Rehabilitation of Estuarine Ecosystems: Boosting biodiversity and ecosystem function


Sydney Harbour still has significant sediment contamination. Much is a legacy from past industry with ongoing inputs now controlled. Despite this, much of the waterway remains degraded and animals have not returned to levels that could improve sediment and water quality. While contaminants remain bound to the sediments they pose most risk to the animals living there, but during disturbance, e.g. storms or vessel wash, sediments can become resuspended and the risks become widespread. Improving urban waterways therefore requires a strategy that ‘kickstarts' sediment communities towards recovery. Organisms in sediments are key to rehabilitating aquatic systems because they perform essential functions, increasing oxygen in sediments, and nutrient cycling that improve water quality. Burrowing by invertebrates likely promotes microbial activities that have a high rate of nutrient conversion or toxin degradation. Restoring native shellfish to sediments has great potential as a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly option for remediation. The project will focus on how rehabilitating patch reefs of flat oysters and oyster shell may enhance the recovery of biodiversity and sediment processes within degraded harbour system


Professor Ross Coleman, Associate Professor Ana Vila-Concejo

Research Location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program Type



PhD projects will be developed between the supervisor and candidate. An interest in restoration ecology and soft-sediment systems will be essential. The research will be field-based and much of the work will involve collecting samples via diving

Additional Information

Funding for research costs is provided and a competitive fully funded scholarship will be a possibility for excellent candidates. Aside from an excellent academic track record, you will have skills in invertebrate ecology, marine biology generally and not be afraid of numerical analyses. You should be a qualified diver (PADI/SSI/NAUI AOW, BSAC Sports, CMAS 2* etc) and be capable of passing an occupational diving medical. A clean diving licence is also essential. Small-boat helming skills and qualifications would be highly desirable.

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.

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Marine ecology, pollution, urban ecosystems, sediments

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2310

Other opportunities with Professor Ross Coleman