Prospective students

The WERG are an interdisciplinary group of hydrological, ecological, social and geomorphological researchers, with strong links to Melbourne Water through the Melbourne Waterway Research Practice Partnership ( We offer a stimulating, collegiate environment for students interested in applied research in river science, with strong links to management practice.

Current opportunities:

PhD Project: Predicting geomorphic change in urban streams from big data
Supervisors: Dr Kathy Russell, Professor Tim Fletcher

The Project: Urbanization enlarges and profoundly simplifies river channels, and yet there is currently no accepted model for the expected extent and severity of channel change given a set of catchment characteristics. Big data (using LiDAR and regional datasets) can, for the first time, allow us to investigate region-wide patterns of urban stream geomorphic degradation using statistical models and data mining techniques. Through careful extraction and analysis of metrics and indicators of geomorphic condition and trajectory, channel evolution models can be developed and quantified, leading to greater understanding of urban impacts on stream health. To get reliable and useful information from this data, data quality needs to be understood, data extraction techniques refined and data extensions prioritised to the areas of greatest predictive importance. In addition, understanding the aspects of stream geomorphology that have the greatest impact on ecosystems (for example, simplification of in-stream features) is essential to understand and quantify the mechanisms impacts of catchment change on stream biodiversity.
A PhD project is available to develop predictive models of channel morphologic change, including evolution of ecologically-relevant geomorphic metrics, in response to catchment and river corridor urbanization.
The Benefits: The candidate will have the freedom to address their area/s of greatest interest within this topic. The project will be based predominantly upon GIS analysis of LiDAR and other regional datasets, with fieldwork to validate methods. The project will involve a close partnership with industry leaders in waterway management. It will be undertaken as part of the Melbourne Waterways Research Practice Partnership (MWRPP) between Melbourne Water and the University of Melbourne. The PhD will be based in the Waterway Ecosystem Research Group (WERG) – a world leading research group renowned for its supportive and collegiate culture. This will provide the successful applicant with a uniquely valuable work environment as part of a multidisciplinary team of eco-hydrologists, geomorphologists, stream ecologists and riparian ecologists. Furthermore, the close partnership with Melbourne Water will facilitate collaborative research and the effective translation of findings into policy and management; with ultimate benefits for stream health and the liveability of urban communities. These links are also critical to facilitate future employment and research possibilities.
We are offering a PhD top-up scholarship of $10,000 per annum, plus fieldwork expenses of $5,000 per annum for a highly competent and enthusiastic student to undertake this research. The students will need to obtain an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship or Melbourne Research Scholarship at the University of Melbourne. Thus, a first-class honours or master’s degree, and/or evidence of publishing in international peer-reviewed scientific journals will be essential. Information regarding scholarships and admission for the University of Melbourne can be found at
The Successful Candidate: The successful applicants will have an appreciation of fluvial geomorphology and good quantitative skills, ideally with basic literacy in GIS software (ArcGIS or QGIS) and data analysis software (R or Python). Importantly, this project requires an independently-motivated candidate with excellent communications skills as you will be required to work effectively with researchers across disciplines and industry practitioners. The preferred starting date for this project is early-2021.
Applicants should submit an expression of interest, including a 500-word personal statement outlining your interest in the research and relevant skills and experience, a CV, academic transcript and contact details for two academic referees. Please send your EOI to: Dr Kathy Russell, The University of Melbourne,
If your EOI is successful, you will apply for the postgraduate program through the Faculty of Science. For domestic applicants, the Faculty’s deadline is 31 October 2020, and for international applicants the deadline is 30 September 2020.
Closing date for expressions of interest is midnight 22 September 2020 for both international and domestic applicants.