Controls on the Holocene evolution of the Great Barrier Reef: linking 4D numerical modeling and observational data


This project will investigate the biological and geological processes that control the evolution of coral reef systems (e.g. reef communities, stratigraphic ages and growth rates, reef geometries (‘architecture’). We will construct new 4D numerical models using state of the art software (eg., pyReef, pyBadlands) and compare them against rich observational reef data sets from the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) that grew during the Holocene (10,000 years to now). We aim to assess the sensitivity of coral reef systems to various environmental stresses (e.g. sea-level rise, hydrodynamic energy, sediment flux) acting on different timescales, magnitudes and rates. The project may also involve field work to One Tree Reef/Heron in the southern GBR to calibrate model parameters and processes against real world sedimentary and biological examples.  

A complimentary scholarship for this project may be available through a competitive process. To find out more, contact Associate Professor Jody Webster directly.


Associate Professor Jody Webster, Dr Rohitash Chandra, Dr Tristan Salles

Research Location

School of Geosciences

Program Type



Predicting how the GBR will respond in the face of future global climate changes is both poorly constrained and controversial. This relates to our incomplete understanding of how reef systems respond to environmental changes but also the lack of baseline data — particularly on centennial to millennial time scales. In this project, you will integrate existing sedimentologic, biologic, geochemical, and chronological data sets from a unique suite of fossil reef cores recently collected from the southern GBR. Then you will use sophisticated modelling software (pyReef-Core, pyBadlands) that predicts reef core stratigraphy, facies, communities and geometries, and in combination with innovative data sciences tools (BayesReef - bayesian inference computational algorithm) to optimize model inputs/parameters, to explore the past evolution of the GBR in response to major global climate and environmental changes. This will improve our understanding of the sensitivity of the GBR to multiple environmental stresses and help improve predictions about the future fate of the reef. This project is part of a new $4 million ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre grant called DARE (Data Analytics for Resources and Environments Centre) and will enable researchers and PhD students to apply their data science models against real world challenges, such as water storage, biodiversity loss and the extraction of mineral resources.

Additional Information

A complimentary scholarship for this project may be available through a competitive process. To find out more contact Associate Professor Jody Webster directly. 

The PhD candidate will work closely with other DARE project members, as well as the extensive network of national and international collaborators of the Geocoastal Research Group (GRG).  

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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Great Barrier Reef, reef geology, Numerical modeling, sea level and climate change

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2726

Other opportunities with Associate Professor Jody Webster

Other opportunities with Dr Rohitash Chandra

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