Want to help build healthier oceans? This PhD opportunity may be for you



Project Details


Developing universal markers to track the provenance of marine animals

We have an exciting PhD project opportunity available at MARIS labs at the Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia.

PhD opportunity forms part of a 4-year project funded by the Australian Research Council. The project brings together the fields of marine ecology and geochemistry to develop and test universal chemical markers that could be used to track the provenance (geographical origin) of marine animals, in particular seafood species. In doing so, this project could help empower authorities to combat seafood fraud and illegal fishing activities. This research will exploit the natural chemical variation found in the biominerals of many marine animals, such as ear stones and shells, to investigate markers of provenance that are universal across highly divergent taxa, such as fish and cephalopods.

As part of this project you will work with a local, interstate and international team on a range of activities, such as:

  • Collect and collate archived biomineral collections and seafood samples across Australia and south-east Asia,

  • Analyse stable isotopes and trace elements in biominerals using state-of-the-art technology,

  • Build maps of ocean chemistry (marine isoscapes) using spatial modelling techniques, which also have broad ecological and environmental science applications,

  • Present results to a broad scientific and public audience using a variety of mediums (e.g. social media, conference presentations),

  • Publish high value and high impact publications,

  • Apply for student grant and award opportunities when they arise.

This summary provides an overall taste of the project that could be possible, however, at MARIS we like to tailor projects to suit a student’s passions and skills.

Keywords: food provenance; movement and spatial ecology; seafood and fisheries; isotopes and isoscapes; biominerals such as ear stones and shells.


Step 1 - Check criteria

Check the University of South Australia’s PhD entrance and scholarship requirements, which can be found here for domestic students (Australian and NZ citizens and permanent residents of Australia) and here for international students. A range of scholarships are available.

Requirements specific to this project:

  • An honours or master’s degree in marine ecology, fisheries science or geochemistry related discipline

  • Experience in spatial ecology, isotope ecology and/or biomineral chemistry, alongside experience using R, would be an advantage

  • Self-leadership skills and the ability to work in a team

  • Comfortable with interstate and international travel (dependent on travel restrictions and Work, Health and Safety considerations associated with COVID-19)

  • Interests in developing strong science communication skills


Step 2 – Submit Expression of Interest to Zoe Doubleday @ MARIS by the 22nd July 2020 for international students and the 19 Oct 2020 for domestic students

  • Send me an email, ask me lots of questions, tell me a bit about yourself and why you’re interested in the project (feel free also to contact me and ask questions at any time)

  • Provide a copy of your CV, contact details of 2 or more referees, and a copy of your academic transcript


Step 3 – Apply for a scholarship at UniSA by the 31st August for international students and 31st October for domestic students

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