Understanding the role of zooplankton in global fisheries production under climate change | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Understanding the role of zooplankton in global fisheries production under climate change

Applications open Until May 21

As the principal energy pathway from primary producers to fish and mammals, zooplankton are central to the functioning of marine ecosystems and they support a global fishing industry worth $150 billion/year. Yet, zooplankton are often poorly resolved in biogeochemical and ecosystem models. This means that there are critical gaps in our understanding of their unique and critical role in supporting fish and mammal biomass from surface waters to the deep ocean, and how they may be affected not only by climate change, but the cascading impacts of global fishing.

In this project, the PhD candidate will have a unique opportunity to address this gap, building on the work of an international team of zooplankton ecologists, applied mathematicians and fisheries scientists, who will support them throughout the project. The student will use quantitative methods to improve the resolution of zooplankton and fish in the team’s existing global marine ecosystem model, and to explore evidence for the impact of global fishing on zooplankton in observational datasets.

This position is funded through the Australian Research Council Discovery Project Zooplankton: the missing link in modelling the ocean carbon cycle.

The supervisory panel will in the first instance include:

-Prof. David Schoeman (UniSC),

-Assoc. Prof Kylie Scales (UniSC) and

-Dr Ryan Heneghan (Griffith University).

Other collaborators include: Prof. Anthony Richardson (The University of Queensland, Australia), Dr Jason Everett (The University of Queensland, Australia), Dr Matthew Holden (The University of Queensland, Australia), Prof. Evgeny Pakhomov (The University of British Columbia), Dr Andrew Lenton (CSIRO).

The successful candidate will receive a full living stipend scholarship and tuition scholarship, with a living stipend of $34,449.95 per annum, tax-free, indexed annually (2024 rate). Scholarship duration is 3 years, with the possibility of a 6-month extension in approved circumstances.

The successful candidate will become a member of a thriving and dynamic research lab in the Ocean Futures Research Cluster in the School of Science, Technology and Engineering at USC, and will be co-supervised by Dr. Ryan Heneghan, an expert in ecosystem modelling and global FishMIP coordinator based at Griffith University.

The HDR scholarship is part of a wider project funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Program. The successful candidate will join several other students and researchers working on a range of topics in marine ecology, climate, fisheries oceanography, ecological forecasting, systematic conservation planning and dynamic management. The project will present opportunities to publish research findings in leading multi-disciplinary science journals, present at international conferences, visit partner institutions and build international collaborative networks.

The successful applicant will take a collegial and collaborative approach to working as part of a team in a dynamic research environment. They will be adaptable, proactive and committed, and prepared to self-direct and take the lead on the development of their own research skills and outcomes. They will be prepared to seek out solutions beyond the immediate and obvious where necessary. Diversity and inclusion are central to our lab’s philosophy, and principles of equity will be applied throughout the candidate selection process.


Be accepted into a Higher Degrees by Research program at the University of the Sunshine Coast

Selection criteria
  • Standard Criterion 1: Academic Achievement
  • Standard Criterion 2: Research Capability


  • Additional Criterion 1: Proficiency in programming (preferably R, but potentially Python or Julia)

  • Additional Criterion 2: Skills in numerical/ecological modelling

  • Additional Criterion 3: Experience in building or using ecosystem models

Eligible programs
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Number available

1 - Stipend value of $34 449.95 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_2406_SCHOEMAN

Contact People 

Prof. David Schoeman (dschoema@usc.edu.au) 

A/Prof. Kylie Scales (kscales@usc.edu.au)

  • 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 with Scholarship.

Stage 2 - Application to program (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.