PhD scholarship – Understanding the social life of smart water technology for protecting urban streams

University of Melbourne

Melbourne VIC, Australia 🇦🇺

We, at the University of Melbourne, are very excited to be advertising a fantastic PhD opportunity (with scholarship) for an environmental social scientist.

Project title: “Understanding the social life of smart water technology for protecting urban streams”
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Scholarship: $43,000 p.a.
Submit EoI by: 17 February 2023

Monbulk Creek Smart Water Network

This environmental social science PhD project is part of an interdisciplinary research program which is trialling an innovative, public-private partnership approach to managing urban water in a changing climate. The objective of this program is to test the technical and social feasibility of operating networked ‘smart’ rainwater tanks and storages across public and private land in the Monbulk Creek catchment (Melbourne, Australia). This network enables the coordinated release of water to improve the ecological health of the creek (particularly for platypus), as well as reducing flood risk and providing non-potable water supply for private use. The Monbulk Creek Smart Water Network research program is funded by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Program, in partnership with Melbourne Water, South-East Water, and Yarra Ranges Council.

Understanding the social life of smart water technology

Installing networked, real time control technology on household rainwater tanks creates new possibilities for the ways in which residents: experience and make decisions about water around their home; engage with water management agencies; and relate to their local environment. For example, rather than simply being users of water, residents can become partners in managing urban water for public benefit. The smart tank reconfigures relations within the sociotechnical network of urban water management.

In this PhD, you will use an exploratory, qualitative social research design to investigate the ways in which the networked smart tank: 1) transforms, and is transformed by, household practices; 2) enables new relations between the home, local environments, and the sociotechnical network of urban water management. The PhD may involve interviews, surveys and creative methods to generate insight into the ways in which residents engage with this new technology in the domestic setting and within an urban catchment. Applicants should have a social science background (sociology, STS, human geography, environmental governance, or a related discipline) and previous experience of qualitative social research.

This PhD will be undertaken in the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences at the University of Melbourne, within the Environmental Social Science Group and in collaboration with the Waterway Ecosystem Research Group. This PhD will involve collaboration with an interdisciplinary research team and local industry partners, with fantastic opportunities to connect the research with practice in the water sector.

Application process

The PhD is open to domestic and international applicants. A generous scholarship of $43,000 per annum is offered for three years, as well as funds to support fieldwork and researcher development. Before applying, please make sure you meet the entry requirements for the Faculty of Science at The University of Melbourne:

Applicants should submit their expression of interest by 17 February 2023 to Dr Stephanie Lavau (stephanie.lavau [at] including:

  • a cover letter outlining your research profile and interest in this research (max. 2 pages)
  • a CV, including relevant professional experience and education, any research publications or other research outputs, and details of two academic referees
  • academic transcripts
  • a relevant sample of academic writing (e.g. a thesis chapter, report, or publication).

Once endorsed by the supervisor, the successful applicant will then proceed with an application for admission to the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne.





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development