17 November 2021

Title: Recloaking Papatūānuku: Creating healthy, climate resilience soils in Indigenous communities
Location: Massey University – Palmerston North or Lincoln University – Canterbury, New Zealand
Supervisors: Nick Roskruge, Amanda Black, Nick Waipara
Discipline: Soil Health and Indigenous knowledge
Deadline: 17th December 2021

Project Description:
We are offering a PhD Scholarship opportunity, funded by a New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission grant to Bioprotection Aotearoa.

Bioprotection Aotearoa is a national Centre of Research Excellence that exists to train the next generation of bioprotection researchers and to deliver world-class research that protects the productive and natural landscapes of Aotearoa New Zealand. Our mission is to educate our nation’s future bioprotection leaders by collaborating to conduct pioneering, multi-disciplinary research that addresses the environmental challenges Aotearoa New Zealand is facing. We draw on our collective academic strengths to develop new and innovative solutions that protect our productive and natural landscapes from climate change, pathogens, pests and weeds. Our kaupapa is guided by a unique mātauranga Māori and science framework – Te Taiao-a-rangi – which supports a holistic, systems-level approach to achieving intergenerational environmental sustainability. 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.

This PhD Scholarship will contribute to understanding the processes involved in the creation of healthy, disease climate-resilient soils that is grounded in indigenous knowledge from the Pacific, including Aotearoa. This will investigate approaches to shift soil ecosystems towards more disturbance-tolerant states, and considers the connections between soils, vegetation, and Pasifika communities.

Research Aim:
To characterise the importance and extent of the role of connection/relationship between plants and the way they are managed with the soil resistance. The PhD candidate will quantify the importance of common practices such as continuous cover, species diversity and intercropping, and organic matter retention on biological status of soil ecosystems and their subsequent ability to respond to both biotic and abiotic disturbances (i.e. disease and climate). Parallel to this, the candidate will test the importance of specific disturbance events – e.g. fire and summer fallow – on maintaining soil biodiversity (particularly conditionally rare taxa that may need these events) and providing periods of reset that enable transition towards new states. Are these periods of heightened ecological vulnerability, or opportunities for strategic reset and recovery of ecosystems?
The outcomes of this research are aimed at providing knowledge enabling informed and data-driven decision making for use in the primary sector (farm, horticulture, or forestry).

Prerequisites and Application Process:
Applicants for this project are expected to have worked with Pasifika communities and have qualifications and experience in microbiology, plant pathology, molecular biology, and soil science.

Applications should send evidence of qualifications and research experience, together with a Curriculum Vitae and contact details of two academic referees. Applications should be supported by a cover letter that states why the candidate is interested in the PhD Scholarship and how their qualifications and aspirations would map onto the proposed research.

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

Preferred candidates would then need to apply to study for a PhD at either Lincoln University of Massey University and meet the institutional criteria for entry prior to the scholarship being confirmed, including obtaining a visa where applicable.

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