Research Supervisor Connect



Primary producers of agricultural commodities and consumers of food items desiring a balanced nutrition and health are linked by a global supply-chain system, in which demand and supply decisions cause environmental, social and economic impacts. With intensifying globalisation and integration of international production systems, food consumers in a particular location are increasingly tele-connected to distant primary producers elsewhere.

An important type of indirect supply-chain impacts are global disaster events: Facing an ever-growing risk from climate change etc., primary producers are vulnerable to floods, droughts, storms, disease etc., and – facilitated by dependence on international supply relationships – this vulnerability translates directly into diminished food and nutrition security for consumers elsewhere, and into insurance risk.

Recognising the international interconnectedness of food production and consumption systems, this project therefore employs a global life-cycle approach to local food and nutrition security and planetary health, with a focus on Australia’s place in the world.

The PhD will be supervised by Prof. Manfred Lenzen. The applicant will join the ISA Research Group at the School of Physics – The University of Sydney. ISA develops leading-edge research and applications for environmental and broader sustainability issues, bringing together expertise in environmental science, economics, technology, and social science.


Professor David Raubenheimer.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



Given that food and nutrition security, and planetary health, are global problems, and that Australia is inextricably linked into the world economy, this project uses a multi-regional input-output (MRIO) research framework that
a) allows modelling of international trade and the global supply-chain network,
b) provides completely harmonised physical and economic data at the global scale and at the detail of individual economic sectors, and
c) is governed by accepted worldwide standards.

Input-output analysis (IOA) is an economic technique conceived in the 1930s by Nobel Prize Laureate Wassily Leontief. IOA is able to interrogate economic data on inter-industry trade, final consumption and value added, connect individual transactions to global supply-chains, then trace physical and economic activity rippling throughout the resulting complex supply-chain network, and unveil both immediate and indirect impacts of systemic shocks. Over the past seventy years, IOA has been used extensively for a wide range of public policy and scientific research questions.

National food systems are vulnerable to adverse events within but also beyond their borders. Six countries in the world supply almost half, or more than half of global exports of four of the world’s most important staple crops: rice, wheat, soy beans and corn. Many of these crop systems are vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, droughts and storms, or human-induced disasters such as chemical pollution, invasive species, or civil unrest. Any adverse event that destroyed a sizable fraction of national crops would lead to production shortfalls. In order to understand these vulnerabilities, it is helpful to understand the “global hinterland” of a country’s food consumption. In other words: Where does the food that a country consumes come from? And in addition, where do non-food items that are needed for food production (for example agricultural machinery, pesticides, fertiliser) and their supply-chain inputs (steel, chemicals, and so on) come from? This project will answer these questions by conducting a complete global life-cycle assessment of food consumption.

Additional information

Applicants need to satisfy the eligibility criteria for PhD enrolment at the University of Sydney. Interest and prior engagement in broader sustainability will be beneficial. Applications should be sent by email to Prof. Manfred Lenzen:
Further reading: Rose and Miernyk 1989; Bailey and Wellesley 2017
Bailey, R. and L. Wellesley (2017) Chokepoints and vulnerabilities in global food trade. Chatham House Report, London, UK, Energy, Environment and Resources Department, The Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Rose, A. and W. Miernyk (1989) Input-output analysis: the first fifty years. Economic Systems Research 1, 229-271.
Xiao, Y., C. Benoît-Norris, M. Lenzen, G. Norris and J. Murray (2017) How social footprints of nations can assist in achieving the sustainable development goals. Ecological Economics 135, 55-65.

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2302

Other opportunities with Professor David Raubenheimer