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C3 2011 PhD Project List - Terrestrial Ecohydrology Research Group

The Terrestrial Ecohydrology Research Group within C3 is principally concerned with the investigating the relationships amongst climate, climate change, vegetation function and vegetation structure. TERG is looking for suitably qualified candidates for the following PhD research topics:

Title: Groundwater-vegetation interactions
Supervisor: Dr James Cleverly, Professor Derek Eamus

Natural and agricultural ecosystems are dependent upon groundwater for transpiration and survival in Australia. This project utilises measurements of groundwater properties (e.g., depth, temperature, and salinity) and transpiration from vegetation (e.g., sap velocity and ecosystem evapotranspiration) to evaluate groundwater-vegetation interactions. This project has the potential of applying hydraulic mathematics and modeling to compare and contrast the effects of groundwater availability on plant ecophysiology and the effects of transpiration on groundwater dynamics.

Next steps?: If you are interested in either of these projects please send your CV with a brief outline covering why you are interested in pursuing this research area to: Dr James Cleverley

 

Title: Partitioning carbon and water fluxes between canopy and understory
Supervisor: Dr James Cleverly, Professor Derek Eamus

 

Central Australia is covered with semi-arid ecosystems dominated by Mulga (i.e., Acacia) and grasses in closed woodlands and open savannas. The Terrestrial Ecohydrology Research Group is beginning a research project in which eddy covariance will be utilised to evaluate bulk transport of carbon dioxide and water between these ecosystems and the atmosphere. To better understand how individual canopy and understory vegetation responds to precipitation pulses, this project will evaluate leaf and whole plant measurements of water and carbon fluxes.

Next steps?: If you are interested in either of these projects please send your CV with a brief outline covering why you are interested in pursuing this research area to: Dr James Cleverly


Title: Integrating field measurement and modelling approaches for the study of groundwater dependent ecosystems in Australia
Supervisor: Dr Zheng Li, Professor Derek Eamus

 

The research of the ecohydrology research team at C3 UTS led by Professor Derek Eamus focuses on the interactions of plant, soil and atmosphere and their responses to local climate and climate change. The team uses several advanced technologies, including Eddy Covariance (EC) and Surface Laser Scintillometry (SLS), along with more traditional (for example measuring sapflow, leaf-scale photosynthesis and stomatal conductance and hydraulic architecture). Field data are used extensively by the team to verify/modify the SPA (Soil Plant and Atmosphere) land surface model for the simulation of the ecohydrology of Australian landscapes. Every field measurement, however, has its own footprint (the area covered that has influence on the collected data) which regulates/restricts the application of these data in modelling processes. There are many footprint studies that have focused on particular field measurement. Studies that integrate field data into a common modelling process, however, are still scarce. Similarly meta-analyses of multiple-site data sets are only now being used in Australia.

Dr Li is seeking a PhD candidate with a strong aptitude in applied physics or mathematics who wishes to apply this background to environmental sciences. The successful candidate will work closely with our interdisciplinary team with experts on field measurement and land surface models. The proposed PhD project will focus on statistical methods, quality assessment of large data sets, meta-analyses and footprint analyses of the data collected in our field experiments and the application of these data in modelling processes. An ability to write in Fortran or similar code would be useful.

Next steps?: If you are interested in either of these projects please send your CV with a brief outline covering why you are interested in pursuing this research area to: Dr Zheng Li


Title: Water and carbon fluxes from leaf to canopy across contrasted water supply ecosystems.
Supervisor: Dr Nicolas Boulain, Professor Derek Eamus

Water and carbon fluxes at the leaf scale depend of micro-environmental and physiological conditions, but at the canopy scale, the interface between ecosystems and atmosphere, there is large variability of these conditions. This project will utilise data from ecophysiological measurements at the leaf scale, from eddy covariance systems, plus leaf area index (LAI) and soil characteristics data, and modelling to evaluate scaling systems between leaf and canopy levels.

Next steps?: If you are interested in either of these projects please send your CV with a brief outline covering why you are interested in pursuing this research area to: Dr Nicolas Boulain

Title: The ecological significance of cuticular conductance
Supervisor: Dr Daniel Taylor, Professor Derek Eamus

Leaves are coated with a thin semi-permeable wax layer referred to as the ‘cuticle’. The primary function of the cuticle is to limit evaporative water loss from epidermal leaf cells, thereby preventing excessive leaf desiccation. Recent laboratory experiments have shown that the conductance of the leaf cuticle to water may play a large role in the how stomata respond to evaporative demand (Eamus et al. 2008), at least in some species. However, the generality of this finding and the importance of variation in cuticular conductance as an ecological adaptation have not been examined.
The project will use a combination of field- and laboratory-based measurements and will involve the use of portable infra-red gas analysis systems, lab-based gas exchange systems (which allow manipulation of air humidity), chemical solvents for manipulating cuticular conductance, and mass-spectrometry for measuring isotopes of oxygen and carbon in leaves (measures of leaf-water use). In addition to a purely field component, this project will also utilise a ‘common garden’ approach, where seeds from each experimental site are collected in the field, grown in a glasshouse, and then subject to laboratory-based experimental manipulations. The goal of this project is to clarify the physiological linkages between the physiological properties of the leaf cuticle, the conductance of the leaf cuticle, the sensitivity of stomata to evaporative demand, leaf water-use and site climate in Australian plant communities.

Next steps?: If you are interested in either of these projects please send your CV with a brief outline covering why you are interested in pursuing this research area to: Dr Daniel Taylor
 

For more information on becoming a Postgraduate research student at UTS and scholarship eligibility and timelines

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