Development Geography examines patterns and situations of human well-being in developing societies, with a focus on an integrated understanding of the causes and consequences of inequality across time and space.
It is a theoretically informed and empirically rich form of social science, in which researchers have long-term connections and commitments to groups and institutions in the countries where they conduct their research. Members of the academic staff and research students in the School of Geography are engaged in major research projects and teaching about the cultural, demographic, economic, environmental and political processes that shape people’s lives in contrasting situations and circumstances of 'development', particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Professor Jon Barnett, Jon is a political geographer whose research investigates the impacts of and responses to environmental change on social systems in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Professor Anthony Bebbington, Anthony (ARC Laureate Fellowship (2016-2022) focuses on the governance of resource conflicts surrounding the mineral industry and other forms of mining under conditions of climate change, with a focus on Latin America, Indonesia and Australia.
- Professor Mark Wang, Mark is a human geographer whose interests include urbanisation in East Asia, development and environmental issues in China.
- Professor Uma Kothari, Professor of Migration and Postcolonial Studies with research interests in colonial and postcolonial representations of development, solidarity and humanitarianism, transnational migration, refugees and travel and environmental change and everyday life.
- Associate Professor Simon Batterbury, Environment and development, political ecology of natural resources, sustainability and international development issues.
- Associate Professor Wolfram Dressler, Wolfram’s research examines human-environment relations within the framework of critical political ecology in conservation and development.
- Associate Professor Lisa Palmer, Lisa is a human geographer who teaches and researches on socio-natures and environmental governance. Her research is focused on south-east Asia (particularly East Timor) and indigenous Australia.
- Dr Brian Cook, Brian’s research explores the topics of water, risk, and sustainable development. The research is situated at the science-society interface. He explores the hidden power embedded in the knowledge that informs governance, most often relating to water and flood management.
- Dr Rachel Hughes, Rachel is a Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Melbourne. Her research examines questions of memory, justice and geopolitics, with particular reference to post-1979 Cambodia.
Professor Emeritus Michael Webber. Michael is a Professorial Fellow whose research combines formal social theory and large scale, survey based empirical methods to identify how peoples working lives are affected by international and social processes.
- Dr Jane Dyson, Jane works in the Indian Himalayas examining gender, work, youth and social transformation from the perspective of social geography, cultural anthropology and development studies.
- Dr Ariane Utomo, Ariane is a demographer, working in the field of marriage and the family. Her core research and teaching outputs examine how the dynamics of social change relate to attitudes to gender roles, school to work transition, women's employment, marriage patterns, and the nature of inequalities and social stratification in Indonesia.
- Dr Trent Brown, Trent's current research focuses on India's new agricultural skill development initiatives, and their impacts on rural development and youth livelihoods.
- Dr Celia McMichael, Celia's research interests include international health and development (e.g. water/sanitation and infectious disease), human migration, and the health of refugees and displaced populations.
Dr Gillian Gregory. Gillian's research focuses on resource governance, extractive industries, and development, with particular emphasis on Latin America.
Dr Tim Werner. Tim is a spatial analyst and environmental engineer who studies the impacts of mining through the use of GIS, remote sensing and big data analysis.
- Angeliki Balayannis. Angeliki is a cultural geographer interested in waste, ethics, and chemical geographies. Her doctoral research follows the toxic materialities of chemical stockpiles. Supervisors: Dr Rachel Hughes and Professor Jon Barnett.
- James Bond. The role of expert knowledge controversies in water governance and resource management. Supervisors: Dr Brian Cook and Professor Lee Godden.
- Isabel Cornes. Isabel's research explores perceptions of 'natural' hazard risks and (in)action in households, with an interest in how risk information moves in communities. Supervisors: Dr Brian Cook and Professor Lesley Head.
- Nadia Degregori. Nadia's research explores water and mining governance issues in the Andean region within a critical political ecology framework. Supervisors: Dr Vanessa Lamb and Professor Anthony Bebbington.
- Andrew Deuchar. Andrew's research examines the experiences of young men that have migrated from rural to urban areas in north India in pursuit of education and work. While acknowledging the hardships that migration encompasses, my work gives emphasis to the profound social changes that youth are forging in this process. Supervisors: Dr Jane Dyson and Professor Craig Jeffrey.
- Nikolaus Gerold. Nikolaus' doctoral research examines the role of youth in social and political change in North India from the perspective of Cultural Anthropology and Social Geography. His interests lie in youth cultures, political temporalities, social atmospheres and aesthetics. Supervisors: Dr Jane Dyson and Professor Craig Jeffrey.
- Soe Soe Htway. Soe Soe's research examines the impacts of Foreign Direct Investment at the local level, and the broader implications for rural development of Myanmar. Supervisors: Dr Celia McMichael, Dr Vanessa Lamb, and Associate Professor Wolfram Dressler.
- Peter Kamstra. Pete's doctoral research explores the relationship between people's risk perceptions and their behaviour on high-risk rocky coasts. He is interested in people's spatial understanding of risk and how it influences their movement. Supervisors: Associate Professor David Kennedy and Dr Brian Cook.
