Conservation strategies for red handfish

Informing conservation strategies for critically endangered red handfish (Thymichthys politus)

Degree type

PhD

Closing date

10 October 2022

Campus

Hobart

Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International

About the research project

The red handfish (Thymichthys politus) is a benthic, marine teleost endemic to south-eastern Tasmania. In recent years there has been an alarming decline in the population and the species is now listed as critically endangered (Edgar et al., 2015; Stuart-Smith et al., 2020). Conservation efforts are constrained by limited information on the biology and ecology, and particularly the reproductive biology (Stuart-Smith et al., 2021).

A combination of laboratory experiments and field-based observations will be used to inform key knowledge gaps in the plan to create a robust aquarium-based insurance population. Experimental studies will focus on defining optimal conditions for holding animals in captivity. This will include defining stocking density and aquaria enrichment requirements. Work will also include an investigation of reproduction and breeding through a combination of qualitative and quantitative experiments. Field work will be included to gather information on the behavior and ecology of the species to inform captive breeding. The overall aim is to inform captive breeding of red handfish through a combination of the following objectives:

  1. Characterise red handfish behaviour in relation to conspecifics and habitat complexity. This will be completed through a series of aquarium experiments and will employ techniques including time-lapse photography and will involve developing a deep learning object detection model;
  2. Investigate olfactory cues in mate detection. This will be done using a choice flume system and will involve developing a deep learning object detection model and may include an investigation of morphological and physiological changes associated with breeding;
  3. Study breeding and behaviour including egg site selection, courtship and fertilization and describe maternal care of embryos; and
  4. Investigate behavior and ecology in wild populations in relation to population density, habitat preference and movement associated with breeding.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Andrew Trotter

Funding

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.

Eligibility

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

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:

  • Graduates with a strong academic record (e.g., BSc Hons, MSc or equivalent qualifications demonstrated by publication record) in aquaculture, ecology, marine biology and zoology or similar are encouraged to apply
  • Aquaculture experience (knowledge of tank systems, maintenance, set-up, general marine fish husbandry skills)
  • SCUBA diving experience and qualifications sufficient for registration on the UTAS dive register; current Australian driver's licence
  • Ability to use R for statistical analyses
  • Familiarity with general ecological and marine species literature

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Evidence of publication of research in peer-reviewed literature
  • Proficiency in one or more programming languages (e.g., Python, C/C++, MATLAB)
  • Familiarity with general ecological and marine threatened species literature

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 Andrew Trotter 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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