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PHD Top-up Scholarship Award

The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee (GABCC) has established two PhD top-up scholarships to foster better understanding of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), and invites applications from suitably qualified applicants.

The PhD top-up scholarships are intended to supplement the funding of primary scholarship holders who intend to conduct innovative research that will make a contribution to the management of the GAB. The GABCC welcomes applications from a variety of disciplines including science and engineering, economics and social science. The scholarships are each valued at $5000 per annum over three years.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to review the GABCC's Research Prospectus for the GAB prior to applying for the top-up scholarship. Projects should address priority research questions identified in the Prospectus, or closely related areas. Eligible studies may involve ecological, physical, cultural or socioeconomic aspects of the GAB.

Research projects

Evolution of Mound Springs of the South Western GAB: Evidence from Sedimentology, Hydrogeology & Hydrochemistry project (2009)

The GAB is known to sustain a large number of mound springs, which occur predominantly near the basin's edges. Most mound springs occur in arid and semi-arid environments and therefore have been of ecological, cultural and economic significance for a long period of time (Cox and Barron 1998).

The study project will determine in detail the relationship between a selection of mound springs and the related aquifer system. By doing so, it is hoped that the morphology, flow dynamics and history of mound spring formation can be better understood. GAB mound spring environments have been chosen as the focus of study because of the number, variety and sensitivity to groundwater exploitation prevalent in this basin.

Sexual selection, human-induced environmental change and a native desert-dwelling fish project (2011)

This research will investigate the impacts of habitat degradation and aquatic contamination on sexual selection in the desert goby, a freshwater fish endemic the springs and rivers of Central Australia.

Humans are a potent evolutionary force. The myriad ways in which we alter the environment can drive rapid evolutionary change in other species. One mechanism of such change is sexual selection. By influencing which individuals are able to secure a mate and reproduce, sexually selected traits play an important role in deciding the viability of populations. One ubiquitous form of human-driven environmental change relevant in the Australian context is the chemical contamination of aquatic habitats (Halpern et al. 2008).

The Great Artesian Basin offers a unique opportunity to study such impacts in the form of desert springs and rivers, some of the most threatened habitats on Earth (Kodric-Brown et al. 2007). Covering approximately one-sixth of the continent, the Lake Eyre Basin (LEB) of Central Australia is the largest internally draining river system in the world (Wager & Unmack 2000). Despite its aridity and remoteness, anthropogenic activities are leaving an indelible mark on many of the region's rivers and artesian-fed springs, most notably in the form of aquatic pollution (Kodric-Brown et al. 2007).

Desert Goby (Chlamydogobius eremius) in arid Australian waterholes: community level interactions and individual level variability project (2013)

This study will assess the impact of the characteristics of aquatic communities on the Desert Goby fish.

This project is focused on aquatic communities that rely on GAB springs. Studies have been done on invertebrates (Murphy, Adams et al. 2009) and fish (McNeil, Schmarr et al. 2011), but analysis of the entire community will be a unique approach in GAB springs. Food web analysis will be used to characterise the aquatic communities. This will be done in uniquely high detail, incorporating behavioural analysis and individual level variability of an iconic fish, the desert goby (Chlamydogobius eremius).

Ecology of the endemic invertebrates of Great Artesian Basin Springs project (2013)

This study will assess contemporary associations with habitat and the effect of disturbance on endemic invertebrates of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) springs of Queensland and northern NSW.

Groundwater dependent springs, the largest group in Australia being those fed by the GAB represent a freshwater ecosystem unlike any other. Providing a permanent water source within a sea of inhospitable aridity, their still and peculiar waters support amazing suits of endemic organisms (Fensham et al. 2011). Of particular interest with GAB springs is the discharge springs associated with the southern and western limits of the basin. Unlike rechard springs, which are inhabited by predominantly cosmopolitan species, discharge springs are home to the majority of endemic and highly threatened flora and fauna (Fensham et al., 2011).