- Chen Li. Chen's research examines housing demolition and relocation induced conflicts in urban China. Supervisors: Professor Mark Wang and Dr Jennifer Day.
- Melody Lynch. Melody is interested in the political ecology of Indonesia's blue economy; specifically, she is investigating the policy-making processes and socio-political outcomes of blue carbon initiatives in Banten Bay and the Derawan Islands. Supervisors: Associate Professor Wolfram Dressler and Dr Vanessa Lamb.
- Sophie Pascoe. Sophie's research explores how global environmental governance translates locally in Papua New Guinea and the frictions and inequalities that may emerge in the context of climate change. Supervisors: Associate Professor Wolfram Dressler and Dr Monica Minnegal.
- Denisse Rodriguez. Under a political ecology approach, Denisse´s research examines water-related concerns over resource extraction in the Ecuadorian highlands. Supervisors: Associate Professor Simon Batterbury, Dr Erin Fitz-Henry and Dr Lisa Palmer.
- Chenchen Shi. Chenchen is interested water and environmental management. Her current research examines industrial water use behaviour in China. Supervisors: Emeritus Professor Michael Webber and Professor Mark Wang.
- Elena Tjandra. Elena is interested in the political ecologies of water and extraction. Her doctoral research will focus on how livelihoods are affected by water governance in areas affected by mining in Central America. Supervisors: Professor Anthony Bebbington and Dr Vanessa Lamb.
- Tessa Toumbourou. Tessa Toumbourou's research explores gender, livelihoods and land use change in rural East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Supervisors: Associate Professor Simon Batterbury and Dr Wolfram Dressler.
- Pia Treichel. Pia's research is a critical examination of the reach and impact of international climate finance and whether it is benefitting the most vulnerable. Supervisors: Professor Jon Barnett and Dr Celia McMichael.
- Gisselle Vila Benites. Gisselle researches the configuration of mining political settlements and their influence in the informalization of artisanal and small-scale mining through a comparative case study (Colombia and Peru). Supervisors: Professor Anthony Bebbington and Dr Vanessa Lamb.
- Elissa Waters. Elissa’s research examines the role of the state in governance for climate change and disasters in Australia and the South Pacific. Supervisors: Professor Jon Barnett and Dr Karyn Bosomworth.
- Tao Xue. Tao’s research examine the effects of China’s New Land Transfer policy on rural farmers. Supervisor: Professor Mark Wang.
- Wenjing Zhang. Wenjing is currently working on the relationship between water availability and urban development, with a focus on how to provide water resources for the new city of Xiong'an, located outside Beijing, and how it will use water resources for urban planning. Her research interests include sustainable land use and sustainable urban water management. Supervisors: Professor Mark Wang and Professor Emeritus Michael Webber.
- Nahui Zhen. Nahui’s research investigates public trust in the institutions managing drinking water quality in Shanghai, China. Supervisors: Professor Jon Barnett, Professor Michael Webber and Professor Mark Wang.
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 School of Geography is one of Australia’s premier departments. Our current areas of world-leading research include international development, urbanisation, biogeography and earth surface processes, with an overarching interest in the environment and environmental change. We are also embarking on a new specialisation in health geography.
The following are some of our potential PhD Projects. For any information about these research Projects, contact the relevant supervisors.
Supervisor: Professor Anthony Bebbington
Mining and society in a changing environment: governing conflicts over resource access in Indonesia and Latin America.
This project will address how climate change is affecting the governance of natural 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), and for different types of mining, 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.
Supervisor: Professor Jon Barnett
The social acceptance of coastal and marine ecological engineering and restoration projects in decision making and policy.
Continuing human population growth and expansion of coastal cities has contributed to an increasingly modified seascape that is at the same time becoming increasingly vulnerable to a changing climate. In response, there is growing interest in ‘ecological engineering’ (designing ecosystems), or ‘restoring’ (re-establishing ecosystems) marine ecosystems in ways that enhance coastal resilience. This project will identify key actors and their knowledge, networks, values and interests with respect to ecological engineered and restored habitats in Port Phillip Bay and potentially other locations across south east Australia or elsewhere.
This project is an initiative of the National Centre for Coasts and Climate and will be co-supervised by staff in the School of BioSciences at Melbourne University.
Supervisor: A/Prof David Bissell and Dr Ilan Wiesel
Urban governance and policy mobilities for the gig economy
This Project will explore how different cities are managing the rise of the gig economy. Through research with policymakers, it will evaluate how the mobilities of knowledge and policies between cities are shaping the evolution of this underexplored form of work. The candidate will be part of a larger Project team that is exploring how new digital on-demand ways of moving people, goods and services in cities are dramatically changing the power relations between consumption and production, creating wide-ranging and uneven social, political and economic risks and opportunities yet to be comprehensively understood and responded to.
Urban ethics of the gig economy
This Project will explore how digital on-demand mobile work is reshaping the ethical landscape of cities. It will evaluate how the practices involved in on-demand mobile work are creating new social relationships. The candidate will be part of a larger Project team that is exploring how new digital on-demand ways of moving people, goods and services in cities are dramatically changing the power relations between consumption and production, creating wide-ranging and uneven social, political and economic risks and opportunities yet to be comprehensively understood and responded to.
