PhD Scholarship - The biodiversity and co-benefits of silvopastoral systems in sub-tropical Australia | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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PhD Scholarship - The biodiversity and co-benefits of silvopastoral systems in sub-tropical Australia

Expressions of interest closed on 18 May 2022.

Reference Code


Open to

Domestic and International Students

HDR Program

Doctor of Philosophy

Study area

Engineering, planning and science

Scholarship includes

  • Living stipend for 3 years with the possibility of a 6-month extension in approved circumstances.
  • Tuition Fee Offset Scholarship for the duration of the program.
  • For international Students, also includes Overseas Student Health Cover (single cover only) for maximum 57 months.

Living Stipend value

AU$28,854 (2022 rate) per annum tax-free, paid in fortnightly instalments. The rate is indexed annually commensurate with the RTP base stipend rate.

Study Load

Must remain enrolled on a full-time basis


In sub-tropical eastern Australia, there is great potential for silvopastoral systems – where livestock grazing is intentionally managed under forest – to help beef producers become carbon neutral. These systems can be applied where existing areas of native forest are managed (to ensure an appropriate tree and grass balance) and where areas of new forest are planted. The potential biodiversity benefits and other co-benefits (e.g. improved livestock wellbeing) of silvopastoral systems are not well documented in this important beef production region.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) have funded a large project involving UniSC, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Environment and Science and landowners to investigate: the potential for silvopastoral systems for:

  1. storing carbon and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions;
  2. enhancing landholder income diversification;
  3. improving land management;
  4. improving animal welfare; and
  5. improving on-farm biodiversity.

The PhD candidate will investigate the co-benefits (e.g. ecosystems services and biodiversity) of silvopastoral systems in native forest and trees planted in pasture. Biodiversity will be evaluated at different scales: e.g. soil fauna, invertebrate and vertebrate biodiversity. These parameters will be assessed using standardised methods such as on ground trapping using pitfall traps and canopy or sub-canopy trapping using flight intercept panel traps (Bugalho et al. 2011, Alpha Scents Inc., West Linn, OR. USA). Plant and vertebrate fauna biodiversity values will be assessed using the BioCondition framework (Eyre et al. 2015).

Permanent monitoring plots established during the study will allow tracking of biodiversity beyond the time-frame of the project. Comparisons of biodiversity will be made between native forest with and without silvopastoral systems management, and between planted trees in pasture and open pasture. Such comparisons will be made at sites where large enough areas of each treatment are available to make valid comparisons.

Ideal Candidate

The successful applicant will collaborate with research partners focusing on the ecosystem benefits of silvopastoral systems. We are looking for a candidate with a great work ethic, a motivated individual with skills and interests in biodiversity and natural resource management. The successful candidate will have strong written and oral communication skills. Desirable qualifications, knowledge and skills in addition to those included above include:

  • Forest silviculture and farm forestry
  • Carbon accounting
  • Geographic information systems and spatial analysis
  • Ability to work as part of a team and independently


For questions or to submit your Expression of Interest, please contact A/Prof David Lee by directing your email to           

  • Be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy program at the University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Not have an equivalent qualification to the one for which is currently being applied for
  • Have a First-Class Bachelor Honours Degree, or show equivalent level of achievement with other academic qualifications or professional research experience
Selection criteria

Standard Criteria

  • Criterion 1: Academic Achievement
  • Criterion 2: Research Capability 

Project Specific Criteria

  • Criterion 3: Skill/knowledge of animal and plant biodiversity and natural resource management
  • Criterion 4: Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Criterion 5: Willingness to undertake field work in remote locations