How do crops adapt to waterlogging

Understanding crops' physiological and morphological adaptations to waterlogging stress

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International


$31,500pa for 3.5 years

About the research project

Climate change has increased the frequency of extreme abiotic stresses, including waterlogging. Therefore, there is an increasing demand in further understanding of the mechanisms underlying waterlogging tolerance in multiple crops. Resilient root development in response to abiotic stress determines crop survival, development, grain quality and yield under waterlogging. The fast formation of the aerenchyma (air channels in root) significantly improves crop survival rate under anoxic conditions. As the 'gates' for water exchange and CO2 uptake in plants, stomatal guard cells also determine the carbon cycles of plants, affecting plant photosynthesis, especially under water-related abiotic stresses. The regulatory networks between root to shoot critically tunes the stomatal activities for optimised photosynthesis under waterlogging. However, there are no reports on root and stomatal morphological/physiological changes in crops under anoxic conditions. In this project, Near-isogenic lines which differ in waterlogging tolerance will be used to identify the mechanisms underlying the tolerance.

The key questions to be addressed in this project include:

  1. What are the root morphological and physiological adaptations under waterlogging in barley, canola, broad bean and how do stomata response differently to a waterlogged environment?
  2. Are there specific morphological/physiological traits (e.g. root or stomata-related traits) serving as 'markers' to select waterlogging tolerant varieties?
  3. How is the root-to-shoot regulatory networks regulated in tolerant lines vs susceptible lines? ABA/ethylene signaling networks, ion channels, root and stomatal morphological traits will be investigated.

The objectives of this study are:

  1. Examine the physiological and morphological responses to long-term (tanks and fields) and short-term (glasshouse and laboratory) waterlogged conditions in three crops.
  2. Quantify the effects of waterlogging on plant physiological sacrifice (root development, stomata, ion channel, enzymes, protective compound, etc) and crop yield deductions.
  3. Identify the common mechanisms underlying tolerance to waterlogged environments among three crops.
  4. Identify the regulatory networks for the use of fertilizers or plant growth regulators to alleviate waterlogging impact.
  5. Identify key genes/key metabolic compound, ion channel activities critically contributing to waterlogging tolerance, interpreting the root-to-shoot (e.g. ABA associated) regulatory networks for waterlogging tolerance.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Chenchen Zhao


The successful applicant will receive a scholarship which provides:

  • a living allowance stipend funded by GRDC of $31,500 per annum (2023 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.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit our Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


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

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

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:

  • A master's degree in a plant-related research area, such as plant physiology, agriculture, plant science, crop breeding, etc
  • Capable English skills in communication and writing

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Academic publications

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Chenchen Zhao to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • 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.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 25 September 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

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

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