PhD opportunity for From Method to Market project

Australian grazing enterprises operate on just under half of Australia’s total land area. For many years, the industry has utilised a ‘clean and green’ marketing advantage, which has traditionally been based on the production environment being free of zoonotic diseases and pollution. However, consumer and community expectations for ‘clean and green’ increasingly incorporate a greater diversity of values including reef water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity conservation, animal welfare and other social and cultural outcomes. In order for grazing enterprises to be able to meet emerging and established market expectations that incorporate ethical production systems, it is essential to demonstrate that the method of production does sustain natural capital.

This PhD project is situated within a larger inter-disciplinary project. In it you will engage with livestock producers to quantify the biodiversity benefits of land management within the context of emerging ethical markets. While the larger ‘Method to Market’ project (jointly funded by MLA and the Queensland Government departments of DAF and DES) will evaluate a broad range of environmental and production values (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, drought resilience, livestock production and enterprise profitability), you will focus on the biodiversity component. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute directly to both the growing ecosystem restoration and overall sustainability in agriculture fields of research.

The overarching aims of the From Method to Market project are to:

  • review available literature on existing scientific methods for livestock producers to be remunerated for providing ecosystem services to the community whilst producing livestock
  • consider enhancements to existing methods to improve producer adoption
  • develop new scientific methods for livestock producers to be remunerated for providing ecosystem services to the community whilst producing livestock.

To assess these complex systems across regions, and at a range of scales (i.e., paddock to landscape), you will scope out and investigate relationships between direct measures of biodiversity, and indicators of biodiversity and grazing land productivity using market recognised biodiversity assessment frameworks such as BioCondition, as well as remote sensing technology. Depending on the market requirements and the spatial arrangement and scale of collaborating properties, it may be that floristics, avian, small mammal fauna, reptiles and/or invertebrates will be the most appropriate target taxa. The bioregion of focus will be the Brigalow belt in Queensland. There is plenty of scope for the successful applicant to pursue their interests in this area.

Our team is looking for an enthusiastic PhD student with a broad understanding of not just species and ecosystems, but the importance of ecosystems as assets underpinning nature’s services to people and their relevance to emerging ethical markets.

There is a top up and project funds for this PhD but the student will be expected to be successful in achieving a scholarship. If you are interested in this opportunity please contact Dr Bradd Witt (University of Queensland) or Dr Teresa Eyre (Department of Environment and Science).