Using mathematical modelling to combat invasive weeds (UNSW/Monash University)

Project Title: Fine-scale canopy turbulence models of seed dispersal

Supervisors: A/Prof Jason Sharples (UNSW), Dr John Taylor (UNSW), Dr Joslin Moore (Monash)

Scholarship details: The University of New South Wales (UNSW Canberra) is offering a top-up of $5,000 per annum over three years for PhD candidates in receipt of a Tuition Fee Remission (TFR) Scholarship. The top-up will allow the successful candidate to work with researchers in leading Universities in Australia and the United States. In particular, the scholarship offers a number of unique career development opportunities. These include: a period of travel to the United States to work with leading researchers in the field of turbulence modelling and seed dispersal; experience with field work and real-world application of mathematical modelling; and engagement with industry representatives.


PhD project description:

Invasive plant species are a significant environmental problem that costs the Australian economy $100 million each year.  To effectively manage invasive plants, land managers need to understand how populations spread across the landscape; and while we know that species spread is determined by long distance dispersal events, we currently cannot predict where in the landscape these events will occur.

This problem is being addressed in research funded by the Australian Research Council’s Industry Linkage Scheme under the project entitled ‘New multi-scale seed dispersal models for improved regional weed management’. This project is a collaboration between Monash University, the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the University of Canberra and a host of environmental and land management agencies.

A key part of the project is to determine how long distance dispersal depends on seeds being able to escape the plant canopy so that they can be carried by the wind. This seed escape is difficult to predict because it depends on the structure of the canopy, the characteristics of the wind and the aerodynamics of the seed. Variations in topography add an additional layer of complexity to the problem.

To help tackle this problem we are looking for a PhD candidate with a strong background in mathematics, physics or the atmospheric sciences. The candidate will develop and test canopy turbulence models that combine coupled Eulerian-Lagrangian closure models (CELC) and Large Eddy Simulations. These models will down-scale mean wind predictions from weather models to provide improved predictions of seed escape and a better understanding of this process on broad-scale seed dispersal. The numerical modelling will be combined with real measurements of wind across the landscape obtained through field surveys.

The project provides a substantial top-up scholarship and a number of unique career development opportunities. These include: a period of travel to the United States to work with leading researchers in the field of turbulence modelling and seed dispersal; experience with field work and real-world implementation of mathematical modelling; and engagement with industry representatives.

For more information contact:

A/Prof. Jason Sharples

School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences

UNSW Canberra

(E) j.sharples@adfa.edu.au

(P) +61 (2) 6268 9466