The mosquito Anopheles stephensi is the major urban vector of malaria in India, and is now invading Africa. It has already become established in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Northern Kenya), and was recently detected in a few locations in West and East Africa. If An. stephensi were to become established across the continent, it could enable high rates of malaria transmission in urban areas, undoing decades of progress in reducing malaria burden in Africa. To understand and mitigate the threat posed by An. stephensi we need to understand how the species is spreading, and what we can do to stop it.


This PhD project will combine computational modelling with the latest real-world data on detections of An. stephensi in Africa to predict where it will spread to next and may already have become established. This will enable malaria control programmes in Africa to target their surveillance to detect the species and determine the invasion front. These models can then be used to simulate the likely effectiveness of different strategies to slow or stop the species’ spread. These strategies include traditional methods to find and eradicate vectors, but also new ideas like a gene drive that aims to stop species from being able to invade new regions.


  1. Develop an open-source patch-based spatio-temporal simulation modelling platform that captures the genetics and population dynamics of a target species.
  2. Use the simulation platform to develop a realistic simulation model of the spread of An. stephensi from the Indian subcontinent to Africa, that matches observed data, and predict the future spread of the mosquito.
  3. Use the simulation model to evaluate the potential impact of novel gene drive systems (being developed as part of the linked ARC Discovery project) versus traditional surveillance and control approaches to slow the spread of An. stephensi.


This project will contribute to an international effort to understand and respond to the threat posed by an invasive malaria mosquito that is spreading into Africa. Its arrival will substantially increase the malaria burden in areas that already have some of the world’s highest malaria burdens. Using existing links to malaria control programmes in countries at risk from this invasion, the project has the potential to directly influence efforts to halt the spread of this mosquito. The project will also evaluate a novel gene drive for slowing the spread of invasive species. If effective, the gene drive could be applied to prevent the spread of a large number of invasive species, worldwide.

Candidate growth and outputs

This candidate will gain highly valuable and transferrable skills in scientific research, species distribution models, statistical inference, and simulation modelling. 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 be engaged 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=6857

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

Applications are open now.

Send enquiries to Prof Nick Golding.