First listed on: 17 October 2018

Rigs and Reefs: A Curtin University - CSIRO Industry PhD project

  • Are you passionate about a career in applied research or technology?
  • Want to kick-start your career with an industry placement during your PhD?
  • Apply for the Curtin University-CSIRO Industry PhD Program!

The Curtin University - CSIRO Industry PhD (iPhD) Program is an industry-focused, applied research training program that aims to produce the next generation of work-ready research and innovation leaders with the skills to work at the interface of research and industry in Australia. The program aims to provide an innovation and industry-focussed 4-year applied research training experience that gives graduates a competitive advantage across a broad range of future career paths.

Industry PhD Higher Degree Research candidates will:

  • Undertake an industry-focussed, applied research project
  • Be supervised by a team of three supervisors (CSIRO, Curtin University and Chevron) with expertise in applied research skills, knowledge exchange and industry
  • Undertake an industry focussed training program with coursework and development activities
  • Gain ‘real life’ industry experience through a six-month internship during their four-year candidature

Project Title: Rigs and Reefs: How environmental DNA can inform both rig decommissioning and artificial reef best practice

Project details: Offshore oil/ gas platforms and pipelines (P&Ps) that have come to the end of their life are subject to decommissioning. In addition to representing a major engineering challenge, decommissioning also represents a significant environmental challenge because after decades in the water infrastructure has recruited biodiverse marine communities, including attached and mobile organisms. Empirical information on the biodiversity value of subsea infrastructure is limited because of the difficulty in conducting comprehensive surveys. Consequently, alternative decommissioning strategies are difficult to evaluate, and in the absence of information, regulations dictating oil/gas infrastructure vary widely by jurisdiction. In this project an iPhD student will develop a next-generation biodiversity survey workflow based on environmental DNA (eDNA) methodologies. This toolkit will be used to characterise biological communities inhabiting P&Ps in unprecedented detail and to address ecological questions supporting best practice decommissioning. The work also supports the optimal design of artificial reefs, for which P&Ps can act as useful proxies.

Ideal candidate: An ideal PhD candidate will have experience in molecular biology with experience/ interest in ecological science, particularly marine biology. eDNA generates a large volume of data so aptitude and willingness to learn bioinformatics and statistical approaches is essential. The successful candidate will have good verbal and written communication skills essential to working within a dynamic and fast moving industry – ideally demonstrated through work experience and published scientific papers and/ or reports. The project will require presentation of complex scientific data to both specialist and non-specialist audiences. Willingness and ability to travel for sample collection is essential. Lastly, access to oil/ gas sites requires a significant investment of time (e.g. training) to comply with occupational health and safety requirements – any PhD candidate would be expected to take these responsibilities seriously.

Location: Curtin University TrEnD Laboratory, School of Molecular and Life Sciences, Perth.
CSIRO - Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre, Crawley, Perth.
Salary: Annual $40,000 scholarship over four years, plus project research support funds of $10,000 per annum
Industry Partner: Chevron
Internship Location: Across Chevron's global theater of operations
Ref no: 59022

To be eligible to apply you must be:

Key POC and Curtin University Supervisor
Professor Mike Bunce
Trace and Environmental DNA (TrEnD) laboratory, School of Molecular and Life Sciences

CSIRO Supervisor
Dr Oliver Berry
Leader, Environomics Future Science Platform

Applications will be assessed on:

  1. Experience relevant to the field of research, including any research experience
  2. Suitability for the project
  3. Academic excellence
  4. Motivation for undertaking an Industry-led PhD project

How to Apply:
To apply, please email an EOI to Professor Mike Bunce ( containing:

  • A copy of your CV;
  • Outline why you are interested in the Industry PhD program (max 300 words); and
  • An explanation of why you are the most suitable applicant for the project (max 300 words).

Applications close: Wednesday 31st October 2018

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