Prospective PhD students

I am always happy to receive enquiries from prospective PhD students who would like to study within any of the research strengths of the group, in particular those who would like to take the research on the ecology, genetics/genomics and conservation of the purple-crowned fairy-wren to the next level. Details of projects will be determined in consultation. We already have a substantial dataset available, starting in 2005, including behavioural observations, detailed life-history records and a pedigree. All birds are genotyped for several 1000 SNPs and we have available hundreds of samples (e.g. faecal samples, plasma samples, blood in RNA-later for gene expression studies) from individually marked birds, and this could be expanded with fieldwork (in the Kimberleys, NW-Australia).

PhD Position To Study Evolutionary Behavioural Ecology of Purple-Crowned Fairy-Wrens.

Currently, I am looking for motivated PhD students to study any aspects of conservation ecology in purple-crowned fairy-wrens, but I am happy to consider students interested in studying other topics that fit our research program, in particular senescence or cooperative breeding and climate adaptation. We offer the opportunity to become part of a long-term iconic research project, do fieldwork in a spectacular remote area, join a friendly supportive group, and learn state-of-the-art lab and analytical approaches.

To join us as a PhD student, you should have a passion for studying wild animals in their natural environment, a strong work ethic and a creative and quantitative mindset; experience with avian fieldwork and/or bird handling and/or relevant quantitative skills are highly desirable, a full driver’s licence is generally needed.

To be competitive for scholarship, applicants must have excellent grades, well above H1 equivalence (see here: https://www.intranet.monash/graduate-research/resources-staff/scholarships-administration/selection/h1e), at least a 4-year bachelor degree with a substantial research component (MSc preferred). Applicants from non-English speaking backgrounds need evidence of English abilities. Successful students will be accepted into the world class Monash Doctoral Program; they will be offered a scholarship ($35,000 tax free) for 3 years and 6 months and relocation allowance; for internationals, tuition fees and health insurance are covered for the duration of candidature. Highly competitive applicants will be automatically considered for several prestigious scholarships providing an additional $10-15K scholarship p.a. Research costs and conference attendance are covered.

Application deadline: International: 31 March; 31 August, Domestic/NZ: 31 May; 31 October

Honours project currently available

Microclimate impacts on early-life telomere length (S1 or S2 start)


With Dr Justin Eastwood, justin.eastwood@monash.edu

Location: Clayton Campus


Birds are increasingly exposed to extreme temperatures causing mass mortality events. But what about those that survive or are subjected to non-lethal but still physiologically demanding conditions? Detecting the impact of sublethal climates is essential for understanding how species will respond to climate change, but collecting the necessary data is challenging and resource demanding. This project will work at the interface of molecular genetics and ecology to understand sublethal costs of a warming climate during development when nestlings have an incomplete physiology and are confined to their nest environment.

Project aims:

This project will combine measurements of nest microclimate and existing blood samples from nestlings with laboratory analyses of telomere length via qPCR.


Laboratory work includes DNA extraction, DNA quantification, real-time PCR. Some existing laboratory experience is a must. The project also involves substantial data handling (microclimate data) a large statistical component in R (e.g., linear mixed effects modelling, meta-analysis).

Relevant publications:

Eastwood JR, Connallon T, Delhey K, Hall ML, Teunissen N, Kingma SA, Porte AML, Verhulst S, Peters A. 2022. Hot and dry conditions predict shorter nestling telomeres in an endangered songbird: Implications for population persistence. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 119(25):e2122944119. doi:10.1073/pnas.2122944119.

Eastwood JR, Hall ML, Teunissen N, Kingma SA, Aranzamendi NH, Fan M, Roast M, Verhulst S, Peters A. 2019. Early‐life telomere length predicts lifespan and lifetime reproductive success in a wild bird. Mol Ecol. 28(5):1127–1137. doi:10.1111/mec.15002.

Honours project by negotiation are always possible – contact Anne if you would like to discuss your ideas and interests.