PhD Scholarship - Insect-plant interactions in New Zealand eucalypt forestry

22 September 2017

Applicants are sought for a fully-funded PhD research project at the School of Forestry, University of Canterbury. The research will focus on the impacts and management of insect pests in New Zealand eucalypt forestry using integrated pest management (IPM) and biological control approaches.

  • Eucalypt Beetles

    Paropsis charybdis (left) and Paropsisterna varicollis (right); New Zealand’s longest, & most recently established eucalypt beetles, respectively

The project is supported by the New Zealand Dryland Forestry Initiative, which aims to increase the establishment of naturally durable and sustainably grown eucalypts in dryland areas of New Zealand.

The New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative (NZDFI) is selecting elite breeds of Eucalyptus suited to dry marginal growing regions of New Zealand. Their aim is to identify breeds that can be used for sustainable production of high quality, naturally durable timber, thereby reducing pressure on natural tropical forests, decreasing the need for toxic wood preservatives and securing a supply of durable timber in New Zealand. To develop a successful industry, it is essential that the eucalypts selected are also able to be grown in the presence of established insect pests.

This project will inform the selection process by investigating the interactions between insect herbivores, eucalypt breeds, the environment and natural enemies in field trials across the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Research will involve both field and lab work focusing on areas such as;

  • Assessing links between pest tolerance, tree genetics, foliar chemistry and microhabitat
  • Evaluating host preferences of well-established and new pests
  • Understanding regional pest dynamics and the interactions between pests and natural enemies on a regional scale
  • Developing sustainable integrated pest management approaches (IPM)

Ideal candidate

Candidates should have a background in entomology, biological sciences, ecology or forest entomology. Extensive knowledge of forestry practice or tree breeding is not essential. The candidate will have a GPA of 7.5 (A/A-) and hold either a four-year bachelor degree with first class honours or a Masters degree, awarded within the last five years. The candidate’s previous degree should be in an entomology or ecology related field. Good written and spoken communication skills, attention to detail, and a positive practical work ethic are essential. Demonstrated evidence of publishing is highly desirable. Candidates must have a valid driver’s licence and be willing to undertake field work.


The successful candidate will be awarded a scholarship that covers the full cost of tuition as well as a stipend to contribute to their living costs. Current PhD tuition fees are approximately $8,000 and the cost-of-living stipend is $22,000 per year. The scholarship is available for three years.


Interested candidates should submit a brief written submission (< 600 words) on why you wish to undertake research in the topic area and your suitability to undertake the research. It should include information on any associated work or practical experience you may have and extra-curricular interests. In addition a copy of your academic transcript(s) and CV (including contact details for two referees) should be supplied. Applications should be emailed along with the Forestry_DFI-PhD_Application_checklist to no later than 30 November 2017. A short list of candidates will be interviewed by Skype and notified of the outcome by 1 February 2018. The successful applicant should expect to begin their PhD studies by May 2018 although later starts up to 1 July 2018 may be considered.

Your primary supervisor will be Dr Tara Murray.  




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