PhD position "Groundwater nutrient in
tropical coastal systems"


Position: The National Marine Science Centre and the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry at Southern Cross University (SCU), Lismore, Australia, is offering a PhD scholarship for a suitable student in the field of groundwater hydrology. This project will examine the pathways and magnitude of groundwater nutrient to the Great Barrier Reef and the Islands of the South Pacific. Applicants are encouraged to view the group's websites www.barefootbiogeochemistry.com and www.scu.edu.au/coastal-biogeochemistry for information of the projects that we are involved.

Background: The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Islands of the South Pacific are under growing pressure from a range of factors including increasing instances of eutrophication. This has led to changes in coral biodiversity and coverage, macro-algal abundance, coral recruitment, impacts on seagrass function and coverage and a range of impacts on cultural and socio-economic amenity. While the delivery of nutrient via surface waters has been extensively studied, the extent of nutrient delivery via groundwater remains largely unknown. For example, the current knowledge of the GBR's nutrient budget can only explain about 27% of the nitrogen necessary to support life in the GBR. This lack of knowledge around the source of nutrient to tropical systems creates a significant barrier to the development of effective mitigation measures. Importantly, there can be a large lag time between the delivery of nutrient to aquifers and its discharge to coastal systems. Understanding, how and when this nutrient will be delivered is essential for any future projection of nutrient loads to tropical waters. This is particularly important in systems like the GBR and South Pacific Islands as reef health is essential to the social, economic and environmental bottom lines of the communities that are dependent on them.

Role: While there is flexibility to shape the role of the successful applicant to the skills and interests of the individual, it is envisioned that the student will use a combination of cutting edge experimental and modelling approaches. Natural radioactive tracers (i.e., radon and radium isotopes) will be used to quantify groundwater and porewater exchange rates and the related export of nutrients in both the GBR and the main island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. The candidate will use state-of-the-art stable isotope techniques to identify groundwater sources and biogeochemical transformations, and tritium dating techniques will be used to determine the age of discharging groundwater. Finally, the student will use hydrogeophysical modelling to quantify and predict future nutrient loads.

Pre-requisites: Applicants will need to have a 1st Class Honours or Masters degree in a related field such as groundwater hydrology, biogeochemistry, or environmental chemistry. Previous experience with modelling and/or stable isotope techniques will be viewed favourably, but are not essential.

Stipend and application procedure: The three year PhD scholarship will provide an annual stipend of $25,861. Interested applicants should send their CV, and a short letter highlighting their research background and interest in this area, to Dr Douglas Tait - douglas.tait@scu.edu.au. Short-listed applicants will be notified within 2 weeks of the closing date.

The application closing date is 5pm 7 July 2017.

posted: 14 June 2017     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.