Posted in Team Pogona on May 08, 2017

PhD Opportunity

We are currently seeking a PhD student with interests in biological responses to climate change, evolution and theoretical biology to investigate the evolutionary and ecological dynamics of sex determination in the dragon lizard, Pogona vitticeps.

Project Description

Reptiles exhibit an astonishing diversity in the means by which sex is determined early in development, including genetic systems with male or female heterogamety, systems where temperature determines sex, and systems where environment and genotype interact to determine sex. The dragon lizard has sex chromosomes, as in birds and mammals, yet temperature can over-ride this system to determine sex, leading to animals whose sex is reversed from expectations based on sex chromosomes. The short-term consequences of sex reversal include biased sex ratios, destabilized sex chromosomes and population vulnerability. This system is ideal for examining evolutionary transitions between different forms of sex determination, as well as modern ecological challenges associated with climate-driven sex reversal.

This project aims to understand and predict dragons’ response to contemporary climate change given sex reversal in the wild and resultant biased sex ratios. It will also examine the longer-term evolutionary consequences of sex reversal by temperature for the persistence of sex chromosomes. The project will develop simulation models (using R or MATLAB) based on field and climatic data, focusing primarily on theoretical approaches.

The project is supported by an ARC Discovery Grant awarded to Team Pogona led by Professor Arthur Georges, but involving a broad team spanning a number of leading researchers and institutions. The successful student will be based in Canberra or Sydney, and will be expected to work closely with primary supervisor Dr Lisa Schwanz (UNSW) with a supervisory panel drawing also from Profs Arthur Georges and Stephen Sarre (U Canberra).

The Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate will possess experience in statistical analyses or coding in programs such as R or MATLAB. Formal education in evolution and an interest in sex determination would be valuable. The candidate will be self-motivated and well-organized, with a demonstrated capacity to master the broad skill set necessary for the successful completion of a research project. They will be collegial and able to work alongside a wide variety of people in a multi-function teams. They will have a strong commitment to excellence in research and scholarship.


Financial support for domestic and international students is expected to be available for a high achieving student through the scholarship round at the University of Canberra or UNSW. These scholarships are highly competitive. To be competitive, candidates should have a first class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant area and other evidence of research potential (such as publication).


Both the University of Canberra scholarships and the UNSW scholarships are open to all nationalities. However, overseas candidates for whom English is not a first language must secure an IELTS score of 6.5 and have no individual score falling below 6.0 to satisfy our English language requirements.

How to Apply

Interested applicants are encouraged to make informal enquiries to Dr Lisa Schwanz. Please send your curriculum vitae, a sample of your written scientific work, and the names of two referees with a covering letter to:

Dr Lisa Schwanz e-mail:

on or before September 10, 2017.

For further information on the Pogona project and publications, visit here.

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