Phd Projects

Applications are invited for PhD Projects in the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne.

We offer a number of PhD Projects each year, funded variously by the University, academic staff research grants or other sponsors (including for example Endeavour Scholarships, Australian Awards; the China Scholarship Council, and Vietnam International Education Development).  We seek high performing students with an average weighted mark in Honours and/or Masters of >85% (+GPA equivalent).

The following are some of our potential PhD Projects. For any information about these research Projects, contact the relevant supervisors.

Mining, climate and water in the Andes and Central America: governing conflicts over resource access

Supervisor: Professor Anthony Bebbington

This Project will address how climate change is affecting the governance of water resources in areas affected by both large and small scale mining.  Of particular interest is how conflicts over water among mines, farmers, communities and urban settlements take form, are negotiated, and affect broader institutions and technologies of water governance. These governance questions can be addressed at different scales (from the territory to national scales), depending on the interest of the student.  The Project is linked to a larger Australian Laureate Fellowship program addressing these questions across Latin America, SE Asia and Australia.

Extractive industries, the forest frontier and forest dependent communities

Supervisor: Professor Anthony Bebbington

Large scale development plans, legislative reforms and policy decisions are encouraging the expansion of mining, oil, gas and energy investment in areas that are currently forested, as well as investment in large scale infrastructure also.  These forests also play critical roles in climate regulation, livelihoods and local cosmologies. This Project will document new pressures on forests, and address how competing claims over the forest are being governed.  The Project could be in the Amazon, Mesoamerica, Indonesia or Central Africa.  All forms of extraction are of interest, but especially research on coal mining and forests. The Project is linked to a Australian Laureate Fellowship program on mining, society and environment.

Culturally diverse perspectives on the Australian environment

Supervisor: Professor Lesley Head

We seek one or more PhD students to join a broader Project exploring culturally and ethnically diverse perspectives on nature and environment. Projects will examine how migrant communities in Melbourne interact with different places, including domestic contexts, urban environments and peri-urban bushland.

To what extent are incubators and accelerators assisting in local and global connections for clean energy innovation and entrepreneurship?

Supervisor: Dr Adam Bumpus

Interested in hearing Projects that look at the processes of innovation and roles of entrepreneurs, accelerators and incubators in getting companies off the ground and successful clean energy businesses and technologies into the mainstream. Empirical and theoretical Projects, and specifically interested in candidates with expertise in carrying this work out in India (although other regions also considered). Theoretical bases: Economic geography, open innovation, new business venturing.

What are new business models for scaling up distributed energy resources (DERs) and what social, economic, and environmental outcomes do they bring?

Supervisor: Dr Adam Bumpus

Empirical analyses of how DERs can be scaled up across different socio-economic, geographical, or sector-based business model approaches. Especially interested in business model testing as related to distributed smart solar+storage and/or microgrid business models and/or those that can be applied in both developed and developing world contexts. Theoretical bases: business model innovation, economic geography.

To what extent is the ‘mobile revolution’ assisting innovation for climate change solutions in developing countries?

Supervisor: Dr Adam Bumpus

How can mobile phones assist in adaptation and mitigation in developed and developing countries? How does communication fit into responses to climate change? Interested in candidates who are looking to develop technology and test it ‘in the wild’. Potentially co-supervise with professors in Computing and Information Sciences @unimelb. Theoretical bases: development geography, political ecology, economic geography.

Youth and Agrarian change in Southeast Asia

Supervisor: A/Professor Wolfram Dressler and Dr Lisa Palmer

This Project will examine the changing characteristics of youth involvement in farming in the context of rural island Southeast Asia. Relevant subthemes:

  • Youth livelihood aspiration
  • Youth politics, social movements
  • Youth and gender
  • Youth migrations, remittances
    Geographic areas: Timor-Leste, Indonesia, The Philippines

The Cambodian-Australian community and Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal

Supervisor: Dr Rachel Hughes

This Project seeks to explain why far fewer Cambodian-Australians have participated as ‘civil parties ‘(victim participants) in the United Nations-supported Cambodia-based Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT) (2007-2017). Even when the smaller diaspora population in Australia is taken into account, participation by Cambodian-Australians has been low compared to Cambodian-American and French Cambodian communities. It will describe and explain knowledge and perceptions of the KRT within the Cambodian-Australian community, differentiated by generation, gender and level of education, specifically in communities in Melbourne and Sydney.
Field locations:  Australia (Sydney and Melbourne)
Interest/skills:  A demonstrated interest or background in cultural geography, ethnographic research or migration studies would be advantageous, as would Khmer language skills.

Wheels keep turning: an ‘environmental noise problem’ assemblage in NSW, Australia

Supervisor: Dr Rachel Hughes

This Project investigates the problem of ‘wheel-squeal’ associated with rail-freight operations throughout Australia. This is experienced by people, close to passing freight trains, as prolonged and very loud, high-pitched noise. An assemblage approach to community agitation in response to this ‘environmental problem’, and lived experiences of audio distress and sleeplessness, would focus on northern Sydney as a case study. Such an approach would also take into account the materiality of the freight wagons, the corporate economics of rail-freight transportation, the politics of EPA and NSW State Government approaches to the problem, the role of environmental law, and the relationships between residents and experts over the last five years.
Field locations:  Australia (Sydney)  
Interest/skills: A demonstrated interest or background in cultural, environmental or legal geography is preferred.

China’s South-to-North-Water-Transfer Project: What are the principal inter-jurisdictional conflicts and how are they being managed?

Supervisor: Professor Mark Wang

A research group within our School has been awarded a large ARC Discovery grant to study aspects of China’s South-North Water Transfer Project.  The SNWT Project is the largest inter-basin transfer program in the world, involving several mega-cities, dozens of smaller cities, a host of provincial-level administrations, and the resettlement of over 300 000 people. One potential PhD Project is about SNWT’s institutional setting arrangements and inter-jurisdictional conflicts.