PhD Scholarship in Sensory Neurobiology

Brisbane, Australia
19 Dec 2017
End of advertisement period
17 Jan 2018
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Queensland Brain Institute

Established in 2003, QBI ( is situated on the St Lucia campus of UQ. It is home to more than 450 staff and students, including 41 group leaders, working across a range of disciplines, who are focused on discovering the fundamental mechanisms that regulate brain development and function in health and disease.

Over the past decade QBI has become known as one of the world’s leading neuroscience research institutes. It played a key role in contributing to UQ attaining the highest possible score of 5 for neuroscience, in the 2010, 2012 and 2015 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) reviews, one of only two universities in Australia to achieve this.

The role

The PhD project will be conducted in the Sensory Neurobiology Group led by Professor Justin Marshall.  To know more about the Group, please go to

The Group is interested in addressing fundamental questions about how animals perceive, communicate and interact with themselves, other animals and their environment. What can they see that we miss? How is information from the environment decoded? How do the physical constraints of the environment shape visual systems?

Despite the reliance of reef and deep-sea teleosts on vision, very little is known about the visual capabilities of most representatives and even less is known about the visual capabilities of their larvae. To date, very few studies have investigated the vision of reef larvae and even less the vision of deep-sea larvae. Crucial information can be gathered from studying larvae for the following reasons: (i) the visual system is shaped during the developmental stage of an individual (i.e. larval stage), and (ii) marked ontogenetic shifts in the visual system between species from different environments are expected as larvae from both environments have functional eyes and share the same habitat (upper layers of the pelagic environment), before migrating toward their permanent ecosystem, where the visual environment is dramatically different (structurally complex on the reef and extremely simple in the deep-sea).

The aim of this PhD will be to investigate the ontogenetic development (from larvae to adult) of the visual system of several species of reef and deep-sea fishes in order to better understand the evolution of the teleost visual system and assess the possible impact of a changing world (i.e. modified by anthropogenic activities) of the visual perception and ecology of these fishes. A multidisciplinary approach will be used combining several molecular, histological, labelling and microcopy approaches as well as aquarium and behavioural experiments. This project will involve some fieldwork at Lizard Island and Heron Island Research Stations on the Great Barrier Reef as well as in Tahiti (French Polynesia).

The successful student will be supervised by Professor Justin Marshall and Dr Fanny de Busserolles as part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) undertaking a project entitled “Did colour vision evole in the dark?”, and will also collaborate with international researchers from France (Tahiti). This PhD will provide excellent scope for integrative research, unique skill acquisition, as well as personal development.

The person

Applications are invited from outstanding and enthusiastic domestic students (Australian and Permanent Residents or New Zeland citizens), ideally with a background in neuroscience, marine biology, molecular biology, neurobiology, sensory biology, fish behaviour, evolution of visual signals, and/or animal communication mechanisms.

Candidates will have a First Class Honours degree or equivalent and must fulfil the PhD admission criteria for the University of Queensland. Applicants should have the ability to think critically, rationally and independently and should be strongly motivated to pursue cross-disciplinary research in sensory ecology. Excellent verbal and written English skills are essential. Applicants should be comfortable working with very small and delicate animal models (i.e. fish larvae). Demonstration of research ability through publication output in peer reviewed international journals is desirable. Previous experience in histology, microscopy and/or molecular biology would be helpful. Scuba diving certificate or willingness to learn is essential.

For information on PhD entry requirements, please visit

Ideally, the successful candidate would commence PhD candidature within the first two weeks of Research Quarter 2 (April) or Research Quarter 3 (July) 2018.


The successful domestic student will receive a living allowance scholarship equivalent to the base 2018 Research Training Program (RTP) stipend rate of AUD$27,082 (indexed annually), which is tax-free for three and a half years with a possible extension of up to 6 months in approved circumstances (conditions apply). The student will also receive assistance to apply for a UQ tuition fee scholarship.


To discuss this role and for further information, please contact Dr Fanny de Busserolles (

For further detailed information about this PhD position including eligibility, scholarships, terms and conditions, and how to apply, please visit UQ PhD scholarships to support Category 1 proejct grants.

Important:  please do not send your application directly to the contact person listed in this section of the advertisement. Applications not received via the UQ Online Application Form (OLA) will not be considered.