Early intervention of biological invasions can be improved by predicting the source and spread locations of invasive species. To model the connectivity and movement of an invading species across a landscape, we can sample tissue from many individuals spread across geographic or environmental space, and use genetic data to construct resistance surfaces to dispersal. These resistance surfaces are made by overlaying high-resolution spatial layers of environmental attributes (e.g. topography, rainfall, vegetation cover) and anthropogenic activity (e.g. urbanisation, traffic density), and building models that identify how each predictor layer influences genetic relatedness. Doing this for a range of species with differing life-history and dispersal strategies will help us better understand how different species are likely to spread when invading areas such as the Swan Coastal Plain on which Perth is built.


This project aims to collect tissue samples and analyse genetic data for a range of invertebrate taxa in the Perth region, covering several life-history and dispersal strategies. This data will feed into a tool that takes life history attributes as an input and delivers a connectivity map for that organism, clearly displaying which landscape features maximise and minimise resistance to dispersal.


  1. Review dispersal mechanisms in invertebrates with focus on existing and potentially invasive species in south-western Australia.
  2. Conduct fieldwork to collect tissue samples from up to 10 species of native and invasive invertebrates across the Perth metropolitan region.
  3. Prepare and analyse genetic datasets, and use resistance surface modelling approaches to investigate patterns of connectivity and dispersal.
  4. Assist with incorporating these resistance surfaces into a practical analytical tool that can be used to predict spread of invasive species.


This project will develop numerous spatial and genomic datasets, and analyse these in a way that informs biosecurity and invasive species management in Australia. With modern sequencing technologies, large genomic datasets containing thousands of genetic markers from hundreds of individuals are now relatively easy to obtain and analyse. The development of an analytical tool for species spread in south-western WA, with flexibility for application to other regions of Australia and more broadly around the world, will make a substantive difference to the ability of industry, government, and other end-users to predict and manage species invasions more effectively.

Candidate growth and outputs

This candidate will gain highly valuable and transferrable skills in scientific research, landscape ecology, invertebrate biology, population genomics, landscape resistance modelling, and animal dispersal. High quality, peer-reviewed publications will include internationally relevant manuscripts covering such topics, with research findings presented at relevant local and international conferences as well as more targeted seminars/workshops. The candidate will routinely engage in outreach through stakeholder meetings to share data and research highlights as well as hone communication skills and develop relationships with industry partners.

The project is supported by a tax free stipend of $32,500 p.a. with a top up of $7,000 p.a. conditional on performance.

How to apply

Candidates must have:

  • A strong track record in undergraduate studies;
  • Honours or Masters by research
  • A background or keen interest in ecology, evolution, genetics, statistics, or related discipline.

See here for details about scholarship (ignore the bit about the scholarship being closed): https://scholarships.curtin.edu.au/Scholarship/?id=6855

If interested, please submit an Expression of Interest via the Curtin website

Applications are open now and will close on the 29th February 2024.

Send enquiries to Dr Brenton von Takach.