PhD position: Reconstructing Australian megafaunal extinction histories using luminescence dating techniques.

At the Sima de los Huesos. Credit: Science Mag/JAVIER TRUEBA/MADRID SCIENTIFIC FILMS

A PhD scholarship is available as part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project entitled “Trying times: Millennial to million year chronologies for improved reconstructions of Australian megafaunal extinctions.”

This 3-year PhD scholarship is open to domestic and international students, and includes a living stipend of AU$25,850 per year. The planned starting date is March 2015, though there may be some flexibility depending on personal circumstances.

The ARC project focuses on the causes of megafaunal extinction in Australia, which continue to be fiercely debated owing to chronological gaps in the palaeontological record, poorly constrained palaeoenvironmental histories and limited data on long-term faunal responses to climate change prior to human arrival.

This project will utilise and advance novel luminescence dating methods to provide detailed reconstructions of faunal turnover and environmental change over Late, Middle and Early Pleistocene timescales. The chronologies generated through this project will be used to provide new perspectives on the ongoing megafaunal debate and will enable the testing of key assumptions underpinning anthropogenic- and climate-driven extinction hypotheses on local, regional and continental scales.

The PhD study associated with this ARC project will focus on establishing temporal constraints on long-term megafaunal turnovers and palaeoenvironmental change at Middle and Early Pleistocene sites across South Australia. The PhD student would be responsible for undertaking detailed regional-scale reconstructions as well as site-specific studies, and would be expected to pursue advancements in extended-range luminescence dating methodological research.

Applicants should have a Master’s, Honours or equivalent degree in Quaternary science, geology, physical geography or palaeontology. A background in Quaternary geochronology, luminescence dating and/or statistics would be advantageous, as would some experience with laboratory and field work. Candidates must be enthusiastic, able to think independently, and willing to learn new techniques. Candidates should be fluent in written and spoken English.

The PhD project will be undertaken at the School of Physical Sciences, University of Adelaide, and will be supervised by Dr Lee Arnold and Professor Nigel Spooner. The University of Adelaide is a member of the “Group of Eight” coalition for leading Australian tertiary institutions and is ranked 100 in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15. The University is conveniently located close to the centre of the city.

The School of Physical Sciences is home to the John R. Prescott Laboratory for Environmental Luminescence, a world-class facility for geochronology research.

For further information on our facilities and research activities, see Dr Lee Arnold’s staff profile and the luminiscence facilities at Adelaide University.

You can also read the Environment Institute blog post about Lee’s recent publication in Science journal, in which he reports on findings from the largest human fossil collection the The Sima de los Huesos (pit of bones), a cave in northern Spain from which 6500 human fossils from at least 28 individuals have been recovered to date.

Expressions of interest should be sent to Dr Lee Arnold ( before 31st October 2014. Please include a cover letter outlining your research experience and interests, a curriculum vitae, and the names / contact details of two referees.

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