PhD Scholarship, Environment and Livelihoods

Darwin, Australia
14 Oct 2019
End of advertisement period
24 Oct 2019
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Agronomic investigations of Australian native rice species to support Indigenous enterprise development in the Northern Territory, Australia.

  • Darwin, Australia

Academic Discipline: Environment and livelihoods
Job Type:                     PhD Scholarship
Contract Type:            Fixed Term
Hours:                          Full Time study

About Charles Darwin University:

The distinctive characteristics of the Northern Territory present researchers and research students at Charles Darwin University with unique experiences and opportunities.

CDU has established itself as an exciting and progressive research-intensive university with a regional focus that prioritises the complex issues facing Northern Australia and the Asia-Pacific. We have developed cross-disciplinary research teams, as well as partnerships and collaborative relationships with external agencies to build world-class research capability.

Our goal is to maintain and develop our high-impact research profile in areas of strength including Environment and Livelihoods; Human Health and Wellbeing; Social and Public Policy; Education at the interface with Health; and Energy. Indigenous Knowledges is a cross-cutting research focus.

About the Project Supervisor:

Dr Sean Bellairs is a Senior Lecturer with the Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University - Sean specialises in plant science research and teaching. His research areas focus on, seed biology and commercial use of native plants. This includes commercialisation of native Australian rice. Sean Bellairs holds a PhD in Ecological Restoration and recently won an award from the Extractive Industry Association of the NT. Publications include a review of tropical seed biology and a textbook chapter on restoration of tropical savanna.

The project will be co-supervised by Dr Penny Wurm at CDU who works on the values, uses and ecology of native Australian rices and is investigating the development of enterprises based on native rice. She also has a teaching and research practice focussed on rural livelihoods in eastern Indonesia.

The PhD student will work closely with research staff at the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Resources (NT DPIR), Darwin, and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Centre for Tropical Crops and Bio-commodities (CTCB), Brisbane.


About the opportunity:

This CRC Future Food Systems project focusses on agronomic investigations into Australian native rice. It is part of a broader research program into the commercialisation of Australian native rice species. This work builds on previous work in Australia on the ecology, taxonomy, biogeography, food properties and wild harvest of native rice, primarily undertaken in the Northern Territory (NT) and Queensland. The PhD student will be based in Darwin, at the Charles Darwin University Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods (CDU RIEL). Agronomic trials will use and be supported by the NT Department of Primary Industries and Resources (NT DPIR) research staff and facilities at Coastal Plains Research Station and elsewhere. Other research will be based and in collaboration with Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours, an Indigenous company commercialising the native rice, and with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Centre for Tropical Crops and Bio-commodities.

While the research team have grown, harvested, processed and investigated the food properties of Australian native rice, we have minimal agronomic information for growing either the native perennial species O. rufipogon or the annual species O. meridionalis in the NT.  As well as investigating nutrition, watering regimes, soil types, planting densities, tillering manipulation and legume intercropping, there is the option to investigate provenance variation within extensive wild populations. The project will investigate the ability of different agronomic practices to affect yield variability and economic margins. It will also assess differences in the biology of the annual and perennial native Oryza species.

Ultimate outcomes of the project include development of a new industry for the NT and increasing economic opportunities for Indigenous communities associated with the floodplains of the NT. This PhD project is part of the Future Food Systems CRC.  Supervision and research support include staff of the QUT Centre for Tropical Crops and Bio-commodities in Brisbane, and NT DPIR and CDU RIEL research staff in Darwin.

About you:

CDU is currently looking for a student to undertake their PhD by research on the topic of the agronomy of native Australia rice for application by Indigenous enterprise owners. CDU seeks expressions of interest from Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants are strongly encouraged to apply.  The successful candidate will be selected on the basis of their strength of academic performance and compatibility of research expertise.

About the scholarship:

The scholarship will be competitively awarded and will be for commencement in the relevant research period in which it is offered and cannot be deferred or transferred to another area of research without prior approval.  The successful applicant must be supervised by Dr Sean Bellairs and Dr Penny Wurm.

How to submit your expression of interest (EOI):

Interested applicants should submit an expression of interest (EOI) to Dr Sean Bellairs ( containing:

  • A statement addressing your suitability for the project/scholarship
  • A brief CV
  • Academic transcripts from previous tertiary education

Applicants will be required to attend an interview.  The preferred applicant will be invited to submit a full application on-line.

Closing date:  EOIs should be submitted to Dr Sean Bellairs 5:00 pm (ACST) on 24th October 2019.

Connect with Sean: or 08 8946 6070