Adaptation to environmental change; how plastic is the gut bacterial microbiome of koalas? - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Adaptation to environmental change; how plastic is the gut bacterial microbiome of koalas?

Applications accepted until 18th October 2020.

The 2019-2020 Australian megafires have been identified as one of the most significant natural disaster Australia has ever experienced. At its core, an estimated one billion animals have perished nationwide. This has been terrible news for koalas given that many of the bushfires directly impacted were their habitats in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. As a result, it is now believed that one of our most iconic faunal species is now critically endangered.

We know from past research that koalas will recolonise fire affected habitat within months of the fires as the forest regenerates and eucalyptus starts developing epicormic growth (Lunney et al. 2004, Lunney et al. 2007, Matthews et al. 2007). What we, however, know little about is the short-term and long-term health consequences of such recolonization for koalas given that they are likely experiencing a myriad of challenges such as possible starvation, malnutrition, dehydration, and difficulties thermoregulating. This project will specifically focus on exploring the plasticity of the koala gut bacterial microbiome during fire recolonisation and habitat clearing. This project is in collaboration with and funded by the International Funds for Animal Welfare.

This project will use metagenomics to characterise whether and how the koala gut bacterial microbiome changes during (1) fire recolonisation and (2) habitat clearing. To do so, it will use scat samples of the same animals throughout their journey through (1) fire and (2) habitat clearing.

The applicant will need a strong work ethic, welcome diversity and be willing to work within a team. It is expected that the applicant be willing to spend time in the field, in the lab and learn extensive bioinformatic and quantitative skills.

For more information on the project, please contact Associate Processor Celine Frere in the School of Science and Engineering,

• Be accepted into a Higher Degrees by Research program at the University of the Sunshine Coast
• Not have an equivalent qualification to the one for which they are currently applying
• Have a First-Class Bachelor Honours Degree, or show equivalent level of achievement with other academic qualifications or professional research experience
• Applications are welcome from both Domestic and International students 
Selection criteria
• Undergraduate degree
• Research training degree (First Class Honours or equivalent)
• Research publications
• Professional research experience
Eligible programs
Number available
  • Annual stipend equivalent to the Research Training Program. Stipend value in 2020 is $28,092.
  • Annual tuition fees: $29,000
  • Overseas student health cover (single cover): $3,420
To apply:
  • If you are not a current USC HDR student, complete an application for program admission following the directions on the HDR Applicants page
  • Next, apply for the scholarship: