Last November I wrote about an exciting conservation research endeavour (see ‘How to restore a tropical rain forest‘) in which I am involved called the Thiaki Rain Forest Regeneration Project taking place as we speak in the hinterland of north Queensland’s Atherton Tableland. I personally have done next to nothing on the project yet (UQ’s Margie Mayfield is leading the charge), so I can’t really update you on all the nitty-gritty of our progress. Regardless, I can say that some of the planting tests have been done, the species have been chosen and are growing happily in the nursery reading for planting in January 2011, and the baseline biodiversity assessments are well under way.
Well, prior to our Supercharge Your Science extravaganza in Cairns and Townsville a few weeks ago, I visited Penny & Noel at Thiaki for a catch up, a discussion of what’s been happening and what’s about to happen. It was a great weekend (the family came along too) with good food, wine, ticks and leeches (biodiversity in action), and I’m getting more and more excited about what this project will deliver over the coming years.
In the meantime, a couple of ‘opportunities’ have arisen; in other words – we need some good PhD students to tackle some outstanding issues with the project.
The first of these is a project on mycorrhizal fungi (those unseen and vastly under-appreciated fungi that make forests possible) – the coolest thing here is that a before-after reforestation outcome is guaranteed, so the results will be hotly anticipated by the forest regeneration science community:
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are naturally occurring soil fungi that colonize the roots of 90 % of plants and form a symbiosis. These fungi interact with plants via their roots for nutrient exchange, which is beneficial to both the plant and fungi. This poorly studied interaction between soil structure, plants and fungi improves the uptake of otherwise immobile soil mineral nutrients, water relations and disease resistance among plant species. They are vital for the establishment and growth of many species of trees. The Thiaki Rain Forest Restoration Project has been established in far north Queensland in the Atherton Tablelands, and we need a PhD student to undertake some fundamental research on this topic. The restoration project is a fully replicated experimental study, and includes research into flora, fauna, soils, carbon sequestration, nutrient exchange and others, and is backed by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant and four industry partners over the next four years. This is a great PhD research opportunity for anyone keen to stamp their name on this rapidly evolving field. Your qualifications would need to include at least mycology, molecular biology, biochemistry, soil ecology or genetics, and you will be required to do field work at Thiaki. Enquiries can be directed to Dr Noel Preece or Dr Sandra Abell-Davis at James Cook University.
Just a note too – there are also opportunities for a good student to obtain scholarships through the University of Adelaide, so that is another avenue for prospective students to consider taking.
The second project is equally exciting because of that wonderful experimental aspect of the Thiaki – this one involves getting down and dirty with the vertebrate fauna of the region (I must add here that the forest boasts Lumholtz tree kangaroos, cassowaries, platypus and a host of cool possum species):
Vertebrate fauna are affected by and affect rain forest restoration. Species occurring in grasslands are very different from those from rainforests, but the species composition, trends as the rainforests are restored, the functions of vertebrate fauna and the ways in which they affect restoration are poorly known. The Thiaki Rain Forest Restoration Project has been established in far north Queensland in the Atherton Tablelands, and we need a PhD or Masters student to undertake some fundamental research into this topic. This is a great PhD or MSc research opportunity. Your qualifications would need to include be in zoology, terrestrial ecology, biology or related field and you will be required to do field work at Thiaki. Enquiries can be directed to Dr Noel Preece or Dr Sandra Abell-Davis at James Cook University.
So, anyone looking for an exciting PhD project with the appropriate backgrounds should make enquiries forthwith. More about the history of the project can be found here.