Projects on offer

PhD project opportunities (James Cook University, Australia): 

Using population genomics approaches to identify dugong populations and their level of connectivity across northern Australia

Globally, Australia is a stronghold for the dugong (Dugong dugon), a seagrass specialist that occurs in coastal waters extending from Shark Bay, in Western Australia, to Moreton Bay in Eastern Australia. In South East Queensland strong population structure has been detected, despite the known ability of individual dugongs to travel long distances. Very little is known, however, about the genetic structure and connectivity across the west and northern regions. Such information would inform management in several key conservation regions.

This project will use a reduced representation population genomics approach to identify dugong populations across the west and northern Australian regions and understand the relationships among them by estimating present day connectivity, while taking into account historic connectivity and population size changes across northern Australia.

This PhD project will investigate various aspects of the evolutionary history of Southern Ocean The project involves a strong component of liaising and working closely with Indigenous communities, Traditional Owners and Land & Sea rangers from the design of the study through to interpreting and communicating research findings to improve dugong conservation and management in country. Strong engagement in first nation people will be pivotal to the successful collection of dugong samples in the field and the overall success and impact of the study.

Through a population genomics approach this PhD project will use thousands of markers across the entire genome to help address questions about connectivity, demography, genetic diversity, levels of inbreeding and kinship, and investigate source and sink populations. 

The student will be based in the Department of Marine Biology and Aquaculture at James Cook UThe student will be based in the Department of Marine Biology and Aquaculture at James Cook University, Townsville, Australia, under the supervision of Prof Jan Strugnell and will be co-supervised by Dr Ira Cooke (JCU) and Dr Christophe Cleguer (JCU-TropWATER).  The student will receive expert training in fieldwork, laboratory and bioinformatics skills.


The successful applicant will have a First Class Honours (or equivalent) in biological science or a related field and will pick up extra points in the scoring system if they have a first authored paper. Preference will be given to those applicants with previous experience in genetics/bioinformatics and/or evidence of strong technical and laboratory skills. Proven experience in working with Indigenous communities is preferred. Journal publications in these fields are desirable but not essential.  Applicants must apply by 6 February, 2023.

Applicants will need to be familiar with the JCU Higher Degree by Research Requirements.

Funding: A 3.5 year stipend scholarship co-funded by JCU and National Environment Science Program (NESP) is provided ($29,900 pa for 3.5 years, tax exempt).  Funds are available to support field and laboratory implementation funding.

Interested applicants should send their 1) CV, 2) academic transcript and 3) a short (max. 1 page) letter outlining their suitability and interest in the project to Prof. Jan Strugnell (