Palaeoscience Research Centre PhD Scholarship

The Palaeoscience Research Centre (PRC) at the University of New England is the biggest research group of its kind in Australia, covering many facets of palaeontology and palaeoanthropology.  Key research areas include: early animal evolution and modes of exceptional preservation during the Cambrian “explosion”; dinosaur palaeobiology; morphometrics and macroevolutionary modelling; biomechanics of ancient animals (especially vertebrates); microfossils and palaeobiogeographic reconstructions; extinction dynamics; and hominid anatomy and evolution.  Further details about the Centre’s members, research programs, facilities, news and events can be found here.

Researchers at the PRC use cutting-edge tools and approaches to answer questions of global significance relating to palaeoclimate, the Cambrian Explosion, mass ectinctions, plate tectonics and the evolution of a vast range of vertebrate and invertebrate species.  Our scientists are on the leading edge in the development of approaches in the areas of virtual reconstruction, computer-based biomechanics, 3D geometric morphometrics, and macroevolutionary modelling.

The Centre seeks an exceptional, self-motivated PhD student to carry out a quantitative and analytic study of teeth in dinosaurs.  The PhD project is associated with an ARC DECRA Fellowship (DE190101423) awarded to Dr Nicolás Campione, but will be funded through the University of New England.

Intended Project

Mesozoic dinosaurs include the largest land animals to have ever existed and, after almost 200 years of research, palaeontologists have quantified much about the anatomy, physiology, and diversity of this iconic group. However, because interactions between species are rarely preserved in the fossil record, paleoecology has been a particular challenge to reconstruct and, as a result, our understanding of dinosaur ecology lags behind that of diversity. Since direct evidence of past interactions is rare, the key to reconstructing ecological patterns in the fossil record is to: 1) understand the link between morphology and ecology (or ecomorphology) in living systems, and 2) generate large data sets of ecologically-relevant anatomical measures that can be obtained from fossils and examined through their evolutionary history.

The PhD project will complement the overarching goal of the DECRA project: to reveal the role of diet in instigating and maintaining the terrestrial dominance of dinosaurs during the Mesozoic. Accordingly, the successful candidate will 1) assist in the generation of an unprecedented global-level data set of 3D dinosaur tooth anatomy and 2) generate a new isotopic data set of calcium isotope ratios obtained from teeth. The 3D data will be used to investigate the biomechanical properties of dinosaur teeth and assess their ability to process food. Methods include Finite Element Modelling (FEM), in order to map the strain and torsion that a tooth undergoes during food processing and investigate how these properties vary along the toothrow. The isotopic data will be used to infer trophic dynamics and resource partitioning. The approach includes the extraction of calcium, through chromatography, and the measurement of isotope ratios (d44/42Ca), via mass spectrometry. Results from both approaches will be vetted against each other and against those generated through the ecomorphometric data compiled through Dr Campione’s DECRA project.

The PhD student will be supervised by Dr Campione and co-supervised by Professor Stephen Wroe (UNE) and Associate Professor Anthony Dosseto (University of Wollongong; UOW). With our expertise, the student will be trained in 3D imaging and biomechanical techniques (through Materialise Mimics), macroevolutionary analyses (through R), and isotope geochemistry (through mass spectrometry at UOW).

Requirements

An honours (mandatory) and/or master of science (preferred) degree in a relevant subject area. Applicants approaching the end of their current degrees are also encouraged to apply. We are looking for a candidate who is ambitious, motivated, and well versed in either vertebrate evolution or biomechanical/macroevolutionary/isotopic techniques. Given the analytical nature of this project, pervious experience with mimics, R, mass spectrometry, or similar approaches will be viewed favourably. Candidates must be fluent in English.

Scholarship Information

The scholarship value is AU$27,596 p.a. for a maximum of three years. The scholarship is tax exempt and paid in fortnightly instalments. This scholarship is available to domestic students. In addition to the stipend, students will receive AU$3,500 p.a for research support. Please see the scholarship terms and conditions for more information.

Applicants must meet UNE’s admission requirements for a PhD program.  Applicants must submit a candidature application if they wish to apply for a scholarship. For more information on submitting a candidature application please see our webpage on how to apply/enrol for candidature.

Please click here for more information about Higher Degree Research at UNE.

To Apply or Enquire

To discuss these opportunities and your research proposal concept, please contact:

Dr Nicolás E. Campione
email: ncampion@une.edu.au
phone: +61 (02) 6773 1906Call through skype

Your application should include:

  • A cover letter, which describes yourself, your previous research and ongoing interests, why you are well suited to carry out this project, and why you want to do a PhD.
  • A Curriculum Vitae (CV), including a list of publications (if applicable).
  • A copy of your honours/master degrees.
  • A transcript of previous grades.

Applications are open until position is filled. Students would be expected to commence by 1 June 2019 or as soon as possible and be enrolled full-time and on-campus.

UNE aims for gender and racial equality and we welcome applicants of any gender and with different birth backgrounds, functionality, and life experiences.