PhD Project - Linking plant-pollinator network structure to plant reproductive function in Australia

Help advance our understanding of a vital ecosystem service at the Fenner School of Environment & Society at The Australian National University (ANU) in collaboration with the CSIRO Future Science Platform Environomics (FSPE).

Approximately 90% of all plant species depend on pollinators for reproduction, making pollination a key ecosystem service vital for the maintenance of plant populations. Many studies indicate that pollinator species are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance, leading many to suggest we are heading for a ‘pollinator crisis’. Few studies have linked changes in pollination services to changes in reproductive function. Working as part of a larger project with multiple international and national collaborators the candidate will investigate the links between pollen limitation, plant-pollinator network structure, plant and pollinator traits, and the invasive/native status of plants and pollinators.

What you’ll do

The candidate will document plant-pollinator networks, pollen transfer networks and conducted pollen limitation and pollinator dependency experiments in established Australian field sites. In addition to applying traditional field methods in pollination ecology the candidate will apply metabarcoding methods to the development of pollen transfer network.

When and where

The project is expected to start in the Australian spring, i.e. the last quarter of 2022. You’ll be based at the Fenner School of Environment & Society at ANU in Australia’s National capital Canberra. ANU is a world leading university being the highest ranked in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere by the 2022 QS World University Rankings. The field sites will be in the surround region of New South Wales including Kosciuszko National Park.

Supervisory Team

Dr Joanne Bennett (ANU)

Professor Saul Cunningham (ANU)

Dr Francisco Encinas-Viso (CSIRO)

Financial Support

Reasonable project costs including field and laboratory research and conference travel expenses are covered.

We offer 1 fully funded PhD stipend of $28,106/year, tax free, for 3 years as part of a Discovery Award (DECRA). Additional top-ups may be available.

Additional opportunities are available for highly ranked applicants for a PhD stipend scholarship at The Australian National University (2021 rate: AUD$28,597/year, tax free, for 3 years), for details see Queries regarding ANU scholarship matters can be directed to

Eligibility and Criteria

This project is open to application from both domestic and international applicants.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD at the ANU. A bachelor’s degree with first-class honours or a research master’s degree from a recognised university is a prerequisite.

All applicants with an interest in pollination ecology are encouraged to apply. Although not essential it is beneficial that the applicant has some of the following desirable attributes.

  • Skills and experience in statistical analysis using R software
  • Experience in scientific writing
  • An interest in conducting extensive fieldwork in remote locations
  • Experience in identifying taxa in the field or laboratory with experience in plant and insect identification viewed partially favourably
  • Experience conducting field and or laboratory experiments
  • Experience conducting molecular work would be beneficial

Tasks include:

  • Fieldwork to collect data on plant-pollinator interactions and conduct pollinator dependency and pollen limitation experiments
  • Laboratory based work for the identification and curation of pollen, plant, and insect specimens using a range of methods including microscopes, identification keys and molecular techniques e.g., metabarcoding
  • Data analysis and statistical evaluation using R software
  • Writing a thesis in accordance with own skills and interests
  • Publishing scientific journal articles

Applications close: 14th March 2022

Any interested candidates are invited to discuss the project with Dr Joanne Bennett via email

To apply please send a CV with three referees and a one-page cover letter outlining your eligibility, interests in pollination ecology, and skills and experiences relevant to the position including any applicable desirable attributes (for details see Eligibility and Criteria above) to before the application closing date.