Conservation of WA's marine benthic habitats using environmental genomics

Saving our underwater forests with cutting-edge technology in environmental genomics


Coastal ecosystems in Western Australia are facing a time of unprecedented pressures from a combination of population growth and climate change. This project will deliver impactful and innovative research in the field of environmental genomics that will increase the resolution and scale of the understanding of the processes and environmental drivers of habitat change across WA coastal systems.

This project will involve sampling across several sites along the WA coastline, with a specific emphasis on Gathaagudu (Shark Bay), a World Heritage Site with important Traditional Owner, fisheries, and biodiversity significance that is under marked pressure from climate change.

This project forms part of the Molecular Ecology Theme of the Integrated Coastal Analyses and Sensor Technology (ICoAST) project. The ICoAST project is a significant collaboration between marine researchers in the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC), a partnership between AIMS, CSIRO, UWA Oceans Institute, and DPIRD. As such there will be significant scope for the successful applicant to collaborate with the research team to design a project that is of personal interest to them within this broad remit.


Project goals:

  • Develop and employ environmental genomic approaches to help identify novel indicators of health and resilience of habitat forming species (primarily seagrasses) to climate change
  • Work within a collaborative team of interdisciplinary scientists to integrate molecular data with other datasets (e.g. hydrodynamics, mapping, animal movement)

As part of this project the successful PhD applicant will conduct:

  • Field methods: develop, plan and undertake field surveys and sample collections from small vessels at key sampling locations across the coast of WA, including the Shark Bay (Gathaagudu) World Heritage Site.
  • Carry out genomics research in a laboratory setting. The techniques the applicant will use will largely depend on the scientific questions of most interest to the applicant, but may include methods such as transcriptomics, metagenomics or microscopy (e.g. Nano-SIMS).

Suggested readings


Research team leader: Dr Matthew Fraser

I am a marine ecologist whose primary research focusses on interactions between marine primary producers and their environment. I am specifically interested in how seagrass health is impacted by their surrounding sediments, including associated microbial communities. I am also interested in understanding the bottom up impacts of declines in marine primary producers related to climate change. 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


Funding and Collaborations

  External Collaborators:
    • This research project constitutes a significant collaboration between marine researchers in the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC), a partnership between AIMS, CSIRO, UWA Oceans Institute, and DPIRD (previously, the Department of Fisheries).



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
  • There are no formal eligibility criteria for this project, but the following list is desirable:
    • Diving certification and diving experience is desirable, but not essential
    • Experience in standard molecular techniques (e.g. nucleic acid extractions, PCR) is desirable
    • Experience in bioinformatics related to genomics data is desirable, but not essential
    • Qualifications and experience with boating activities is a plus
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 [email protected] 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.

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