Study level

  • Honours


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Ayesha Tulloch
Future Fellow
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science


Arable land, water resources and biodiversity are under pressure from increased human populations and resource needs. On top of that, natural and agri-food systems are rapidly changing due to natural disturbances, with climate change likely to increase the impacts of extreme events like drought and wildfire.

With climate change, negative impacts on agriculture are predicted with disruptions to food supply; many ecosystems have already been impacted by increased frequency and severity of extreme fire events; coral reefs will be threatened by increased sea surface temperatures and acidification of the oceans; mangroves will be threatened by sea-level rise and an increase in extreme weather events. Freshwater resources are expected to be stressed by changes in rainfall patterns, with likely increases in both drought and flooding in different systems.

Food systems that may be particularly affected by extreme environmental changes are those that rely on water, particularly production of nuts (e.g. macadamias) and pulses (legumes, e.g. soybeans). These food systems are not only important to Australia’s economy, but also make up the bulk of Australia’s plant-protein source – this is an area of rapidly increasing consumer demand due to many Australians reducing meat intake and concurrently increasing alternative plant-based proteins in their diets. It is well established that such dietary shifts will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are likely to result in co-benefits for other environmental components such as soil and biodiversity, as well as for public health.

The aim of this project is to bolster preparedness for changing climate conditions and support evidenced-based policy making.

Research activities

You will build an understanding of the environmental and socio-economic impacts of extreme climatic events on nut and legume food systems. This will be achieved by:

  • systematic literature review of studies investigating the vulnerability of Australian nut and pulse food systems to extreme events driven by climate change (e.g. fire, floods, drought)
  • compiling and analysing the latest published information in an online database
  • communicating the findings in academic and/or professional publications.

The successful candidate will become part of Ayesha’s new 'Food for Nature and People' research group dedicated to decision science that empowers communities and governments to make more sustainable choices about agricultural production and food consumption. The research group will include five PhD  students, a postdoctoral fellow and a research assistant, and will be interconnected with an international community of scientists and scholars, particularly those working within the fields of conservation decision science, sustainable production and consumption, and environmental management.

Our research group is a transdisciplinary space that explores how our choices about the food we grow and eat impact biodiversity, our environment and our well-being, and flow on to impact global environmental and socio-economic change. We will build insights from research in the fields of ecology, biodiversity  conservation, agriculture, food and nutrition science, health, and human well-being, to reveal important impacts on nature and people from behaviour changes at both the production and consumption ends of agri-food chains. By applying methods from decision science, operations research and behavioural  science, our team will use these insights to understand which interventions, if successful, would have the greatest outcomes for recovering biodiversity from ongoing declines whilst maintaining or improving people’s well-being. Identifying agri-food production and consumption behaviours that are resilient, healthy and sustainable is particularly critical in these times of rapid environmental, social and economic change.


The goal of the project is to contribute to a broader understanding of how extreme climatic events such as fire and drought impact environmental and socio-economic aspects of nut and legume food systems, including biodiversity and human well-being. Outcomes will include:

  • a systematic literature review of studies investigating the vulnerability of Australian nut and pulse food systems to extreme events driven by climate change (e.g. fire, floods, drought)
  • an online database of climate change impacts on plant-based protein food systems
  • contributing to the development of a searchable tool to support climate adaptation decision making.

Skills and experience

To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the entry requirements for an Honours Degree at QUT, including any English language requirements for international students.

You must also:

  • enrol as a full-time, internal student
  • hold a Bachelor degree in a discipline of relevance to the research topic (e.g. ecology, environmental sciences, social sciences, agricultural sciences, behavioural sciences).

It is desirable that applicants have:

  • strong written and oral English skills
  • alignment with the research areas: conservation of biodiversity, sustainable production and consumption, supporting human well-being, climate change
  • experience and interest in reviewing literature and developing a database that can be interrogated by industry, conservation practitioners and academics for learning about future risks of extreme events to food systems
  • enthusiasm for working with researchers and practitioners across disciplines.


You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.

Explore our research scholarships



Contact the supervisor for more information.