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 PhD opportunities:

Improving stream management using DNA barcodes and ecological modelling.

Are you interested in PhD research with the potential to discover new species? Do you want to help strategically protect biodiversity and monitor the health of Melbourne’s waterways? Do you want to gain skills in fieldwork, molecular methods, spatial and ecological modelling and industry-focused research engagement and translation?


Improving stream management using DNA barcodes and ecological modelling’ is an exciting, University of Melbourne-Melbourne Water collaborative ARC Linkage project with direct management impact. We seek a Phd candidate to join our multidisciplinary team to work on bringing together DNA barcoding and metabarcoding of freshwater macroinvertebrates with spatially-explicit modelling.
The project will provide macroinvertebrate species data, methods and tools for Melbourne Water to better understand and monitor freshwater biodiversity patterns across Melbourne and improve capacity to plan, prioritise and evaluate management actions for improved stream health (extended project description below). The Phd project will involve a program of fieldwork, molecular methods (e.g. DNA barcoding, metabarcoding and DNA-based bioinformatic analyses) and spatial and ecological modelling (e.g. GIS, species distribution modelling, scenario analyses, spatial conservation prioritisation).
The project team consists of A/Prof Chris Walsh, Prof Ary Hoffmann, Dr Yung En Chee, Dr Rhys Coleman, Dr Melissa Carew and Genevieve Hehir.

This Phd opportunity will remain open until filled by a suitable candidate. Application details on the project can be found here.

Can real-time control technology deliver environmental flows to protect urban streams?

Three PhD projects, funded by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Program, in conjunction with Melbourne Water, South East Water and Yarra Ranges Council, will test whether a network of real-time controlled (RTC) rainwater tanks (“smart tanks”) on public and private land, and on large water storages, can return a more natural flow regime to Monbulk Creek (in Victoria, Australia), with the aim of improving the health of the stream ecosystem, and improving the foraging habitat of a population of platypus. Three PhD studies are available relating to different aspects of this experimental approach to managing urban water: hydrology, ecology and sociology.
  • PhD1: Assessing the impacts on stream hydrology and hydraulics. Using flow measurements in the stormwater and stream network, you will investigate how the real-time controlled network of water storages affects the stream flow regime, and how that translates into the hydraulic environment.
  • PhD2: Understanding the social sustainability of real-time controlled rainwater tanks in households. Use an exploratory, qualitative social research design to investigate the ways in which this technology transforms, and is transformed by, household practices.
  • PhD3: Assessing in-stream ecological responses. Investigate changes in a) in-stream habitat (in collaboration with PhD1), b) macroinvertebrate abundance and assemblage composition and c) platypus foraging behaviour in response to implementation of the real-time controlled flow releases.
  • More details on each PhD, as well as application details can be found in this PDF.

    Investigating the effects of river flow regime on plant reproduction and recruitment

    The Project: River regulation and subsequent changes to flow regimes have dramatically impacted riverine ecosystems globally. Increasingly, water is now allocated via environmental flows to improve river ecosystem health. Delivery of environmental flows typically aim to replicate parts of a natural flow regime to improve population outcomes for riverine biota. While monitoring of the effects of environmental water has been conducted for decades, there remains many key knowledge gaps for how environmental flows effect vegetation. One aspect of high priority is to better understand how environmental flow delivery can influence the reproduction and recruitment of plants within waterways. Understanding these effects is critical to informing waterway management for vegetation outcomes.
    This project will broadly investigate how flow regime affects different stages of plant recruitment from flowering to the establishment of new plants. The project will be undertaken as part of the Victorian Environmental Flows Monitoring and Assessment Program (VEFMAP) and based with 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 the Arthur Rylah Institute and DELWP will facilitate collaborative research and the effective translation of findings into policy and management; with ultimate benefits for riverine health in Victoria.
    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 student will need to obtain 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 applicant will have an appreciation of plant and aquatic ecology and good quantitative skills, ideally with literacy in R (or a willingness to develop such skills). 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 Joe Greet, The University of Melbourne,
    Apologies, this position is available to domestic applicants only.