This theme encompasses many different facets of research across STEMM, the social sciences and humanities, including the sustainability of natural and modified ecosystems in the face of societal development and climate change, climate change science, adaptation and mitigation, mining and its corresponding global environmental challenges, sustainability and the circular economy.

Available PhD projects

1. Coastal peatlands of subtropical eastern Australia

UQ academic lead

Associate Professor Patrick Moss, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Exeter academic lead

Dr Angela Gallego-Sala, Senior Lecturer In Physical Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences 

Project description

The globally unique patterned fens and associated wetland communities of subtropical eastern Australia are relatively poorly studied, particularly in terms of carbon storage potential and long term response to a range of environmental factors (e.g. rising temperatures, increases in sea level, water extraction, urbanisation and alterations in fire regimes). These systems are an important component of the World Heritage listing for the iconic Fraser Island (the largest sand island in the world).  Patterned fens are generally associated with high northern latitudes or alpine regions but exist also in this sub-tropical setting.

This project will investigate these wetland systems by focussing on an environmental gradient from the subtropics to the tropics in eastern Australia. The study sites will span an area all the way from North Stradbroke Island (adjacent to Brisbane) to Byfield National Park (central Queensland).

In particular, this study will focus on peatland ecosystem dynamics and how climate impacts peatland extent and carbon accumulation. This will build on previous research that has focussed on sedimentology and palaeoecology of the patterned fens and will provide important information about how these World Heritage listed systems have responded to changes in the past and how they may respond to future climate change.

Furthermore, data from these peatlands will also be incorporated into maps and into models of peat distribution and accumulation for the last 1000 years, which will help to fill a large gap (coastal eastern Australia) in the global understanding of peatland ecosystem dynamics.

The student will be based at The University of Exeter but will spend a significant part of their studies at The University of Queensland (12 months), where the field research will be undertaken. 

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