Emerging marine heatwave stress-scapes

Marine heatwave hazards, risks, and emerging stress-scapes

Degree type


Closing date

18 July 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Marine heatwaves, or periods of prolonged warm ocean temperature extremes, can have devastating impacts on marine ecosystems (e.g. Garrabou et al. 2009; Wernberg et al. 2013). For instance, the 2015/16 Tasman Sea marine heatwave triggered disease and mortality in oysters and abalone (Oliver et al. 2017), and the 2011 marine heatwave off Western Australia caused substantial dieback of kelp and seagrass (Wernberg et al. 2013; Arias-Ortiz et al. 2018), but also impacted corals and invertebrate species (Caputi et al. 2016). As ocean temperatures rise under global warming, marine heatwaves are increasing in their intensity, duration, and frequency (Oliver et al., 2018).

Part of the challenge of adaptation planning and managing risks for marine stakeholders (e.g. Holbrook et al. 2020) is a lack of access to clear, reliable, and locally applicable marine heatwave hazard or risk information (e.g. Kajtar et al. 2021; Kajtar and Holbrook 2021). Confounding the projections to extreme temperatures are changes to other variables, such as wind speeds and direction, salinity, wave height, and dissolved oxygen. Some of these changes may offset the impacts from amplified marine heatwaves, but others may exacerbate the impacts. Therefore, analysing multiple variables together to understand the changing "stress-scape" is crucial (Blaisdell et al. 2021).

This project will aim to:

  • Analyse a range of climate data, including observations, reanalyses, and model simulations of historical and future scenarios
  • Develop marine heatwave hazard and risk indices
  • Analyse multiple variables in combination to explore the evolving stress-scape for a range of marine species

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Jules Kajtar


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.

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:

  • First Class Honours (or equivalent) or Masters degree in marine biogeochemistry, fisheries science, marine ecology or physical oceanography

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience with coding in MATLAB or python
  • Experience handling climate data in a Unix environment
  • Demonstrably strong quantitative skills (mathematics and physics background)

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 Jules Kajtar 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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