Join us

I am currently accepting applications for multiple PhD projects. Expressions of Interest are due to QUT by 20th September, so please contact me in advance of that so we can prepare the EOI together.

I particularly welcome applications from groups that are underrepresented in STEM, including:

  • women and gender-diverse people
  • Indigenous Australians
  • people of colour.

Developing optimal management approaches to sustain the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is under significant threat from climate change.

There are many options for management approaches to help sustain the reef, and many more are being developed. However, optimally planning these management actions is a difficult mathematical problem as they need to deploy over a large scale. This results in long timeframes for developing and executing these actions.

This project will involve building new optimisation methods, or building upon existing state-of-the-art approaches to develop optimal management approaches to sustain the Great Barrier Reef. We will draw from approaches that allocate resources in risky scenarios where investment options are correlated. These can let us accommodate significant and unavoidable uncertainties, stochasticity, and correlations between options.

A diversified portfolio is less volatile than the sum of its parts. Therefore, to ensure environmental benefits in the future we should invest in a diversity of new approaches. This is particularly useful in the context of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef where environmental futures are uncertain.

Optimal monitoring and management of Antarctic ecosystems

The biodiversity of Antarctica is threatened by a changing climate, increases in tourist numbers, and invasive species. Governments around the world want to conserve this continent’s unique species and ecosystems, but careful planning is needed before undertaking expensive and difficult management actions.

Data is only valuable when planning environmental management if it leads to improved outcomes. As new monitoring technologies and approaches are developed, it’s critical that they’re used to focus on the most important information gaps. Data should be rapidly gathered in locations where early information could offer warning signals of future ecosystem change.

In this project we will develop mathematical and statistical approaches to assessing the value of new information. We will optimise management including new protected areas, invasive species management, and tourism management. Then, we will quantify how new information and data streams can improve that management, and optimise those streams.

Optimising long-term management strategies for ecosystem conservation

Many ecosystems around the world can’t withstand the stress of climate change with their decline being rapid and ongoing. New technologies must be developed to conserve these threatened ecosystems. This need poses a new mathematical challenge, as no methods exist to select and develop new conservation technologies that will secure ecosystems into the future.

Technology development usually has two phases:

  • choosing what technologies to develop
  • making a distinct choice years later about how the technologies will be deployed.

Better and more cost-efficient choices now will result in better outcomes for biodiversity when the technologies are eventually deployed. Optimal choices will require advanced mathematical approaches because of the uniquely complex challenges of research and development of new technologies for biodiversity conservation.

In this project we will use long-term optimisation techniques to structure this complex decision problem. We will develop multiple case studies to illustrate the benefits of this process, and the tradeoffs that must be made when tackling these complex decisions.

Converting corals to ecosystem values

People rely upon ecosystems for a multitude of values — we get food, tourism, recreation, jobs, cultural values all from environmental systems. These values are incredibly important when we are planning how to conserve these systems and sustainably use them. However, we can’t always directly observe these values, and it’s difficult to predict how they might change in response to environmental change.

This project will focus on the values on the Great Barrier Reef, and work towards determining how to calculate complex ecosystem values from simple environmental measures like area of coral cover. We will explore this problem in the context of climate change and changing management. We will draw from economic modelling, multi-dimensional parameter characterisation, and predictive modelling.

For most projects working with me, candidates must have a degree in mathematics, statistics, IT, engineering, science (with some quantitative elements), or any related degree with sufficient quantitative components. If you’re not sure if your background is quantitative enough, just ask.

You’re also required to have an interest in mathematics, excellent written and oral communication skills, and the desire to talk to people (and not just mathematicians) about your work. While not required, it’s desirable if you have programming skills in any language and an interest in ecology or the environment. You don’t need to know much about species or ecosystems, but you must be keen to learn.

I’m always interested in chatting with prospective undergrad, honours, PhD students, and postdocs on other projects too. Please give some of our work a read, and contact me explaining your background and interests. Students should consider applying for one of the various scholarships QUT supports.

Prospective post-doctoral scholars should consider applying for an ARC DECRA, or the McDonnell Foundation’s complex systems post-doctoral fellowship. In coming months, I will be advertising for postdocs interested in decision science and mathematics in Great Barrier Reef and Antarctic ecosystems. If you’re interested, follow me on twitter or get in touch to let me know you might become available.

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