Study level

  • PhD
  • Master of Philosophy
  • Honours
  • Vacation research experience scheme


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Matthew Adams
Research Fellow (DECRA)
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science
Dr Mardi McNeil
Visiting Fellow
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science

External supervisors

  • Dr Maria Vilas, DNRME, Queensland Government


Destabilising feedbacks between ecology and the local physical environment yield spatial pattern formation in various contexts throughout nature. For example, these feedbacks can lead to ring-shaped pattern formation in the spatial distribution of submerged aquatic plants. Recently, unusual crater-like structures have been identified in a large area of the Great Barrier Reef where the algae genus Halimeda constructs mounds called 'bioherms'.

This project seeks to use partial differential equation models of the spatial growth of Halimeda to identify whether its long-term interaction with the biogeophysical environment could be responsible for the crater-like structures recently identified in the Great Barrier Reef.

Research activities

  • Code up partial differential equation models of spatial pattern formation.
  • Compare models with observed deep-water data from the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Make conclusions/suggestions for the biophysical processes responsible for the crater-like Halimeda bioherms.


  • New insights into geological formations in the deep waters of the Great Barrier Reef over millenial timescales.
  • New models of spatial pattern formation.
  • Development of expertise in multidisciplinary research, cutting across mathematics, ecology and geology.

In this project there will be the opportunity to collaborate with and present results to marine geoscientists and environmental modellers, from across QUT and external institutions.

Skills and experience

Excellent skills in coding, especially partial differential equations, an interest in using mathematics to address applied ecology problems and work/communicate with a multidisciplinary team of researchers.


You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.

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Contact the supervisor for more information.