Are declines in coastal biodiversity driven by trends in frontal activity?

Closing Date

28th April 2020

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

The Research Project

Oceanic fronts are sharp gradients between adjoining water masses and serve as mixing boundaries between water with different features (Belkin, 2009). Frontal processes, across a variety of temporal and spatial scales, operate in concert to drive coastal ecosystem structure and function. Climate change can have a profound effect on front formation leading to changes, which have important consequences for biodiversity. Furthermore, changes in concentration of one or a few 'leverage species' may result in sweeping communitylevel changes raising concerns about fishery sustainability, ecosystem health, and the maintenance of global biogeochemical cycles (Woodson and Litvin, 2015) in coastal regions. Conflicting studies show scenarios of both increasing and decreasing frontal probability due to climate change. It has been shown that there can a reduction in frontal frequency during warming anomalies. However, long term decadal-scale records show increasing trends of frontal activity. Regardless, the trend in front probability has not been shown to be globally uniform.

The first aim of this research is to comprehensively verify global trends of frontal frequency within global marine hotspots and resolve fine-scale frontal features (using new high-resolution satellite imagery) to assess patterns and trends in regional scale hotspot areas. Furthermore, given the variety of scales at which fronts operate, it is critically important to understand frontal activity at depth integrated submesoscales. As fronts play a role in driving local biological activity, unravelling the role of submesoscale dynamics on phytoplankton abundance and diversity is important for quantifying global influence on marine ecosystems. 

The second aim of this research is to develop adaptive sampling algorithms for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to characterize submesoscale fronts across depth integrated measurements. When coupled with high resolution satellite measurements (above), unprecedented scales of frontal processes can be visualized.

The following eligibility criteria apply to this project:
  • The project is open to Australian and New Zealand (domestic) candidates and to International candidates.
  • Research must be undertaken on a full-time basis.
  • Applicants must already have been awarded a first-class Honours degree or hold equivalent qualifications or relevant and substantial research experience in an appropriate sector. See the following web page for entry requirements:
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research and analytical skills.
  • Applicants must have good oral and verbal communication skills.
Candidates from the a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Knowledge and skills that will be ranked highly include:
  • Biological oceanography/marine ecology background
  • Experience with programming for statistics and image processing (e.g. MATLAB)
  • Strong quantitative skills
  • Knowledge of remote sensing algorithm development and satellite image processing
Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Andy Fischer, for further information.