Supervisor: Dr Ariane Utomo
I am interested to supervise students working on topics related to population, development, and social change in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, drawing upon mixed-methods, and/or large population datasets. In particular, I am keen to supervise projects looking into marriage and family change, and on the intersections between gender, labour market, and the future of work in the region.
Supervisor: Professor Barbara Downes
Recruitment limitation and species diversity in streams
Many species’ populations are limited by rates of recruitment from one life stage to the next, particularly in species with complex life-cycles (most of the world’s species). Nevertheless, we lack tests from diverse ecosystems. This Project would test whether insect populations are limited by recruitment rates that are reduced by shortages of suitable oviposition sites in streams. The Project would articulate with one or both of two, current ARC-funded Projects (Species diversity in a fractal world; Species coexistence in the real world) that are examining recruitment limitation in the context of testing models of species diversity. Click here to read more.
Supervisor: Dr Rachel Hughes & A/Prof David Bissell
Wheels keep turning: an ‘environmental noise problem’ assemblage in NSW, Australia
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.
Supervisor: A/Prof Wolfram Dressler, Associate Professor Lisa Palmer, and Dr Trent Brown
Youth and Agrarian change in Southeast Asia
In the developing countries of Asia, large numbers of rural youth migrate to urban areas each year in search of employment. While this phenomenon has been studied in terms of the youth who leave their home villages, there has been comparatively little research on youth who continue to pursue rural livelihoods. The implications of the youth exodus from agriculture for sustainable rural development in these largely agrarian societies also needs greater research attention. This project will examine the changing characteristics of youth involvement in farming and rural livelihoods in the context of rural South and Southeast Asia. Relevant subthemes
- Youth livelihood aspiration
- Youth politics, social movements, and NGOs
- Youth and gender
- Youth migrations, remittances
- Youth and agricultural skill development
- Youth and sustainable rural development
Geographic areas: Timor-Leste, Indonesia, The Philippines, India
Supervisor: Dr Jan-Hendrik May
Reconstructing paleoenvironments and landscape change from desert pavements in Central Australia
Dust is a key player in Earth’s global biogeochemical cycles, and affects important Earth surface processes such as climate and soil formation. However, our understanding of dust dynamics over longer timescales is still limited due to the lack of suitable archives in dust producing regions. This PhD thesis will explore the use of dust accumulated under desert pavements in Central Australia to reconstruct late Quaternary dust and landscape dynamics by (i) establishing dust flux from luminescence based depositional and post-depositional histories, and (ii) investigating variations in transport processes and provenance over time with sedimentological and geochemical methods.
Investigating climate-driven sedimentary dynamics in the subtropical Andes of NW Argentina
Understanding the response of landscapes to climatic changes is crucial in sustainable development and natural disaster prevention, but is often complicated by the wide range of mechanism that control sedimentary dynamics over multiple timescales. This PhD thesis will explore catchment-wide sedimentary dynamics over Holocene timescales in the tectonically active high-mountain environment of the subtropical Andes by (i) establishing depositional histories in hillslope, valley and alluvial plain settings in the Quebrada de Humahuaca basin, NW Argentina, using stratigraphic, and novel sedimentological and geochemical methods, (ii) developing new luminescence based chronologies for these records, and (iii) linking them in space and time.
Supervisor: Dr Celia McMichael
Geographies of water, sanitation and hygiene
I am interested in supervising students with a focus on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in low- and middle-income contexts. With global efforts to achieve universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, as well as persistent difficulties – such as the growth of informal settlements, and water insecurity related to environmental and climatic challenges - research is required around the opportunities and challenges for WASH.
Health of migrants and refugees
I am also interested in supervising students with a focus on the health of migrants, refugees and forcibly displaced populations. The central area of focus could include, for example, the health of: resettled refugee populations, undocumented migrants, and migrants moving from and to sites of environmental vulnerability.
Supervisor: Professor Lesley Head
Culturally diverse perspectives on the Australian environment
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.
Supervisor: Dr Amy Prendergast
Developing high-resolution palaeoenvironmental proxies using mollusc shell sclerochronology
Using mollusc shell growth structures and chemistry (sclerochronology) to reconstruct palaeoenvironmental change is an exciting emerging field. Mollusc shells are high-resolution environmental archives. Their incremental growth patterns can yield environmental information from annual to sub-daily time scales, offering one of the few sub-seasonal climate proxies outside of the tropics. This Project will calibrate new palaeoenvironmental proxies using growth and chemistry of modern mollusc shells from the Australasian region. These newly calibrated proxies will then be applied to mollusc shells from Australasian archaeological shell middens to reconstruct high-resolution records of palaeoenvironmental change and human-environment interaction from the mid to late Holocene.
Supervisor: Professor Mark Wang
China’s South-to-North-Water-Transfer Project: What are the principal inter-jurisdictional conflicts and how are they being managed?
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.