PhD opportunity: Red List of Ecosystems

LacAlaotra: Emily Nicholson 2007Ecosystem-level management is increasingly the focus of governments, NGOs and scientists, across fisheries, natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. Effective management relies on understanding the risks to biodiversity at the ecosystem-level. The Red List of Ecosystems was developed over the last decade to provide a set of transparent, repeatable and quantitative rules for assessing the risk of ecosystem collapse, and culminated in their formal adoption in May 2014 by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), the world’s biggest environmental organisation. The criteria assess (A) change in distribution, (B) restricted distribution, (C) change in abiotic processes, (D) change in biotic function, and (E) quantitative risk analysis through process-based modelling.

This exciting project will focus on a range of research questions on the Red List of Ecosystems, through case studies in marine, terrestrial and/or freshwater ecosystems, and quantitative analyses. These may include (but are not limited to):

  • how ecosystem risk can be assessed using multiple measures of degradation, and how these may be represented spatially;
  • how to make assessments under uncertainty, including effective use of expert judgement;
  • integrating Red List assessments with other information including ecosystem services and threatened species (e.g. Red List of Threatened Species).

Required skills and experience

The student will need to be able to work independently, showing a high level of initiative. They will need to have some quantitative skills (e.g. statistical or process-based modelling), preferably in R. The student will get a great understanding of how this important policy tools works, meet people involved in ecosystem assessment at national and international scales, and gain experience in quantitative methods for ecosystem assessment.

Project funding and supervision

The primary supervisor will be Dr Emily Nicholson at Deakin University (Burwood campus), with co-supervisors to be drawn from a team of researchers at Deakin, UNSW, The University of Melbourne and overseas (e.g. IUCN Cambridge, IVIC Caracas Venezuela) – see

The project will commence in early or mid 2016. Students must obtain scholarship (e.g., an Australian Postgraduate Award or a Deakin University Postgraduate Research Scholarship, or an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, and can apply for an annual ‘top up’ of $5,000 per annum for three years. The student will be based primarily at Deakin University, Burwood.

Please contact Emily Nicholson (

Closing date October 31st 2015, but please get in contact as soon as possible for discussions and an informal interview.


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