Honours in Applied Ecology

The University of Canberra’s honours program for Applied Ecology provides the opportunity for students to:

  • Learn to conceive, plan and carry to completion a discrete piece of original research, under the close supervision of a professional in the field;
  • Critically review special topics of relevance to applied ecology in greater depth than would be possible at third-year undergraduate level; and
  • Gain exposure to an active research environment, to interact with research staff and to participate in discussion on current controversial issues in science.

Scholarship Opportunities

The IAE currently have three scholarship opportunities:

1) Central Australian wetland restoration: ecological changes

An Honours scholarship is available for a student with interest and knowledge in combining traditional knowledge with western science; restoration ecology; and/or arid landscapes. They will work alongside researchers at the University of Canberra, Charles Darwin University and the Traditional Owners of waterholes in central Australia on the restoration of some important waterholes.

Traditional Owners and rangers often list the maintenance and restoration of waterholes in arid Australia as a significant management priority because these sites are culturally and ecologically significant. They are sources of water and biodiversity in an otherwise dry landscape. In such dry environments, waterholes have developed over millennia and are sensitive to disturbance and change. Damage is not easily recovered. There are many damaged waterholes across central Australia, particularly because of the impact of feral animals and invasive plants, and active intervention is needed to restore these sites. The restoration of arid waterholes worldwide is in its infancy, partly because they have been largely overlooked by the greater community.

Preference will be given to indigenous students who wish to work on these projects, but applications are encouraged from all students.

In this project, you could:

  • Develop an understanding of the restoration ecology of arid waterholes
  • Understand the wetland seedbank and potential for restoration
  • Investigate the invertebrate and vertebrate responses to restoration
  • Work with the traditional owners to understand restoration objectives.

Dr Fiona Dyer (UC), Dr Valerie Caron (UC), Dr Jayne Brim Box (Northern Territory Government), Prof. Jenny Davis (Charles Darwin University)

For more details or information about how to apply, contact: Fiona.Dyer@canberra.edu.au or Valerie.Caron@canberra.edu.au

2) De-icing salt effects on rivers in Australian alpine national parks

Salt is used in the ski resorts during winter to keep roads safe for resort visitors. Inevitably salt is washed into the local streams of the national parks and this may damage aquatic biota. Resort managers need better information to decide how best to apply salt to keep drivers safe and to protect the rivers.

In this project, you will:

  • Get to work in the alpine areas in NSW and Victoria.
  • Learn how salt affect stream macroinvertebrates.
  • Be involved in research that informs the management of sand application.
  • Learn applied freshwater ecology techniques and their application.


  • Ben Kefford
  • Sue Nichols
  • Simon Foster
  • Other IAE staff as appropriate

Two honours projects both with a $6,000 scholarship are available.

Contact Ben Kefford on (02) 6201 2086 or ben.kefford@canberra.edu.au for more information.

3) Grassland earless dragon

The grassland earless dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla, is one of Australia’s most endangered reptiles. Once occurring in temperate grasslands across south-eastern Australia, T.pinguicolla now exists in only a few small and fragmented populations in the ACT/Queanbeyan area and near Cooma (NSW). Reasons for its decline are varied but include habitat clearance and fragmentation and more subtle causes such as habitat degradation (through stock or kangaroo grazing) or other agricultural practices. Climate change is also likely to increase the threats to this species.

In collaboration with the ACT Government, the University of Canberra has collected mark-recapture data from populations of the species using back-pattern recognition.  In this project, you would survey the lizard in key population localities within the ACT, combine those data with captures from previous years, and then use the total dataset to develop a population dynamic model for the species. The goal will be to predict the future population trajectories for the species and its likelihood of extinction.

The National Parks Association of the ACT are sponsoring this project with a $5,000 student veryhair scholarship and $5,000 for field work expenses.

The project and the student will be supervised by Professor Stephen Sarre.  You can find out more by contacting Stephen on  (02) 6201 5657 or stephen.sarre@canberra.edu.au