Australia has the world's worst record of mammal extinctions, with many of the mid-range mammals impacted by exotic species, particularly foxes and cats. In arid ecosystems, the extinction of native mammals and loss of ecological services they provide has been accompanied by severe soil erosion and shifts in vegetation composition.

The Centre for Ecosystem Science (CES), through its Wild Deserts project, has attracted significant government support (over the next ten years) to embark on one of the nation's most significant "rewilding" initiatives to redress the problem of mammal extinctions and land degradation in arid Australia. The Wild Deserts project will bridge the gap between the disciplines of reintroduction biology and restoration ecology by using reintroductions of locally extinct mammals into two, large (20km2) predator-proof exclosures to restore ecosystems in Sturt National Park.

Key questions for research relate to understanding the effects that reintroduced mammals (seven locally extinct mammals to be reintroduced) have on ecosystem structure and function. This PhD project would focus on measuring changes in the soils, vegetation and fauna within and outside the exclosures to determine how the removal of exotic species and subsequent reintroduction of native mammals affects ecosystem structure and function. The findings will reveal how innovative "rewilding" strategies incorporating the ecological functions of mammals can be used by land-managers, within an adaptive management framework, to restore Australian ecosystems. The project will be directly supported by the Wild Deserts project in partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, including the NSW National Parks and Wildlife. The successful applicant will learn skills in restoration ecology, reintroduction biology, experimental design, remote fieldwork, adaptive management and statistical analysis. The project aligns with the 2025 Strategies for the theme Research quality: delivering impact from research excellence and addressing grand challenges. The student will be working with multiple institutions, state and federal governments, private industry and community groups addressing Australia's declining native mammal populations as part of a interdisciplinary research team. The project also relates directly to UNSW's areas of research strength in "Water, Climate, Environment and Sustainability" and "Fundamental and Enabling Sciences".

This project comes with $40,000 per year stipend and $10,000 of research funding per year for four years. It's open to both Australian and international applicants. Australian applicants can start early in 2017, the expected start date for international applicants is August 2017.

Potential advisors: For additional information, contact Associate Professor Mike Letnic on m.letnic@unsw.edu.au  Deadline is November 11.