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Geography, Planning, and Spatial Sciences Research

Banner Image: Hobart. Credit: Tourism Tasmania and Luke Tscharke.

Our research is world-leading, building on decades of pioneering research in Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences. We undertake research addressing problems of direct societal significance by harnessing the value of spatial data and integrating with human geography, physical geography, and environmental studies.

Our ideas, and the new knowledge that flows from them, influence scientists, industry and policymakers globally and makes a difference locally. Our past and present scholars have helped establish the global permaculture movement, the world’s first green political party, the scientific basis for establishing Tasmania’s World Heritage Areas, novel drone technology for understanding our changing planet, and the first agreed estimate of Greenland and Antarctica’s contribution to sea-level change.

National and global research rankings point to the quality of what we do. Our research in Geography and Environmental Studies is ranked in the top 200 in the world, while our Spatial Sciences research is within the global top 50. Our discipline contributes heavily to nation-leading rankings in Environmental Science and Management, Geomatic Engineering (Surveying and Spatial Sciences) and Geophysics.

Our research themes

Within Geography, Planning, and Spatial Sciences our four research themes align to our focus on geospatial analysis, environmental values, place, governance, social and institutional change, policy, management, planning and decision-making.

  Study with us

Take your research degree with us at Geography, Planning, and Spatial Sciences. Our expertise covers earth observation and spatial analysis techniques, human geography, physical geography, and environmental studies. Within these fields, you can join our existing projects or propose your explorations, whether creative, theoretical or industry/practice-focused. Your thesis may be based on the rich environmental culture of our island laboratory of Tasmania or other regions, drawing on our global experience and expertise. You’ll be joining researchers who are constantly developing theoretical, design-based, collaborative and participatory models of research practice to answer problems of direct societal significance.

Available Research Degree Projects

A research degree candidate may develop their own research project in collaboration with their supervisor or apply for one of our available projects below:

Applicants interested in a specific project should first contact the supervisor listed and then find out more about our Entry Requirements, Scholarships if relevant, and then Apply Now.

Closing Date

31st December 2021*

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

*unless filled earlier

The Research Project

Social connectedness, support, and safe, local places in which to meet, nurture, and maintain those connections make important contributions to individual, family, and community health, resilience, and wellbeing. On that basis, governments at all levels, and private and community and health services have designed and funded programs and safe spaces to help create and practically support belonging and connectedness, and foster community wellbeing.

Their services often target specific cohorts to support those in certain age, socioeconomic, or diversity groups in particular communities and localities. However, communities also have informal groups and relationships, support networks, and carved-out safe places that embody aspects of connection, belonging, identity, and emotional and practical nurturing and support that these more formal structures seek to create and emulate. Such networks may not be discreet and specifically targeted and nor are they necessarily funded or structured. Rather, they emerge from and form part of the everyday life of community and place and, as such, stretch and flex across time, space, and life-courses.

The aim of this study is to identify such a network and, using qualitative and interpretive methods, to interview participants in that network and analyse the complex interplay of community, place, and context; gain an understanding of the attributes, dynamics, and geographies of such informal and taken-for-granted place based connections that support individual and community resilience and flourishing; and consider how these change over time and space. The outcome will be an enhanced understanding of the complexity and multifaceted nature of such networks, including potentially transferable lessons in how to enhance more formally conceived and created place and community-based programs.

Eligibility
  • First class or upper second honours
  • Publications or evidence of submitted manuscripts
  • Background in social research
  • Competency in use of qualitative data analysis tools
  • Evidence of capacity to manage projects on time and budget

Applicants from the following disciplines are eligible to apply:

  • Human geography

See the following web page for entry requirements: www.utas.edu.au/research/degrees/what-is-a-research-degree

Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Prof Elaine Stratford for further information.

Closing Date

14th May 2021

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

The Research Project

Antarctica continues to deform as a result of past and present surface loading changes, especially ice loading changes, and Earthquake-related effects. Over the last 10 years, Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers have been increasingly deployed in Antarctica to measure surface deformation. These data are now yielding sufficiently precise surface velocity time series to be able to separate competing models and in doing so learn new things about the interior of the Earth and the past ice loading history.

