Drivers of plant flammability

Environmental drivers of plant flammability and implications for land management

Degree type


Closing date

1 November 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International


$31,500pa for 3.5 years

About the research project

This project aims to investigate the environmental drivers affecting the flammability of plant species from different habitats. Plant flammability, also described as live fuel flammability, is a critical factor influencing fire behaviour. Yet, live fuels are still a poorly understood fuel type. To date, there is limited research on the subject globally despite the clear importance of understanding how plant flammability varies across species, vegetation communities, and in relation to different environmental gradients. Plant flammability is shaped by interacting factors operating at different scales. At a regional scale, climate is one of the main drivers of plant flammability, acting as a filter for what species can thrive in a given environment. At a landscape scale, the influence of climate can be mediated by local characteristics such as topography and soil nutrients, as well as grazing and fire history. Within the same habitat, different species can have different flammability depending on characteristics such as leaf and bark traits.

The project will combine field surveys, spatial analyses, and laboratory assessments, leveraging on access to the Flammability Laboratory at the FireLab3, a purpose-built facility where plant flammability can be quantified under controlled conditions. The outputs of this project will contribute to shed light on the mechanisms that underlie vegetation flammability, elucidating how plant traits and external conditions interact to influence fire behaviour. From a management perspective, the study's outcomes will directly inform the development of targeted bushfire mitigation strategies. This research is supported by an ARC Laureate fellowship held by Professor David Bowman, who will co-supervise the student.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Stefania Ondei


The successful applicant will receive a scholarship which provides:

  • a living allowance stipend funded by ARC 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.

Additional funding

If successful, applicants will also be considered for a top-up scholarship of $5,000 per annum for 3.5 years.

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:

  • An honours degree or equivalent in ecology, biology, plant science, or environmental science
  • Experience conducting fieldwork
  • Ability to identify plant species using dichotomous keys or willingness to learn
  • Some familiarity with GIS software (e.g., ArcMap, QGIS, R, Python)
  • Basic statistical knowledge
  • Good written and verbal English and scientific communication skills
  • A current driving licence

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • A strong research background in ecology or similar fields through a publication record or a high-quality thesis
  • Experience conducting field work in remote areas
  • Laboratory experience
  • Strong analytical skills using R or similar software and a keen interest in developing those skills

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Stefania Ondei 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 1 November 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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