Faculty of Science

Go with the flow: The ecology of freshwater prawns in the Kimberley

This project will examine the influence of river flows on the ecology and use of the freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium spinipes, in the Fitzroy River.

  1. Summary of the project
  2. Eligibility criteria
  3. Readings
  4. Contact the research team leader
  5. How to apply
  6. Scholarships

Summary of the project

Northern Australia's rivers are among the most pristine and productive on earth; but, they face major changes due to human activity including as altered river flows and climate change. Little is known about the key life history and ecological requirements of most of the aquatic animals that rely on these river systems. This makes it difficult to assess and manage the risks to biodiversity and fisheries from human activities – such as altering river flows.

Previous research in the Daly River in the Northern Territory has identified the importance of maintaining free flowing rivers to support healthy populations of the freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium spinipes. This large crustacean is an important part of the ecology of these rivers systems and it is also a popular food for Indigenous people from the Fitzroy River.

We have just commenced a project on environmental water requirements of the Fitzroy River as part of the National Environmental Science Program's (NESP) Northern Australian Environmental Resources Hub. The NESP project, focussed largely on fish, is a partnership between UWA, the Western Australian Government CDU, Griffith University and the CSIRO.

This PhD project will work closely with the NESP team and will focus on how the ecology of freshwater prawn (including patterns of movement) varies in relation to river flows in the Fitzroy River. The recent work from the Daly River (which flows all year round) provides a basis for testing whether the same patters occur in the Fitzroy River (which dries to a series of isolated waterholes). The project also has scope to work with Traditional Owners in the region to consider how changes in flows might affect the harvest of this important species.

Back to top

Eligibility criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirement specific to this project:

  • Willingness to undertake fieldwork in remote river systems in the Kimberley (as part of a larger team).

Back to top


Back to top

Contact the research team leader

Once you have ensured that you meet the eligibility criteria and are ready to discuss a proposal, contact the research team leader to identify a potential supervisor.
Research team leader: Professor Michael Douglas

My research focuses on the ecology and management of tropical ecosystems. This includes the effects of fire, weed and water management on freshwater and savanna ecosystems. I have worked on tropical rivers, floodplains and riparian zones and have studied aquatic invertebrate, fish, and plant communities and the ecosystem processes that connect them, particularly food webs.

This project will be co-supervised by Associate Professor David Morgan (Murdoch University), Associate Professor Brad Pusey (Charles Darwin University), and Associate Professor Samantha Setterfield (UWA).

Back to top

How to apply

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader you should be in a position to proceed to step two of the UWA application process: 'Lodge an application'.

Different procedures apply to domestic and international students.

Back to top


Scholarships specific to this project

The School of Earth and Environment at UWA, through the NESP Northern Australia Hub, offers a top-up scholarship for a PhD candidate who is successful in obtaining and APA scholarship to investigate this important topic.

The top-up scholarship provides for a stipend (in addition to the APA scholarship) of $10,000 per annum for 3 years, plus there is significant additional financial support for project costs. Contact the research team for details.

Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to Australian applicants for study in participating countries and regions.

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to international applicants from participating countries and regions.

Indigenous students

Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.

Forrest Foundation scholarships

All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

Back to top