We are currently looking for a PhD candidate to join our research team in the examination of cave sediments in Australia using ancient and environmental DNA (aDNA) techniques. The primary focus of this role is to reconstruct whole Australian fossil ecosystems using widescale genetic investigations of sediment and water samples from the unique submerged Mt Gambier cave deposits. The underwater deposits of Mt Gambier fill a critical gap in cave palaeontology and preserve exquisite specimens of megafauna species including the rare Propleopus, a giant carnivorous kangaroo, the giant short-faced kangaroos Simosthenurus, and the marsupial ‘tapir’ Palorchestes. There is potentially ~95,000 years of critical information locked in the Mt Gambier caves, in the form of ancient environmental DNA as well as cave sediments in conditions beneficial for the preservation of ancient DNA, that can shed light on the dramatic biodiversity loss that occurred during the Pleistocene and the factors that drove this change. Success in this role requires collaboration with interdisciplinary experts in archaeology, genetics, and palaeoecology, as well as with Indigenous communities to ensure the ethical and respectful use of cultural heritage materials.
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