Optimising ship-board psychosocial working conditions on research vessels

Degree type


Closing date

18 July 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Conducting research, science, engineering or technological work in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean necessitates work in a shipboard environment. Shipboard work environments present hazards that include confined space, shiftwork, high noise levels, work intensification, high emotional demands operational pressures and isolation from their families and communities for long time periods (Seacare, 2021), which are known to cause high rates of employee turnover, injuries and mental health and welfare issues amongst maritime workers (MIAL, 2020).  The physical, mental and emotional demands of ship-board work environments present particularly complex and challenging psychosocial work environments (PWEs). PWEs are defined as the opportunities provided by work and the workplace to meet needs for wellbeing, productivity and positive self-experience (Siegriost & Marmot 2004) and have a direct and powerful influences on physical and mental health, productivity and performance.

Optimising people’s capacity to deal effectively with these hazards, and the PWE they experience, directly influences their capacity to work productively, effectively and safely. For those working on the Antarctic continent, this has additional benefits because the challenges and demands of shipboard environments are in many ways analogous to those experienced in Antarctica stations. Enhancing knowledge about how such environments affect people, and can be optimised, is therefore important and valuable for maximising performance and wellbeing. Relatedly, employers’ capacity to optimise these environments directly influences their capacity to provide safe and productive work environments and work experiences to their staff and, by extension, to efficiently, effectively and sustainably attract, retain, and utilise their workforce.

Research questions could include, but not be limited to

  • Which aspects of shipboard PWEs on research vessels have the greatest impact on the wellbeing and performance?
  • Which conditions of shipboard PWEs on research vessels create positive psychosocial work environments?
  • What organisational supports or interventions could employers provide to improve shipboard PWEs?

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Megan Woods


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:

  • Completion of postgraduate research (eg Honours, Research Masters or MBA with Research specialisation) in Human Resource Management, Psychology, or Occupational Health and Safety

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Previous research or professional work related to psychosocial work environments, extreme, remoted or isolated work environments, or shipboard work environments

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor,  Dr Megan Woods to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. 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 by the advertised outcome date.

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