Overview

The Research Project

Tasmanian devils are threatened by transmissible cancer, devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), which has spread to almost their entire geographic range and has caused more than 90% population decline. A gap in knowledge for wildlife diseases globally, and DFTD specifically, is how the spatial connectivity between individuals at large landscape scales maps onto the social contacts between individuals at a local scale that lead to transmission. To understand how the disease spreads across the landscape requires integrating data on who-contacts and bites-who in the population with finescale information about how individuals move at landscape-scale throughout the year.

The project integrates spatial and social data to understand disease transmission and spatial spread. The field project involves placing collars on the adult population of devils at field sites with different histories of time since disease outbreak. The collars will record both the location of the animals and the identity of any other collared devils that come within close range. The field sites are in remote but beautiful locations in Tasmania. The statistical methods will involve constructing social networks and analysing movement data. The project is part of an international, transdisciplinary research program on evolution in the devil—DFTD host—pathogen system involving ecologists, epidemiologists and genomicists at the University of Tasmania, Griffith University, Washington State University and the University of Idaho, funded by a grant from the US National Institute of Health/National Science Foundation.

Eligibility:

The following eligibility criteria apply to this scholarship:

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The scholarship is open to Australian and New Zealand (domestic) candidates and to International candidates.
Research must be undertaken on a full-time basis.
Applicants must already have been awarded a first-class Honours degree or hold equivalent qualifications or relevant and substantial research experience in an appropriate sector.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research and analytical skills.
Candidates from the following disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply.  Knowledge and skills that will be ranked highly include:

A good understanding of the field of ecology
High level quantitative skills
Ability to work as part of an interdisciplinary research team
Proven ability to work individually in remote locations including supervising volunteer field assistants
Current driving licence, prefer manual and 4WD experience