Ecological Monitoring in the Southern Ocean

Designing monitoring to capture ecological changes in the Southern Ocean

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

The Southern Ocean represents 20% of the world’s oceans. It is undeniable that the Southern Ocean has changed over the past 30 years with warming waters, changing currents, changes in fisheries management and illegal fishing. Furthermore, climate predictions suggest further drastic changes into the future.
Monitoring plays a critical role in understanding how environmental and other changes are affecting key species, assemblages and ecosystems in order to inform appropriate management or adaption strategies. Monitoring programs need to have enough sampling and power to detect changes. However, monitoring is also expensive, time-consuming and logistically difficult, particularly in remote regions such as the Southern Ocean.  Resources are limited and programs need to be designed to make the most of historical and currently available information, which may include legacy sites, opportunistic sampling, multiple platforms and models (statistical, mathematical and simulation).

This project will use existing biological and environmental data and simulation models as the basis to investigate various aspects of designing monitoring programs for key assemblages in the Southern Ocean. These may include demersal fish, zooplankton, or benthic fauna. It will investigate how best to develop, refine or augment monitoring for one or more of these key assemblages by addressing questions such as:

  • How should a baseline survey be conducted?
  • How should future survey planning be undertaken?  Through a master sample of all sites throughout the years? How is historical data best used?
  • What is the place of opportunistic and adaptive sampling?
  • How can current designs be refined or augmented?
  • Are there advantages to considering multiple platforms?
  • What are the appropriate indicator species on which to focus efforts?

While these questions are particularly timely for Southern Ocean ecosystems, the methodologies developed here, and our results will be more broadly applicable to monitoring programs being developed elsewhere.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Nicole Hill


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • First-class honours or equivalent in ecology, quantitative ecology or a related field of research
  • Proficient in R or other coding platforms
  • Demonstrated proficiency in written and verbal English language

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • First-author publication in international peer-reviewed journal
  • Skills in GIS (preferably using R)
  • Knowledge of Southern Ocean ecology
  • Experience in monitoring program design or implementation

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Nicole Hill, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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