Study level

  • PhD


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Kate Helmstedt
Research Fellow (DECRA)
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science
Professor Kerrie Wilson
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Sustainability
Division / Faculty
Academic Division

External supervisors

  • Justine Shaw, QUT


Antarctic and sub-Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems are dominated by mosses, lichens, invertebrates and some vascular plants. Marine vertebrates (penguins, seals, seabirds) also play an important role in driving terrestrial processes. All these species are influenced by many environmental and biotic factors, including interactions between species. Determining the impacts of climatic and environmental change on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic biodiversity requires greater understanding of these interactions.

Ecological data on species interactions and the drivers of these interactions are an essential part of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research to inform management decisions and improve conservation outcomes. Our understanding of many aspects of the nature and extent of these interactions is currently limited for many species, and this research will fill much needed knowledge gaps.

Research activities

Biologists have been collecting information on the unique biodiversity of Antarctica and the influence of extreme environment since the region’s discovery. There is information on species presence and co-occurrence in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic and we have some knowledge of species distributions and abundance and how they vary in space and time. However, we need to better understand the ecological interactions between species and to determine how environmental change may alter these interactions, as ultimately these interactions drive the future state of ecosystems.

Combining historic and new field data will provide greater certainty about how species and groups of species interact, allowing us to better investigate how Antarctic and sub-Antarctic ecosystems work as a whole. Importantly, it will also allow to predict if and how these interactions are likely to change as the environment changes and ultimately determine the future of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic ecosystems.

Identification of species interactions will be based on existing data, modelling and the collection of new field data. We will focus on interactions between species, their sensitivity to environmental change and how these might vary in space and time. This information will inform assessments of conservation and management priorities for Antarctic and sub-Antarctic species and inform and prioritise future data collection.


This project will investigate how Antarctic and sub-Antarctic species interact, and how these ecological interactions vary between groups and how interactions respond to environmental change. This project aims to synthesise existing data and collect new ecological data on species interaction to inform future ecosystem monitoring and conservation.

You will become a member of the Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative for Securing Antarctica's Environmental Future, which will provide opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and a real pathway to informing management of Antarctic ecosystems.

Skills and experience

You will have:

  • an undergraduate degree in ecology or biology or related area
  • field work experience in natural environments
  • strong quantitative skills, with an interest in quantitative modelling and GIS
  • an interest in conservation decision science techniques to address applied and/or theoretical ecological problems to inform environmental management
  • an interest in working and communicating with a multidisciplinary team of researchers.

We are particularly interested in applicants from groups that have traditionally been excluded from academia, mathematics, and STEM based on gender, sexuality, race, culture, disability status.


You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.

Explore our research scholarships



Contact Dr Justine Shaw for more information.