Life cycle assessment of seaweed nature-based solutions: a comparative analysis of carbon and nutrient flows in the Pacific Islands (1) | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Life cycle assessment of seaweed nature-based solutions: a comparative analysis of carbon and nutrient flows in the Pacific Islands (1)

Applications open until March 29 or suitable applicant identified.

This PhD scholarship will sit within a broader project funded by the IDRC Canada on “Transforming women's seaweed businesses into nature-based solutions for Fiji, Samoa, and Kiribati”. As background, seaweed farming is widely recognized as a potential key industry for climate change mitigation and adaptation activities.

In the Pacific, the seaweed business is women’s business, especially women in rural and regional areas who are usually involved in farming and agriculture activities. The broader project will evaluate technical solutions for scaling seaweed production, integrate the environmental potential of seaweed production (the specific objective within which the PhD scholarship sits), create new business opportunities for seaweed enterprises, and synthesise lessons learned to inform replication and scaling up across the Pacific and Asia. The broader project will begin by mapping the existing seaweed supply chains in Fiji, Samoa, and Kiribati. Through environmental and biodiversity monitoring of production sites, the project will evaluate production and processing interventions for the key species and their natural capital.

Life Cycle Analysis (PhD component) of energy (carbon) and nutrients (nitrogen/phosphorus) will capture the flow of material and waste, and this work by the PhD student will be complemented by natural capital accounting to evaluate the benefits and impact of nature-based financing. Next, the broader project will focus on entrepreneurship through business training and peer-to-peer learnings. With the private sector, the broader project team will support the development of product prototypes and their evaluation. Finally, the lessons learned will be synthesised, with a focus on knowledge sharing in a culturally rigorous way and developing frameworks and approaches to scaling.

A fully funded PhD scholarship with a UniSC base stipend ($34,449.95 per annum, indexed annually) and an additional top-up stipend ($5,000 per annum) is provided for the successful candidate. The scholarship is open to international candidates. Project operational support (including travel) is provided by an IDRC-Canada AQUADAPT funded project led by the UniSC Seaweed Research Group.

The successful candidate will work on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) across the seaweed supply chains, conducting field work primarily in Fiji with the option to expand sites into Samoa and Kiribati. The LCAs will be conducted to provide a standardised output for the carbon and nutrient flows for multiple seaweeds, from farming activities through to product development and associated waste streams. SimaPro software will be used to analyse the carbon and nutrient data while using existing frameworks for algae and the extensive biofuels literature for energy related assessment of seaweed supply chains. Drawing on the ISO 14040:2006 life cycle assessment framework and ISO 14044:2006 requirements and guidelines, the LCAs will be carried out in four key phases: 1) definition of the goal and scope of the LCA; 2) life cycle inventory (LCI); 3) impact assessment; and 4) interpretation.

The candidate will be involved in reviewing relevant scientific literature, and field data collection for LCA through database searches, physical observations and meetings with relevant stakeholders to gather carbon and nutrient data, thereby improving the accuracy of the assessment. Building on foundational data already in place, the candidate will develop a comprehensive database specific for each seaweed value chain.

We are seeking a motivated PhD candidate, with a strong commitment to improving the world through science, to join our UniSC Seaweed Research Group and work with Prof Nick Paul and Dr Savindi Caldera from the School of Science, Technology and Engineering. This position offers a unique opportunity to work in remote coastal areas of the Pacific Islands while engaging with diverse stakeholders across the seaweed supply chain. The successful candidate is expected to have fieldwork experience and a desire to participate in international travel. A sound understanding and demonstrated ability to conduct life cycle assessment, with a proven ability to work independently on the same, would be beneficial.

Within this role, the candidate will contribute to the broader objectives of a new research project through an interest to develop their skills in science communication and international research for development. Strong interpersonal qualities will help foster a positive research environment for all, enabling the candidate to expand their experience and learnings through collaboration with a multidisciplinary and cross-cultural team. The anticipated start date would be after the 1st July 2024, however, there is flexibility in the timing for the right candidate.

  • Be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy Higher Degrees by Research program at the University of the Sunshine Coast
Selection criteria

Criterion 1: Academic Achievement

Demonstrated academic ability in environmental science, environmental management, forestry, ecology, biology or a related discipline relative to career stage


Criterion 2: Research Capability

Strong quantitative, statistical and data analysis skills (preferably with Life Cycle Analysis/ SimaPro software)


Criterion 3: Collaboration and Team work

Ability and interest to work with diverse stakeholders (in community and non-academic settings) and as part of a multidisciplinary research team

Eligible programs
Doctor of Philosophy
Number available

1 - Stipend value of $39 449.95 p/a paid in fortnightly instalments. Payment is is for 3 years to align with thesis submission (possible extension in line with relevant policies and procedures)    


2 - Tuition offset scholarship for 3 years to cover cost of tuition fees, also aligned with thesis submission (possible extension in line with relevant policies and procedures) - approximate value of $87 000  


3 -  $2000 Allowance for relocation per scholarship conditions



this will be a two-stage application process:

Stage 1 - Expression of Interest: Reference code UniSC_RS_2404_PAUL_CALDERA

Contact People - Nick Paul & Savindi Caldera 

  • Download and complete the USC Research Scholarship (USCRS) application form.
  • Email your Expression of Interest (EOI) to the contact people and attach:
    • USCRS application form
    • Cover letter
    • Current CV
  • The scholarship panel will review the EOI. If shortlisted, you will be invited for interview.
  • The preferred applicant will be invited to formally apply for HDR program and Scholarship.

Stage 2 - Formal application (only if you have been invited to apply)

  • Read the important information on How to Apply for a HDR Program at UniSC.
  • Submit your UniSCRS application form as a supporting document when submitting your HDR Program application.

*scholarship offer is subject to applicant meeting the eligibility requirements for entry into a higher degree by research program at UniSC.