PhD: Effect of Water Streamflow on River Food Webs via Society for Freshwater Science

University of Canberra

Canberra, NSW, AU

We are seeking a PhD candidate to join the Centre for Applied Water Science at the University of Canberra, Australia, to examine the response of river food webs to variation in streamflow. The scholarship is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Project description

Human activities have greatly altered the magnitude and timing of flow in rivers worldwide. This has substantial impacts on river ecosystems because flow mediates the physical and chemical environment, regulates connectivity to upstream and floodplain habitats, and supports the life cycle of organisms. The overall project aims to build new knowledge around how changes in flow affect the structure and function of river food webs. The expected outcome of this project is an enhanced capacity to predict the ecological consequences of water management scenarios. This will be achieved through a combination of field work (focused on the Lachlan River system in central NSW), laboratory experiments, and quantitative modelling. 

We currently do not have a robust understanding of how the energy sources of consumers such as fish change through time and in response to flow events. This PhD candidate will characterise the structure of the river food webs by collecting samples of fish, invertebrates, and their potential food items. This information will inform models of energy flux through the food web.

Questions may include:

  • What is the aquatic food web structure of the Lachlan River and how does it vary spatially and temporally?
  • How does flow and flow history alter the major energy sources of consumers?
  • How do patterns of material cycling and food-web energy fluxes at short time scales (e.g. daily to weekly) during an environmental flow event?

Research environment

The position is based at the Centre for Applied Water Science (CAWS) within the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) at the University of Canberra. The centre has strengths in basic and applied research to address complex environmental problems. Resources for the project include field vehicles, field equipment and experimental flumes at the University of Canberra. The project team will work in close collaboration with researchers at CSIRO Land and Water. The IAE typically has a cohort of 20-30 PhD students and maintains a program of graduate seminars, social events, and administrative support to enhance the PhD experience. The Australian PhD is a 3.5 year program which is largely research, with graduate training opportunities rather than extensive formal coursework. 

The candidates will be supervised by the project lead Dr Darren Giling (University of Canberra/CSIRO) and co-supervised by Prof. LeRoy Poff (Colorado State University, USA), Prof. Ross Thompson (University of Canberra), and Dr Paul McInerney (CSIRO).


To be eligible, the applicant must have a first-class Honours degree or four years of undergraduate study in a relevant field coupled with a publication record to establish first class equivalence, and personal attributes conducive to working constructively and productively as part of research team. Candidates may also be considered if they have a research-focussed Masters degree or equivalent in a relevant field. Experience in laboratory experiments involving animals, skills in animal identification, quantitative modelling, and a willingness to conduct fieldwork in remote locations are also desirable.


A three-year scholarship is available (AUD$27,609 per annum full-time).

Application instructions

Interested individuals should submit their application by email to Dr Darren Giling ([email protected]). Please attach a single PDF file with a 1 page statement on which project you would like to be considered for and why you are interested, a curriculum vitae, transcripts and the names and contact information of 3 referees.

Evaluation of the applications will begin immediately, with an anticipated start date in the second half of 2021.





IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development