Population Dynamics of Right Whales

Conservation status and population dynamics of Australia’s endangered southern right whales

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International

About the research project

Southern right whales are large baleen whales that can grow up to 18m in length and weigh up to 23 tonnes. In the early 1800s, Australia’s southern right whales were the preferred quarry of colonist whalers and within a few decades they were hunted to near extinction. Over a century later, and even after being afforded full protection under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, there were few sightings of right whales in their historic calving areas off southern Australia. It was not until the mid-1970s that there appeared to be an increasing number of reports of right whales off Australia’s southwest coast.

This project will draw on a long-term program of annual aerial surveys of Australia's right whale population initiated by the late John Bannister, contributing to the curation, analysis and publication of southern right whale data collected over four decades. Critical to this project will be an understanding of how climate change has and likely will impact upon the recovery of this species.

The candidate will:

  • Conduct time series analysis of the aerial survey count data to determine long-term population trends and associated variability;
  • Assess methods to estimate population size and estimate change in the spatial distribution of sightings over the survey period;
  • Determine whether oceanographic conditions on Southern Ocean summer feeding grounds correlate with annual calving rates by developing past climate histories in likely foraging areas; and,
  • Assess the utility of satellite imagery to complement or replace annual aerial surveys for annual censuses of right whales in southern Australia.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Stuart Corney


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 $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 the John L Bannister Memorial Top-Up Scholarship of $7,500 per annum for 3.5 years. This scholarship is funded from the John L Bannister Memorial.

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:

  • Strong quantitative skills
  • Experience with programming languages analysis and display software, such as python, R or Matlab

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience with image processing software
  • Understanding of Southern Ocean ecosystem dynamics
  • Understanding of Southern Ocean physical processes

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Stuart Corney 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 25 September 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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