Masters by Research Scholarship - Tropical Seagrass

An opportunity is available for a new Masters by Research scholar to participate in the PCIMP Project ‘Tropical seagrass as bioindicators and bioaccumulators of non-essential elements’, under the supervision of Dr Emma Jackson. The project will be conducted at the CQUniversity’s Gladstone Marina campus

Scholarship Value: $26682

Length of Scholarship: Two Years

Number Available: One

Opening Date: 21 December 2016

Closing Date: 27 January 2017

Study LevelPostgraduate (Research)
Year of StudyFuture/First Year
CitizenshipAustralian Citizen; Permanent Resident; Permanent Humanitarian Visa
EthnicityAboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; South Sea Islander; Non Indigenous
Study RegionGladstone
Study ModeOn-campus
Study LoadFull time

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the Scholarship, an applicant must:

  • have completed a Bachelor Degree with Honours; a three-year undergraduate degree and graduate diploma at a high level of academic performance in relevant disciplines; or a three-year undergraduate degree with a high level of academic performance in a relevant discipline, plus a minimum of one year’s relevant work experience, or be regarded by CQUniversity as having an equivalent level of attainment.
  • be an Australian or New Zealand citizen or permanent resident of Australia.
  • be approved for admission and enrolling in, a Masters by Research program at CQUniversity.
  • enrol full-time and be an internal candidate at CQUniversity’s Gladstone Marina campus.
  • not previously have held a Commonwealth Government-funded or CQUniversity-funded postgraduate research scholarship, unless it was terminated within six months of the scholarship’s payments commencing; and
  • must not be receiving an equivalent award, scholarship or salary providing a benefit greater than 75% of the Scholarship stipend rate to undertake a research higher degree.

Applications are invited from candidates who have

  • or can demonstrate potential in quantitative experimental design and statistical analysis;
  • demonstrable abilities to review and critique literature extensively
  • excellent communication skills and are able to engage with industry.

Knowledge of seagrass physiology and/or ecology, and the use of indicators in monitoring would be desirable, but not essential.  The successful applicant will be required to publish papers related to their thesis during the period of candidature.  The successful candidate will be required to engage with industry stakeholders and present their findings at a national conference.

The successful applicant must commence their candidature in February 2017.

Selection Criteria

Seagrasses are well known to concentrate and retain non-essential chemicals in their tissues 1,2. Roots and rhizomes absorb chemicals from the sediment and leaves, and associated epiphytes facilitate the trapping of particulate matter and absorb, translocate and sequester chemicals from the water column. The bioaccumulation  of contaminants has been identified as an ecosystem service provided by seagrass in terms of improving water quality 5. However, past research has shown that sub-lethal impacts of elevated concentrations of metals on the seagrass inhibit metabolic activity and interfere with vital pathways, such as photosynthesis 6, which may manifest as loss or degradation in a stressed environment. There are also ramifications for the associated fauna and flora of these habitats. In Queensland, seagrass ecosystems support important grazing and detrital food webs 7 and therefore metals sequestered by seagrasses may be passed through trophic links to higher level consumers, including dugongs (Dugong dugon) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas)8. The seagrass not grazed often becomes part of the detritus and therefore the possibility exists for the indirect transfer of metals through assimilation by detrital feeders. Seagrass leaves have long been recognised as playing a major role in the cycling of metals such as copper, iron, manganese and zinc from the water and sediment to detritus consumers and ultimately carnivores including commercial and recreational fish9.

The concentrations of bioavailable forms of elements including metals may differ from measured concentrations of the total metal in water or sediments. Through bioaccumulation, biomonitoring also has the potential to allow the monitoring of some elements which are found at very low environmental levels (below the limits of reporting in sediments and water) but may still have an impact on ecosystems and provides more long term exposure information than “snap shot” water quality measurements. For these reasons, comparisons between environmental concentrations and those in living tissue can often be difficult to interpret.

Research objectives

The project will identify the potential for utilising fast growing tropical seagrass species as bio-indicators of water and sediment quality in an integrated monitoring programme and address the following specific objectives:

  1. Systematic literature review of seagrass contaminant bioaccumulation and its use as a bioindicator on a global scale in relation to monitoring.
  2. In vitro manipulative experiments to assess the uptake, influence on growth and survival and partitioning (leaves, rhizomes, roots and epiphytes) of specific non-essential elements by local seagrass species (Zostera muelleri and Halophila ovalis), under different light and salinity conditions.

The student will be hosted by Central Queensland University, Gladstone Marina campus, with opportunity to collaborate with industry.

Selection of applicants will be based on merit.

Additional Information

The MSc Candidate will be part of the rapidly expanding Marine and Coastal Restoration Research Cluster, which currently includes seven research staff and five RHD students. The overarching research agenda of the cluster is to use high quality applied environmental science to deliver real world solutions that restore and protect the coastal and marine environment and services it provides. The successful candidate will be based at the research facility on the CQUniversity Marina Campus Gladstone which holds a unique location, with its expanding industrialised port, functionally important ecosystems and its position within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The facility includes a 6000L outdoor tidal mesocosm system, 60 tank flow through indoor aquaria, ecotoxicology laboratories, ROV, inshore survey vessel and 4WDs.  Over the last three years the research cluster has secured over $1M in research funding (external and internal) and formed strong collaborations with internationally renowned research groups based across Australia and Europe. The research group also has collaborations with the local Port Authority (Gladstone Port Corporation), industries (Port Curtis Integrated Monitoring Program), NRMs and the local indigenous enterprise (Gidarjil Development Corporation). The scholarship will provide the MSc Candidate with a strong research environment and ample opportunities for industry, community and research collaborations at the local, national and international level.

Supporting Documentation

How to apply

Submit your Application:

The candidate should be able to commence in the position in February 2017. The application should be submitted by e-mail ( no later than close of business (5.00 pm EST) on 27th January 2017.

Please include: 

  • A letter of motivation describing your skills and research expertise 
  • Your current resume and a list of your publications and projects
  • A list of three references together with contact information 

If you have any inquiries about this position, please do not hesitate to contact:

Dr Emma Jackson,

School of Health, Medical & Applied Sciences,

Gladstone Marina Campus

Phone: +61 7 4970 7208;    Email:

How will I know the outcome of my application?

Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application after the closing date.

Donor details

Port Curtis Integrated Monitoring Program (PCIMP) Inc