PhD: Evaluating Riparian Buffer Zones in Temperate Streams (WaterRA-sponsored)

Deakin University

Geelong, VIC, AU

Project No 4548

Project Title
Evaluating Riparian Buffer Zones in Temperate Streams

Barwon Water

Deakin University


Dr Ty Matthews    [email protected]

Brigid Creasey      [email protected]


Project Scope

The Barwon River is the major source of drinking water for the key regional Victorian city of Geelong and its immediate surrounds. It is also the region’s most important and prominent river in terms of its cultural, ecological, recreational, commercial, and social values. The upper reach of the (East) Barwon River currently faces a number of challenges that pose downstream risks to both water quality and water security. The primary issue is the infestation of invasive weed species, Willows and Glyceria, that have significantly affected river hydrology. In particular, Willow and Glyceria adversely affect water quality and yield; choking the waterways such that it results in restricted and / or diverted lateral flows that increase flooding of adjacent land. This presents a water security issue for Barwon Water through a diminished capacity to transfer water (up to 60 ML per day) from West Barwon Reservoir to the WBIC via a 3 km section of the East Barwon River. Looking more broadly, infestation of Willows and Glyceria has also adversely affected Corangamite CMA’s environmental water release. If Willow infestation worsens, failure of the river embankment could result in the lateral diversion of flows and the river may no longer be a viable option for transfer of water to the WBIC, for environmental water release, as well impacts on local landholders.

Within this context—and following extensive consultation with government agencies, landholders, and other parties—Barwon Water has established a project that will see crown frontage along the 3km stretch of the East Barwon Branch transferred to a Barwon Water-led committee of management. Under the auspices of this committee, Barwon Water will undertake Willow removal, streambed stabilisation, revegetation and stock exclusion—with the substantive aim of improving the water quality and meeting its bulk-transfer entitlements, and the ancillary aim of improving overall waterway health including renaturation to promote the flourishing of a native ecology.

Research Approach

  • Literature review and sampling design – part of confirmation of candidature program with DU
  • Field sampling & some laboratory processing (ecological and water quality)
  • Statistical analysis and reporting
  • Final seminar to report final results
  • Research Thesis

Research Outcomes

  • Assessment of changes in physico-chemical (dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity & temperature) and water quality (nitrogen and phosphorous) before and after completion of restoration works
  • Assessment of changes in microbial assemblages (main focus = E. coli) before and after completion of restoration works
  • Assessment of changes in other biological assemblages before and after completion of restoration works (e.g. fish, macroinvertebrate or riparian vegetation).

Benefits to you

The successful candidate will receive a PhD Scholarship package up to the value of $115,000 over 3 years including:

  • Up to $90,000   Stipend ($30,000 per annum)
  • $20,000   Operating allowance for project expenses, resources, conference support (approx $5,000), attendance at WaterRA events and AWA YWP membership etc
  • $5,000     WaterRA professional development & knowledge sharing support includes mentoring, orientation day, research outcomes video, networking and connection to WaterRA members and the Water sector.
  • Deakin University Tuition fee waiver

Additional benefits include working directly with Barwon Water on an industry knowledge gap where you will see the direct impact of your research outcomes inform future decision making of the surrounding environment.  At Deakin University, under the guidance of experienced supervisors you will learn to master research methodology techniques and strategies to assist you whilst undertaking the research project.

Through Barwon Water, Deakin University and WaterRA networks you will be introduced to multiple stakeholders in Government, community groups, local landowners industry and research experts.

Preferred skills/experience required

We are looking for an enthusiastic researcher who has a passion for working with diverse stakeholders to make a positive contribution toward advancing both scientific and environmental management knowledge associated with ecological restoration activities. Ideally, the candidate will have some experience in hydrological, water quality, and ecological assessment, which includes being comfortable working in both the field and the laboratory. Additional experience in environmental engineering will also be valuable, but not essential. Therefore, it will be beneficial for the candidate to have experience with the following areas of expertise:

  • Ecological assessments, including the collection and analysis of hydrological, water quality and biological data;
  • Knowledge and understanding of microbiology;
  • Knowledge of ecological modelling or geographic information systems would be desirable;
  • Familiar with both univariate and multivariate statistical analyses, preferably PRIMER and/or the R statistical environment;
  • Sound oral and written communication skills, which includes the ability to communicate with both scientific and non-scientific audiences;
  • Experience working with stakeholders outside of the University sector, including advising policy-makers on environmental best practice;
  • Scientific report writing.

Personal Attributes: The candidate should demonstrate the following personal attributes:

  • Passionate about making a difference to the environment through research;
  • Analytical mindset and good problem solving skills;
  • Comfortable working remotely and in the lab;
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to get along well with people from diverse backgrounds;
  • Proficiency with technical report writing, statistical analysis.

 Degree Requirements: The following academic qualifications are important:

  • Engineering, Science or Environmental Science degree (Essential);
  • Honours or Masters degree
  • Enrolment – Full Time only
  • Must meet Deakin University enrolment criteria*

How to Apply:

Students, if you are interested in the above PhD project, contact the above supervisor/s to discuss your suitability to the project.  Students must enrol and secure a primary scholarship at Deakin University. Visit the Deakin University website to ensure you meet their eligibility criteria*. 

Employed water professionals wishing to undertake the above PhD Project as professional development are not eligible for a primary scholarship, please contact the supervisors to discuss your suitability to the project and visit the Deakin University website to ensure you meet their enrolment criteria*.

Candidates, if your experience is deemed suitable and you meet Deakin University elegibility criteria, please submit a WaterRA application form to Carolyn Bellamy.

Click for relevant student information  WaterRA PhD student information

*Deakin University links

Domestic Students         

International Students 

The successful candidate will be located at Deakin University – Waurn Ponds campus, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, 3216 and/or Queenscliff Marine Station, Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia, 3225

PhD Interview

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a formal interview in Geelong on Thursday, 16 April 2020.

Refer to Student Information for further details regarding the application process
Student Applications are to be emailed to Carolyn Bellamy





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