Modelling the Great Southern Reef

Meta-community modelling of the Great Southern Reef

Degree type


Closing date

10 October 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

The Great Southern Reef (GSR) is an interconnected temperate marine system fringing more than 8,000 km of Australia's southern coastline and encapsulates nearly all the nation's major population centres from the Queensland/ New South Wales border, Victoria, around Tasmania and across South Australia to its sub-tropical limit in Western Australia. While the importance of this system is increasingly recognised, its interconnectedness remains largely unexplored. By applying meta-community modelling approaches (initially developed for the Great Barrier Reef), this PhD project will explore the connectedness of the Great Southern Reef and model the interplay of climate change, reef-based fisheries, protected species, and offshore infrastructure on its dynamics.

The project aims to establish a meta-community model for the Great Southern Reef and use this model to evaluate interventions and adaptation strategies for cumulative impacts on the Great Southern Reef. The project will develop realistic food web interactions and reef connectivity to provide a platform for testing alternative interventions and adaptation strategies under different climate change trajectories, including exploration of novel interventions. The project will also determine the existence of unifying drivers of reef community dynamics and scalability of various management actions across the different bioregions of the Great Southern Reef. Modelling will also be used to examine optimal systems of triage for safeguarding reefs under threat and for recovery of collapsed systems across the Great Southern Reef.


  1. Adapt an existing modelling framework to describe the temporal and spatial dynamics of the GSR ecosystem, integrating key physical and ecological processes.
  2. Calibrate the model against marine ecological datasets.
  3. Explore the range of potential GSR futures under alternative projections of climate, fishing and other ostensibly manageable human-pressures.
  4. Evaluate interventions aimed at protecting and/or restoring temperate reef communities, with the ultimate goal of providing optimal management and governance options.


  1. An agent-based modelling framework, first developed for tropical reefs, will be adapted to represent the temperate reef systems of the GSR.
  2. It will incorporate key physical processes, such as warming trends, storm events, marine heatwaves, fishing pressure and oceanographic connectivity; as well as ecological interactions involving seaweeds, urchins, lobsters and fish that have a major influence on reef health and the provision of ecosystem services.
  3. The model will be calibrated against extensive datasets assembled over the past two decades for temperate reefs in southern Australia.
  4. The calibrated model will be used to: (i) integrate knowledge and information; (ii) explore potential futures under climate change; and (iii) evaluate the efficacy of alternative management and restoration strategies.

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Scott Ling


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.

Eligible applicants may also receive a top-up scholarship of $10,000 per annum for 3 years. This scholarship is funded from the CSIRO R+ grant.

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.

Essential Criteria:

  • First-class honours or equivalent in biology, ecology, mathematics or a related field of research
  • Demonstrated proficiency in written and verbal English language
  • Experience in coding and familiarity with ecological modelling approaches
  • Demonstrated ability to synthesise model outputs and produce peer-reviewed research publications

Desirable Criteria:

  • First-author publication in international peer-reviewed journal
  • Knowledge of reef ecosystem dynamics
  • Experience in modelling reef meta-populations / meta-communities / ecosystem dynamics
  • Experience in quantitative methods with proficiency in statistical software programs such as R and PRIMER.

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, A/Prof Scott Ling 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.

Apply now Explore other projects

Why the University of Tasmania?

Worldwide reputation for research excellence

Quality supervision and support

Tasmania offers a unique study lifestyle experience