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Postdoctoral fellowship available

to help develop the next generation hydrological modelling capability to underpin sediment and nutrient transport/export modelling


This position will be jointly supervised by Professor Roy Sidle, Professor of Geography, Sustainability Research Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and the CSIRO Team Leader, Material Fluxes. The incumbent will be located at the joint CSIRO/James Cook University research facility in Townsville, Queensland. On occasions, the incumbent will be required spend time at the University of the Sunshine Coast campus in Sippy Downs and CSIRO research laboratories in Brisbane and Canberra.

The Postdoctoral Fellow will work closely with leading research scientists in their respective field to carry out innovative, impactful research of strategic importance to CSIRO and USC with the possibility of novel and important scientific outcomes. They will present research findings in appropriate publications and at conferences. USC researchers in the Sustainability Research Centre and CSIRO scientists have strong track records in publishing in highly cited scientific journals. The post-doctoral fellow is expected to follow these high standards.

Positon overview

Tropical savannas and grasslands cover approximately 20% of Australia’s land area and comprise about 80% of the landscape draining to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Historical degradation has reduced the productivity of these grazing lands and increased runoff and soil loss. Additionally, unpaved roads and trails provide sources and vectors for runoff and sediment linkages from hillslopes to streams. There is significant interest in developing or restoring these landscapes in different parts of Northern Australia. Central to the development or restoration of these tropical savanna systems is the need for an improved understanding and quantification of how water moves through these landscapes. This will provide greater confidence in predicting future changes in storm runoff and sediment fluxes in response to both climate and land use, in these regions.

Hydrological modelling at hillslope and sub-catchment scales will be an essential tool in the research, combined with analysis of available monitoring and remote sensing data and strategic collection of new field data. Linking modelling efforts across spatial scales is an important challenge in this research. Several limitations currently exist related to contemporary modelling approaches: (1) point or single patch scale data are (somewhat inappropriately) being used to represent processes over much coarser scales; (2) models do not account for the naturally ‘patchy’ nature of vegetation in these systems; and (3) lags between improvements in vegetation, soil condition and runoff are treated as though the degradation and recovery pathways are simply reversible. The modelling approach needs to be parsimonious, but also able to capture the important hydrological processes that govern erosion. This will facilitate scaling of granular information from runoff and erosion ‘hot spots’ up to small to moderate-sized catchments. The focus will not only be on catchment outlets, but also on where sediment is produced, particularly with respect to land use.

The broad aims of this research are to: (1) partition surface and near-surface catchment hydrology at multiple scales; (2) quantify the dynamics of these processes and their roles in sediment propagation and transport; and (3) refine quantitative sediment transport models that represent these processes. The study will be conducted in selected nested catchments in northern Queensland that have been impacted by grazing. The scale of the proposed modelling effort will be in catchments < 100 km2 – sufficient to route water and sediment into and through 2nd to 3rd order channels. The surface runoff processes that need to be modelled include Hortonian (infiltration-excess) overland flow (HOF) and saturation overland flow (SOF). Subsurface storm runoff will also be quantified as it relates to important erosion processes.


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