Monitoring and measuring cumulative impacts on marine biodiversity

Monitoring and measuring cumulative impacts on marine biodiversity


Coastal ecosystems in Western Australia are facing a time of rapid and unprecedented pressures from a combination of population growth and climate change. In particular, marine habitats have been greatly impacted by climate change in our marine World Heritage Sites, including at iconic sites like Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef.

This project will deliver impactful and innovative research with the fundamental aim of improving our ability to detect, mitigate, and set baselines for cumulative impacts on coastal marine habitats. This project will involve a combination of field and laboratory-based work to address this central aim. Flexibility exists for techniques to be applied to this project (e.g. ecology, physiologic, molecular biology, modelling), and applicants are encouraged to discuss with project leaders.

Project goals:

  • Undertake experimental, field, and molecular studies to assess the impacts of cumulative stressors on keystone marine habitats, like seagrasses beds, coral reefs
  • Develop and employ cutting-edge environmental genomic approaches to help identify novel indicators of health and resilience of habitat forming species (primarily seagrasses and corals) to climate change
  • Work within a collaborative team of interdisciplinary scientists to integrate molecular data with other datasets (e.g. hydrodynamics, mapping, animal movement)

The practical aspects (experimental, molecular, field) of the projects will be conducted at Minderoo’s state-of-the-art Exmouth Research Laboratory (MERL) and will take advantage of these advanced facilities within the MERL. These research project(s) are fully funded, with student financial support available from within the partnerships.

This candidate would run experiments examining the cumulative impacts of local (e.g. sedimentation) and global stressors (e.g. climate change) on a range of keystone species (e.g. corals, seagrasses, mangroves) for impactful conservation data for strategic outcomes in Western Australia. This candidate would work closely with Traditional Owner communities and key conservation groups, particularly in the Exmouth region, and other groups within Minderoo and the UWA Oceans Institute- including the new Minderoo/UWA OceanOmics Laboratory.

Eligibility criteria

The successful candidate(s) will be supported to apply for competitive Postgraduate Research Scholarship funding offered through UWA and/or the Forrest Research Foundation.

Candidates preferably should have at least one peer-reviewed scientific publication and demonstrate a high level of academic achievement at their the Masters or Honours level.

Candidates should also demonstrate an interest and specific skills relevant to the project (for example, molecular biology, ecology, or modelling), with the desire to develop new skills and knowledge. The positions are open to both Australian and non-Australian citizens.

Research team leader: Dr Kate Quigley

I am a molecular ecologist. My current research focusses on understanding adaptation and the genomic basis of stress tolerance and resilience of coral reef organisms across the Indo-Pacific and Indian Oceans. I use ‘omics tools (population genomic, transcriptomic, metagenomic) and reproductive biology with field, experimental, and modelling methods to understand what makes some species resistant to stress while others are more vulnerable.


Research team leader: Dr Matthew Fraser

I am a marine ecologist that examines interactions between marine habitats and their environment. I am interested in understanding the bottom up impacts of climate-driven habitat loss. I address these research areas with a range of different methodologies - using molecular techniques, stable isotopes and plant physiology in both controlled tank systems and in large scale field experiments. I also work closely with megafauna ecologists to better understand the interactions between habitats and marine animals of cultural, social and economic significance.



Minderoo Foundation logo

Minderoo Foundation


As part of this project, we are seeking to undertake strategic and impactful science for Western Australia. As such, we are keen to link in with other researchers, managers, or organizations to achieve this goal.

How to Apply 

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

Similar projects you may be interested in

Pebble Mouse

Climate-driven behavioural flexibility in the Pilbara pebble-mound mouse (Western Australia)

Recent research has indicated that as Australia’s great landmass continues to dry on an evolutionary timescale, behavioural adaptations – such as sociality – may be key to survival for some species. However, the quickening pace of contemporary climate change demands that there is an urgent need to understand how species will respond on an ecological timescale. At this scale, immediately observable behavioural shifts are likely to provide early signals of climate stress prior to any detectable changes in demography or distribution. Despite the value of monitoring behaviour(s) as a management tool for quickly detecting species responses to changing climates, research to date has focused on a limited suite of traits, ecological contexts and climatic stimuli. This project, which studies the enigmatic pebble mound mouse (Pseudomys chapmani) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (a biodiversity hotspot known for its climatic variability), aims to uncover whether changes in behaviour are effective for dealing with environmental extremes and unpredictable climatic conditions. It will integrate laboratory- and field-based investigations to examine behavioural responses to climatic variability and establish how these responses influence individual fitness and future population resilience. This research will advance knowledge on climate-driven behavioural adaptation and improve understanding of how species will cope with Australia’s changing climate.