PhD Scholarship Opportunity - Trace element and isotopic signature in hominid teeth

Key words: Human evolution, geochemistry, isotopes, trace elements, primate, teeth, fossil, archaeometry, archaeogeochemistry

Project details:

In teeth, mineralisation of enamel and dentine occurs incrementally and thus retains a sequential record of an individual's early-life chemical exposure - both external and internal (e.g., metabolites). The well-preserved elemental and isotopic signals in fossil teeth have been used to reconstruct trophic levels, diet and migration patterns of early hominins and even in some cases the breastfeeding history of late Pleistocene Homo and extant apes. Reconstructing the isoscape (or exposome) of extinct species and in particular the nursing history is extremely valuable to better understand the early life signal of species that composed the broad primate evolution sequence, including for clarifying when the characteristic early weaning and late maturation of modern humans evolved.

This project aims to improve our understanding of the ecological setting of key primate species of the past few million years using high resolution laser-ablation inductively plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS) as well as other characterisation techniques. We seek a PhD student to work on improving the methodology and protocols of LA-ICPMS mapping and isotopic ratio analyses, while investigating early-life events of key fossils. The PhD student will work alongside a team of scientists from Australia, USA, Germany, France, China and South Africa who will contribute and provide guidance on characterisation techniques, trace element and isotopic analyses, dental anatomy, and primate evolution.

We are seeking a graduate with a strong academic record with experience in archaeometry, geochemistry, chemistry and/or biochemistry and either knowledge or a strong interest to work on human/primate evolution problematic. The student should have robust computer skills. Experience with coding in matlab or R is a plus. There is also a large probability to participate in field work campaign in Africa and/or Asia.


Admission to candidature is granted to students who possess a Bachelor's degree with first or second class honours, or a Masters degree with the relevant research component.

Location: Lismore Campus

How to apply: Send your resume, transcripts, certificates and relevant publications (if any) in one PDF file via email to:

Review of applications will begin August 1st, 2019 and will continue until the position is filled. Starting period is negotiable.

  1. Outcome of expression of interest: You'll be notified of the outcome of your expression of interest by email.
  2. Interviews: If your expression of interest is successful, you will be invited to attend an online interview for both the scholarship and for the PhD candidature. Instructions will be provided in the invitation.

PhD stipend of 3 year duration to support living costs, rate increased annually. The 2019 rate is $27,596 per year (indexed annually). Co-funded by Agilent Technologies Australia Pty Ltd and Southern Cross University.

posted: 14 June 2019     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.