PhD position in Behavioural Ecology, Animal Sciences

at Macquarie University, Sydney

We are pleased to announce an opportunity available for a start from early to mid 2019

Foraging and decision making in challenging environments,

in gregarious sheep

Sheep have a long history of domestication, and are an important production animal. However, in the harsh environment of the rangelands in outback Australia, paddocks are large, sheep are free ranging and rarely handled or managed. In these environments, although domesticated sheep face similar challenges as wild animals including finding patchily distributed food, finding water, shelter and mates.

STL_sheep group_small

In this project we examine how social structure and collective decision making in a foraging context affect life-history trade-offs and ultimately productivity. Over the past 18 months, we have established a great study system and can continuously track all individuals of large groups of sheep using GPS collars. The scope of the project is broad, and will allow candidates to develop projects that focus either on fundamental questions in movement ecology, social behaviour and collective behaviour, or on more applied questions related to productivity and health; or a mixture of both. The project will use tools from social network theory and spatial ecology to characterise individual and group behaviour and investigate their effect on individual quality and productivity (lambs and wool) in this challenging, but economically important part of Australia. The project will involve periods of fieldwork at Fowlers Gap (near Broken Hill in the arid zone), and is supported by an ARC funded project. Dr Stephan Leu and Prof Simon Griffith will jointly supervise the candidate.


The Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University is a vibrant environment, which offers excellent support to postgraduate students. Macquarie University has scholarship opportunities available to suitably competitive candidates (MQ scholarships).

Domestic candidates (Australian citizens and permanent residents): Applications for scholarships are currently open (deadline 31 Oct 2018). Please get in touch quickly if you are interested.

International candidates can also apply, but scholarship applications open at a later date (01 May 2019).

The 2018 stipend value for full-time domestic and international students is $27,596 p.a. tax exempt for 3 years (indexed annually). In addition to external grant support for projects, there is additional internal funding (up to $17,000) available to cover direct research expenses and conference travel.

Applicants should ideally have a research MSc in a related discipline (with a minimum 50% research component), and additional relevant research experience and/or qualifications. An ability to work in remote and harsh conditions are essential, and good analytical skills are a plus. All projects require a driving licence.

Applications should include 1) your CV, 2) a brief statement of your reasons for applying (max. 500 words), 3) contact details of two academic referees, 4) your nationality (for scholarship eligibility purposes). Applications should be submitted electronically as a single PDF file.

Applications for the position (and any initial enquiries) should be emailedĀ by 14th of October to: stephan.leu[at]mq.edu.au

Please state clearly in your email if you want to apply for the domestic scholarship which is currently open, or the international scholarship.

Dr Stephan Leu & Prof. Simon Griffith, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia