Sensitivity of Antarctic terrestrial meiofauna

Sensitivity of Antarctic terrestrial meiofauna to environmental stressors as drivers of biodiversity

Degree type


Closing date

7 March 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Ice free areas in Antarctica are restricted to less than 1% of the total area of Antarctica. These areas are hotspots of biodiversity, supporting diverse flora, fauna and wildlife in terrestrial and coastal marine environments. Life history traits and biodiversity patterns of Antarctic terrestrial meiofauna are poorly understood. Terrestrial meiofauna is comprised of both highly endemic specialized taxa as well as broadly distributed cosmopolitan species. An understanding of the drivers of distributions of individual species, including the role of environmental stressors associated with global human induced pressures (e.g. climate change) are required to enable informed protection of Antarctic biodiversity and broader scale area protection. This understanding of biological response will also inform and allow forecasting of future terrestrial and inshore marine biodiversity patterns under a range of stress scenarios.

As a case study region, the Vestfold Hills, surrounding Davis station, supports a mix of generalist species with widespread distributions and specialist species with more restricted distributions. How these species will likely perform under future environmental pressures will dictate the future biodiversity of the region. Identifying species that are particularly vulnerable, either by their life history traits or their restricted distribution, under future scenarios can inform Antarctic area protection and conservation management practices. These methods will directly inform models and techniques for future studies of inshore marine ecosystems.

The aims of this project are to:

  • Understand the distribution and ecology of Antarctic terrestrial organisms and environmental factors driving their distribution
  • Identify indicator species to be used as markers for community health
  • Determine sensitivity of selected meiofauna to a range of environmental stressors
  • Using derived sensitivity thresholds, forecast future biodiversity patterns for Antarctic terrestrial communities under future climate scenarios
  • Use biodiversity forecasting to inform Antarctic area protection policy

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Kerrie Swadling


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 $28,854 per annum (2022 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.


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:

  • Strong biological and ecological background
  • Strong analytical skills, especially with scientific analysis/programming software (e.g., R)
  • Strong English written and oral communications
  • Experience with micro-invertebrate identification

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience with meiofauna culturing
  • Strong microscopy and laboratory skills
  • Experience in modelling of complex data sets

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, A/Prof Kerrie Swadling, to discuss your suitability and the project requirements; 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 contact details of two 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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