre for Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). We are seeking one or more honours student(s) to join a larger team working on climate and environmental history in Australia before the time of European arrival.  Honours researchers will experience research environments at UNSW, ANSTO and University of Wollongong, and obtain a range of skills including geochemical analyses, data interpretation and time series analysis. Eligible students are invited to apply for an AINSE Honours Scholarship ($5000, scheme opens each December).


Project Title: Any human geography project, broadly defined

Supervisors: A/Prof. Wendy Shaw

Synopsis: I have supervised a range of honours projects that have come from topics in GEOS3611, Geographies of the Asia Pacific, and GEOS2641 Urban Environments.

Aims: TBA with student

Benefits to student: You choose your project!


Project Title: Data analysis from completed project: Coffee Green Scales in PNG: Highland Arabica Coffee and Yield Loss, (UNSW, CABI International & Coffee Industry Corporation PNG) Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Supervisors: A/Prof. Wendy Shaw

Synopsis: This project generated survey data that can be further analysed

Aims: TBA with student and supervisor

Benefits to student:  Existing data set ready for analysis using social science methods.


Project Title: How is Big Data affecting scientists?
 
Supervisors: Dr. Malte Ebach & A/Prof. Wendy Shaw
 
Synopsis: Big Data is coming and many people are not prepared for the changes that come with it. Already in non-scientific fields such as IT, advertising and in the finance sector, Big Data has changed the way people and institutions deal with information. For example, in 2011 Google Flu Trends was supposed to be the first time Big Data could be used to predict the next flu epidemic. The experiment was a failure and created considerable distrust of Big Data within epidemiology. In other areas Artificial Intelligence is predicted to replace many jobs, such as, journalism, leading many to feel wary of Big Data and its applications. As many journalists report on the rising tide of Big Data in the media and medicine and advertising/marketing, little is known of what scientists feel. Are biologists and geographers as embracing of Big Data and does it threaten their jobs? There is only one way to find: ask them in a series of interviews.
 
Aims: The project aims to:
  • Build an understanding of people's opinions and reactions to Big Data in their respective field/s
  • See whether current attitudes to Big Data in other non-scientific fields are manifesting themselves in science
  • Understand how non-science fields have worked to educate people about Big Data and its effects
Benefits to student: A chance to interview scientists from around the world face-to-face and online as well as learning interviewing techniques


Project Title: Does a shy fish have a slow life strategy? Behavioural and metabolic consequences of SERT knockouts

Supervisors: A/Prof Shinichi Nakagawa (UNSW) & Dr Dan Hesselson (Garvan & UNSW)

Synopsis: Why do animals behave differently in the same situation? In other words, why do animals have different personalities? Many studies have revealed the ubiquity of animal personality in different taxa imaginable. We use a unique approach to tackle this question in an evolutionary framework by employing cutting-edge technologies. We have created serotonin transporter knockout fish and we like to investigate their behaviour, metabolism and life-history traits and their interactions, using automatized behavioural tests and a high-resolution respirometer. 

Aims: You will answer the question in the title

Benefits to student: A student, who works with us for this project, will learn a suite of skills essential to conducting a successful PhD. These skills include statistical modelling, computer coding, experimental design, database management, molecular/laboratory techniques, bioinformatics and more. Also, we are happy to discuss other potential projects with an interested student.

Contact: A/Prof Shinichi Nakagawa (s.nakagawa@unsw.edu.au)
More info: www.i-deel.org



Project Title: Finding optimistic fish: Does personality affect optimism 

Supervisors: A/Prof Shinichi Nakagawa (UNSW) & Dr Dan Hesselson (Garvan & UNSW)

Synopsis: Why do animals behave differently in the same situation? In other words, why do animals have different personalities? Are some animals more optimistic than others? We use cognitive bias tests to quantify animal optimism and investigate the interaction between animal personality and optimism. We also use fish with some key genes knocked-out to investigate functions of these genes in personality and optimism.

Aims: You will answer the question in the title

Benefits to student: A student, who works with us for this project, will learn a suite of skills essential to conducting a successful PhD. These skills include statistical modelling, computer coding, experimental design, database management, molecular/laboratory techniques, bioinformatics and more. Also, we are happy to discuss other potential projects with an interested student.

Contact: A/Prof Shinichi Nakagawa (s.nakagawa@unsw.edu.au)
More info: www.i-deel.org


Project Title: Temporal dynamics of Coral Microbiome following thermal stress

Supervisor: Tracy Ainsworth

Synopsis: The microbiome is considered a critical component of the coral meta-organism. Members of the microbiome play a roles in defence and nutrient acquisition, however the microbial community is also highly diverse and transient. This project investigated the community structure of the coral microbiome over time and throughout heat stress disturbance events.

Aims: The projects aims to determine the seasonal changes in the coral microbiome and the influence of thermal stress events on microbial community structure.

Benefits to student: The student will gain experience and skills in microbial ecology, handling large datasets, data analysis and gain an understanding of the biology and ecology of coral reefs.


Project Title:  Echidna ecology in the arid zone

Supervisors: Dr Keith Leggett, Dr Jaz Lawes

Synopsis:
The distribution and number of echidnas in the arid zone is not well reported in the literature.  This project will use radio telemetry to look at the movement patterns and number of echidnas in the Fowlers Gap area. Additionally, the project will look at associations, mating strategies and social interactions of echidnas.

Aims:

  • Examine social interactions, potentially around mating season
  • Establish the home ranges of radio tagged echidnas and areas of high activity
  • Develop a detailed habitat model and GIS map of preferred areas within Fowlers Gap
  • Scat analysis to look at diet to ascertain feeding preferences

Benefits to Student:

  • Study a rarely observed animal
  • Work closely with a unique and iconic species
  • Contribute to the knowledge of echidnas in the wild
  • Learn telemetry of other field monitoring and survey techniques

Project Title:  Micro-habitat use by two species of Dasyurids in the arid zone.

