1: Predicting the genetic outcomes of threatened species translocations

Are you passionate about conserving endangered species? Are you interested in understanding how to use genetic models to improve the outcomes of species reintroductions programs? We are offering two, fully-funded, three-year PhD position at Monash University in Australia. The proposed PhD projects will work as part of a larger research project, working with a team of scientists and practitioners to explore the effectiveness of models to predict the genetic outcomes of reintroduction strategies for threatened species, and develop a toolkit to improve genetic management of threatened species.


Translocating individuals to establish new populations is an increasingly common tool for managing threatened species. We can use genetic information to plan translocations and predict the consequences of different strategies for genetic diversity within existing and newly established populations. However, it is unclear how well these models predict on-the-ground outcomes for populations. Using models developed before and after translocations take place, this project will work with conservation management agencies to evaluate the genetic outcomes of different translocations strategies.


The students will be involved in developing genetic models assessing the genetic outcomes for source and recipient populations of different translocation scenarios for medium-sized marsupials with different life history strategies. One is a carnivore with a low reproductive rate. One is an omnivore with a faster reproductive rate. The models developed will be used to inform translocations and the students will then evaluate whether the models accurately predicted the genetic outcomes for populations.


The PhD student will work with a team of researchers led by Dr Carly Cook at Monash University, in collaboration with Dr Carlo Pacioni at the Arthur Rhylar Institute for Environmental Research and researchers at the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions.


The successful applicant must have the equivalent of a first-class research Masters or honours degree in a relevant subject area, involving a research project of no less than 6 months full-time equivalent. The student should have a strong background in population genetics and a willingness to develop skills in quantitative modelling and coding. Experience analysing genetic data from msat and SNPs is desirable.


Monash University is a member of the Group of Eight, Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, and is ranked 55 in the world (QS World University Rankings 2021). To find out more about Monash University’s PhD program visit: https://www.monash.edu/study/how-to-apply


Interested applicants should send a CV and an expression of interest summarizing motivation and experience, a CV, and 1-3 professional referees (name, address, telephone & email).

2: Using Artificial Intelligence to Improve Evidence Synthesis for Conservation Management

Are you a computer scientists with an interest in conserving biodiversity? Are you a conservation scientists with a passion for computer science? We are looking for a student to work on a project identifying, adapting and developing tools from computer science and artificial intelligence that can make evidence synthesis faster, easier and cheaper to conduct. This fully-funded scholarship from the Monash Data Futures Institute would be to work with a multidisciplinary team of conservation scientists, evidence-synthesis specialists and experts in computer science led by Dr Carly Cook.


Evidence-based conservation requires that conservation managers can access the best available evidence to support their decisions. At present, identifying, sorting and filtering that evidence by quality, then extracting and synthesising relevant evidence and making it available to managers is a hugely time consuming endeavour. The time and money require make this unaffordable in most cases. However, technological advances are making it possible to use artificial intelligence and other tools from computer science to facilitate many of these steps.


We are looking for a student who will explore the existing potential and develop new tools to improve evidence synthesis in conservation. This project will involve:

  • Formation of a community of practice that brings together policymakers, environmental experts, review scientists and IT / data scientists
  • Identification of an environmental challenge / topic area where there is a need for evidence resources to inform management
  • Identification and testing of relevant tools from data science to assist in the different stage of evidence synthesis
  • Developing and testing approaches to keeping an online map and library of evidence updated as a ‘living’ resource


A strong background in data science, including an understanding of machine learning and software development. Strong creative and analytical skills. An interest in biodiversity conservation and applied research. Desirable – working knowledge of key review tasks such as literature searching, screening, quality appraisal and data extraction


The PhD student will work with a team of researchers led by Dr Carly Cook and Dr Jessica Walsh within the School of Biological Sciences, and Associate Professor Peter Bragge and Dr Brea Kunstler from the Monash Sustainable Development Institute. Together with researchers in Data Futures at Monash University this highly interdisciplinary team have expertise in conservation, health sciences, climate change, evidence synthesis, artificial intelligence and computer science.


Interested applicants should send an expression of interest summarizing motivation and experience, a CV, academic transcripts and 1-3 professional referees (name, address, telephone & email). Expression of interest can be submitted  by clicking here

Other potential projects

1: Assessing the role of scientists within conservation management agencies

This project would work with Dr Carly Cook, Prof. Richard Kingsford and Dr Dirk Roux to understand the important role that scientists play within conservation management organisations. The candidate must have an interest in the role of knowledge exchange in promoting evidence-based conservation, and in developing skills in social research methods. Click here for more information.

2: Improving shark and ray conservation through better fisheries management

This project will explore the impact of recreational fishers on the conservation of sharks and rays. These species are often caught as by-catch but post-release outcomes for these species can be poor. The research will work to understand how fishers interact with sharks and rays when caught, and developing and implementing methods to achieve behavioural change in their interactions with captured individuals. The project is fully funded and the successful applicant will work with myself, A/Prof. Richard Reina and Dr Jessica Walsh. Experience with fisheries management and social research methods would be an advantage. Click here for more information.

3: Conservation psychology

This project will explore a range of factors relating to the psychology of how we achieve conservation objectives. For example, how do values influence perspectives about conservation? Are optimistic or pessimistic messages about conservation more effective reaching the public? If you are interested in hearing more about this project then get in context with Carly. Candidates with a background in psychology or social research methods will have an advantage, but this is not essential for the position.


Check back in 2022.

Postdoctoral research positions

If you are interested in a PhD or a Postdoctoral research position to work in the lab please send your CV (including publications and academic results) and an expression of interest outlining your research interests and motivation to Dr Carly Cook.

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