16 November 2021

University of Auckland is offering a PhD opportunity, funded by a New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission grant to Bioprotection Aotearoa, a national Centre of Research Excellence.

This is a fantastic opportunity for a student wanting to apply ecological theory to weed invasion while gaining skills and experience in a variety of techniques. This PhD will have beneficial outcomes for Aotearoa New Zealand’s biodiversity.

The impacts of weeds on ecosystems are almost always studied from a single weed species perspective. However, land managers are increasingly having to manage multiple weed species within high-value sites. Scientific evidence is lacking for informing decision-making in terms of multiple weed species management. Which suite of weed species have the most severe impacts on ecosystems? Should there be an optimal order of weed removal and management to prevent perverse outcomes such as replacement weeds?

Research aim

This PhD will test different models of multiple weed impacts, from redundancy models where invading species are from the same functional group to additive, facilitation and synergistic models, where weeds have different types of impacts on ecosystems that may interact to result in severe changes to ecosystems. The exact project will depend on the interests of the candidate. Impacts studied could include changes to soil characteristics and processes, as well as to the plant community itself. Both glasshouse and field trials could be used to test whether different management regimes, such as order of removal, can improve outcomes for mānuka/kānuka ecosystems. These shrubland ecosystems are of significant cultural value to Māori and are increasingly being valued for the economic benefits they bring through honey production. There is also the opportunity to model landscape and Māori values impacts of multiple weed impact scenarios.

Prerequisites and application process

The position is open to candidates with Honours and/or Masters Degrees in a relevant discipline.

Applicants for this project are expected to have qualifications and experience in ecology, with plant ID skills highly desirable. Quantitative skills (experience using R) are also highly desirable. Kaupapa Māori researchers are encouraged to apply – potential for co-design of project to incorporate impact of weeds on Māori values, tikanga and Te Ao Māori.

Applicants should send evidence of qualifications and research experience, together with a Curriculum Vitae and contact details of two academic referees. Your application should be supported by a cover letter that states why you are interested in this particular PhD, and how your qualifications and aspirations would map onto the proposed research.
Please email applications to [email protected] before 15 January 2022. Preferred candidates would then need to apply to study for a PhD at University of Auckland and meet the institutional criteria for entry prior to the scholarship being confirmed, including obtaining a visa where applicable.


The three year (36-month) scholarship provides an annual stipend of NZ$28,000 a year tax-free, covers full university fees.

Bioprotection Aotearoa

This PhD is funded by, and sits within, the Bioprotection Aotearoa science programme. Besides their own research, the student will attend courses and workshops in relevant transferable skills such as scientific writing and project management as well as participate in the biennial Bioprotection Aotearoa Conference, weekly seminar series and group meetings.

Location: Auckland
Institution: University of Auckland, New Zealand
Supervisors: Margaret Stanley, Nick Waipara (with additional advisors)
Discipline: Invasion Ecology
Deadline: 15 January 2022