Supervisors: Dr Keith Leggett, Mike Letnic

Synopsis:

This study will look at the habitat use by Sminthopsis macroura and Sminthopsis crassicaudata.  From previous studies it appears that each species prefers a different microhabitat within the larger landscapes.  This study will look at the movement of individuals once they are placed in an area where they have no prior knowledge and see how they then use the habitat. The study will also examine the prey species available in the preferred micro-habitats.

Aims:

  • Determine the spatial preferences of each species
  • Examine any potential interaction between species
  • Examine the effect of vegetation on micro-habitat selection
  • Examine the prey availability in preferred micro-habitats

Student Benefits

  • Field survey techniques in particular pit-fall and Elliot trapping.
  • Use fluorescent pigment to track the movements of small mammals
  • Chance to work in a unique and challenging environment.
  • Contribute to conservation knowledge of small mammals.

Project Title: Vegetation change in a fragmented landscape.

Supervisor: Prof. David Keith

Synopsis: Bushland is being eroded from Australia’s urban and rural landscapes at an accelerating rate, resulting in irreversible loss of biodiversity. Small remnant patches are often regarded as the most expendable in planning decisions because theory predicts that large and connected habitat patches should support more species and experience lower extinction rates than small disconnected patches, other things being equal. But how important are small patches for species persistence in real landscapes? A stronger evidence base is needed to support regulatory and investment decisions for conservation of Threatened Ecological Communities and Species.

Aims: The aim of this project is to improve understanding of vegetation change in fragmented landscapes and the factors likely to promote persistence of local biodiversity. Field work will be conducted in western Sydney bushland, a data-rich region where a concentration of threatened species and ecological communities intersects with intense pressures for urban development. The student will review literature on patch viability and develop and implement a sampling design that builds on historical survey data to examine testable hypotheses about which bushland patches are most likely to retain their local flora.

Benefits to student: The student will develop widely applicable skills in critical thinking and scientific writing. He/she will learn field techniques in vegetation survey that require attention to detail and develop an aptitude for plant identification in the field and the lab using keys and reference collections. The project will provide experience that is relevant to careers in conservation planning and management, ecological research and environmental consulting. The project is supported by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage which will provide a co-supervisor and cover costs of fieldwork. Good passes in GEOS2711 and/or BIOS2051 will be an advantage.


Project Title: Are Australian Alpine plants on the move?

Supervisor: Angela Moles

Synopsis:
Warming climates are having substantial impacts on plant and animal communities worldwide. Ecologists commonly state that species will have to migrate uphill or polewards in order to remain in their current climate niche. However, it is not always easy to predict what the real-world impacts of climate change will be. For instance, earlier snow melt can actually lead to alpine plants being exposed to colder temperatures in a warming environment! Further, as cold air flows downhill, moving uphill is not always the best way for alpine plants to stay cool. Understanding how the unique (and threatened) Australian alpine flora is responding to climate change is a pressing challenge.

Aims:
You will compile historic distribution data from the published literature and from the Atlas of Living Australia (and probably gather new data through field work in the Snowy Mountains). You will find out how 50-100 Australian alpine species have changed their elevational range over the last ~ 70 years. Are they moving uphill? Downhill? Or standing still? If there is time, you can also ask whether we can use traits or taxonomy to predict which species are at greatest risk for the future.

Benefits to student:
The Big Ecology Lab is a friendly, productive group who love to work together. We are in biolink, so you will get your own desk and computer. We have lab discussion groups, weekly student-supervisor meetings, are active participants in university life, and have a lab policy of celebrating victories (e.g. prizes, publications, completions) with cake and/or bubbly. I realise how competitive the job market is, so I will help you to build a strong cv. All fifteen of my previous honours students received first class honours, and their current positions include PhD study (6 enrolled + 2 enrolling), team leader in plant biosecurity at AQIS, wildlife photographer, lab technician at 4 Pines Brewing Company, ecological consultant, and environment advisor at BMA. OF course, you will also gain skills in experimental design, data analysis, writing and science communication, and this project will give you valuable expertise in an important environmental issue.


Project Title: Do introduced species that show rapid morphological change spread through their new environment more quickly?

Supervisor: Angela Moles

Synopsis:
We know that some introduced species spread through the landscape at an alarming rate, while others remain localised for decades. However, ecologists have much to learn about the factors determining a species’ rate of spread. In this project, you will ask whether introduced plant species that have shown significant morphological change through time have been able to spread more quickly than introduced species that are not showing signs of morphological adaptation to their new environment.

Aims:
You will combine existing data on the rate of morphological change in herbarium specimens of ~ 70 introduced species with data on range expansions through time (based on data from the Atlas of Living Australia, and from published literature) to ask whether species that show rapid morphological change have faster spread through the landscape.

Benefits to student:
The Big Ecology Lab is a friendly, productive group who love to work together. We are in biolink, so you will get your own desk and computer. We have lab discussion groups, weekly student-supervisor meetings, are active participants in university life, and have a lab policy of celebrating victories (e.g. prizes, publications, completions) with cake and/or bubbly. I realise how competitive the job market is, so I will help you to build a strong cv. All fifteen of my previous honours students received first class honours, and their current positions include PhD study (6 enrolled + 2 enrolling), team leader in plant biosecurity at AQIS, wildlife photographer, lab technician at 4 Pines Brewing Company, ecological consultant, and environment advisor at BMA. OF course, you will also gain skills in experimental design, data analysis, writing and science communication, and this project will give you valuable expertise in an important environmental issue.