This project will focus on the analysis of GPS data with state-of-the-art techniques in order to better understand the deformation of Antarctica. It will apply novel techniques to remove time series noise and compare these to numerical models developed from existing codes and from outputs provided by third parties. These results will be important for understanding present-day ice-sheet contribution to sea-level rise and in gaining fundamental understanding into the interior of the Earth. The project will provide students with advanced skills in numerical analysis, interpretation and presentation.

Eligibility
  • Applicants with strong research and analytical skills in the following disciplines are invited to apply

Applicants from the following disciplines are eligible to apply:

  • Physics or Applied Mathematics
  • Quantitative Earth Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Geodesy (not Surveying or GIS)

See the following web page for entry requirements: www.utas.edu.au/research/degrees/what-is-a-research-degree

Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Prof Matt King for further information.

Closing Date

14th May 2021

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

The Research Project

In a changing world, insurance and how households use and think about insurance is changing. For example, climate change is dramatically changing insurability. Housing trends are also informing underinsurance patterns. This research project examines the social and culture geographies of insurance, and critically interrogates changes unfolding from the perspective and experience of households. It contributes to understanding the role and power of insurers and insurance, how insurance and socio-ecological change can co-produce inequities and inequalities, and the action required to enable adaptive and just insurantial outcomes.

Eligibility
  • Applicants from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply

Knowledge and skills that will be ranked highly include:

  • Background in human geography
  • Demonstrated capacity in critical thinking
  • Evidence of an ability to understand, apply and critique theory

See the following web page for entry requirements: www.utas.edu.au/research/degrees/what-is-a-research-degree

Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Dr Kate Booth for further information.

Closing Date

14th May 2021

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

The Research Project

Economic and financial processes can appear abstract and universal in their constitution. In this research, you will explore the socio-spatial variegations of economic and financial discourses and practices. This may include collecting and analysing quantitative and qualitative data on household decision-making, experiences and perceptions. It will contribute to nuanced place-based understandings of the co-production of 'money', people and place, including the identification of new and emerging socio-spatial patterns of inequity and inequality.

Eligibility
  • Applicants from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply

Knowledge and skills that will be ranked highly include:

  • Background in human geography
  • Demonstrated capacity in critical thinking
  • Evidence of an ability to understand, apply and critique theory

See the following web page for entry requirements: www.utas.edu.au/research/degrees/what-is-a-research-degree

Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Dr Kate Booth for further information.

Closing Date

14th May 2021

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

The Research Project

Processes of financialisation and marketisation produce collective norms and ideas of public 'common sense, as well as contradictions and schisms. In this context, this research project will consider the possibility of economized disruptions and dissent – disruptions and dissent that emerge within, rather than outside of economization. This can include big or small political moments that bring about radical re-orderings at micro or macro scales. It will contribute to understanding and facilitating the change required to address climate catastrophe and associated socio-political challenges.

Eligibility
  • Applicants from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply

Knowledge and skills that will be ranked highly include:

  • Background in human geography
  • Demonstrated capacity in critical thinking
  • Evidence of an ability to understand, apply and critique theory

See the following web page for entry requirements: www.utas.edu.au/research/degrees/what-is-a-research-degree

Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Dr Kate Booth for further information.

Closing Date

14th May 2021

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

The Research Project

Tasmania hosts a number of endemic Gondwanan species that live for hundreds to thousands of years.  These species have been instrumental in developing long climate reconstructions for the Southern Hemisphere. These reconstructions are heavily based on statistical evidence of seasonal climate sensitivity, but evidence suggests that reliance on these statistical approaches may be in critical need of reappraisal.  This is necessary in light of contemporary changes in climate that are likely to impact plant growth in ways that are not currently fully understood. In order to understand these changes and their implications for interpretation of palaeoclimate data extracted from tree rings, much finer resolution information on growth response to climate is required.  At the same time, climate change poses a significant threat to these species, yet relatively little is understood about their detailed responses to climate, and hence, their resilience to short-lived extremes and longer-term trends in climate variables.  Some species, such as Huon pine, are extremely sensitive to water availability.  Evidence also suggests that heat is likely to be an important driver of changes in the growth response of species such as the Tasmanian endemics.

