Social behaviour and emerging fungal diseases in wildlife

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

The project aims to establish the effect of the disease on individual fitness, and whether the social behaviour of individuals and their environment can affect these outcomes.

Capturing the impact of emerging infectious fungal diseases on animal fitness as they emerge and whether the social behaviour and environment of individuals can affect these outcomes has not been possible, largely because of the extensive life-history data required about individual animals within affected populations. Here this project will leverage a multigenerational, life history data on more than 1000 individually identified eastern water dragons collected over the last 10 years to answer these questions. The study will take place at the Roma Street Parkland located in the heart of Brisbane's CBD where, in 2013, we identified the emergence of a novel fungal pathogen, Nannizziopsis Barbatae like (see the following papers in Nature, and  As such, this study system represents a natural theatre for the study of social evolution in action, and offers an outstanding opportunity to test the evolutionary impact of disease on the social behaviour of animals.

The project will include extensive fieldwork and require molecular laboratory work to characterise the infection pattern of the disease. 

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Associate Professor Celine Frere

School of Biological Sciences


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of evolutionary biology and animal behaviour would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of biology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of social networks is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process