This PhD project is interdisciplinary and will span palaeoclimatology and plant physiology. It aims to improve our understanding of the responses of tree species to climate, including responses to climate extremes, through high-resolution monitoring of growth across multiple sites and species. The successful applicant will work with a palaeoclimatologist (Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences: (https://www.utas.edu.au/technology-environments-design/geography-and-spatial-sciences) to apply new understanding to climate reconstructions from the properties of tree-rings of these species and with a plant physiologist (Plant Science, in Biological sciences: https://www.utas.edu.au/natural-sciences/biological-sciences ) to interpret impacts of climate on the species and their geographical distributions. Through this project, the successful applicant will develop high level programming and statistical analysis skills, the ability to obtain detailed physiological information from plants. By traversing traditional disciplinary boundaries, the successful applicant will also develop a broad collaborative network that can be expected to provide multiple avenues for further work.

Eligibility
  • Undergraduate degree and Honours/Masters in geography, biological sciences or a related discipline
  • Evidence of good quantitative research skills and programming skills (e.g. R/Matlab/Python)
  • Evidence of ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Excellent communication skills, high level of proficiency in English
  • Ability to undertake field work in remote locations

See the following web page for entry requirements: www.utas.edu.au/research/degrees/what-is-a-research-degree

Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Dr Kathy Allen for further information.

Closing Date

14th May 2021

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

The Research Project

Climate and weather extremes are rare and may constitute unexpected, unusual, severe and/or unseasonable events. Some extremes occur over weeks, seasons, or even years and their impacts may, along with catastrophic events like fire and flood, be captured in palaeoclimate records. Impacts of extremes may be spatially and temporally limited or may represent what are known as compound climate extremes.  Compound climate extremes are an emerging field of research and can be categorised as preconditioned (prior conditions accentuate hazard impacts), multivariate (associated with multiple drivers), temporally compounding (successive events have an extreme impact), or spatially compounding (hazards occur in multiple locations simultaneously). Instrumental evidence and climate projections indicate increased frequency and magnitude of both single event and compound extremes over recent decades and into the future, respectively. The impacts of more frequent or severe climate extremes and the failure of climate adaptation and mitigation are perceived as major threats to social and environmental well-being across the globe.  The IPCC has characterised compound extremes in particular as an area of 'deep uncertainty', with little understood about their probability of occurrence or cascading impacts.  There is an urgent need to better characterise extreme climate events to better inform emergency responses, infrastructure design and land management planning.

This PhD project will focus on analysing climate extremes from a compilation of records that is developed during the project. This compilation will draw on globally gridded data sets and instrumental records at scales commensurate with types of climate extremes that may be recorded in palaeoclimate records such as corals, tree-rings, speleothems, sediment cores and ice cores. The project will play a key role in improving our understanding of extremes. This dataset will be used to calibrate a record of palaeo-extremes that you will compare with long runs of CSIRO's climate model to identify likely drivers of temporally and spatially compound events in the palaeoclimate record. You will be located in the School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences (https://www.utas.edu.au/technology-environments-design/geography-and-spatial-sciences) and will work within the dynamic Climate Futures Group (https://www.utas.edu.au/sciences-engineering/research/climate-futures). The project will require extensive collaboration with researchers in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, CSIRO (https://research.csiro.au/dfp/ ), and colleagues in the Northern Hemisphere. It will also require a willingness to engage with large-scale databases. The project will provide a student with excellent communication skills, a wide collaborative network and advanced skills in numerical analysis and interpretation relevant to climate sciences generally.  These skills underpin future leadership roles in the climate sciences.

Eligibility
  • Undergraduate degree and Honours/Masters in geography, mathematics, biological sciences or a related discipline
  • Evidence of excellent quantitative research skills and familiarity with programming language (e.g. R/Matlab/Python)
  • Familiarity with at least one type of palaeo-proxy archive
  • Evidence of ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Excellent communication skills, high level of proficiency in English

See the following web page for entry requirements: www.utas.edu.au/research/degrees/what-is-a-research-degree

Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Dr Kathy Allen for further information.

  Partner with us

Geography, Planning, and Spatial Sciences seeks to broaden our impact by partnering with government agencies, not-for-profits and industry.

There are many ways to engage with us. We excel in industry collaborative research focused on risk associated with climate change, remote sensing (including sensor calibration), geodetic positioning (e.g., offshore platforms), and insurance issues associated with natural disasters. We are eager to engage with local and regional councils and planning authorities to help make regional cities better places to live and work.

You’ll have access to our expertise across all our domains of research – spatial sciences, planning, and physical, environmental and human geography - and especially our expertise in complex problems that defy simple reduction.