Conservation and Ecology of Freshwater Turtles

Project Information

Freshwater turtles are threatened globally with over 60% of species at risk of extinction. In Australia, threats to populations of freshwater turtles include introduced predators, drought, and disease. Understanding threats to freshwater turtles and developing mitigation strategies to boost turtle population resilience is at the heart of our research program. Three species of freshwater turtles occur in the New England Tablelands (northern NSW) in streams, dams and wetlands. The Bell’s turtle is a focal species, given it’s threatened status, endemism to the region, and restricted distribution within western flowing headwaters of the Murray Darling Basin.

There are several project topics relevant to various degrees (Honours, Masters of Science, PhD), with specifics to be decided in collaboration with each student, according to their skills and interests. Broad topics include:

  • The impacts of inundation and temperature extremes on developing embryos
  • The effect of conservation strategies on reproduction success of turtles
  • Sociality of freshwater turtles and implications for conservation
  • The spatial ecology of freshwater turtles
  • The effect of environmental flow on freshwater turtle populations

The Laboratory of Applied Zoology and Ecological Restoration (LAZER). The research completed by LAZER strives to understand and mitigate threats to wildlife through experimental and empirical ecology, and community engagement. Our research is important to manage our natural resources and enable ecosystem functioning in a state of continuing environmental change in the world. Our study systems occur within the New England Tablelands, Murray-Darling Basin and Papua New Guinea. You will be part of a diverse laboratory that encourages collaboration and outreach. We encourage applicants from gender diverse, LGBTQIA+, persons with disabilities, all backgrounds and ethnicities.

Scholarship Information

The University is offering an RTP Domestic Stipend Scholarship for a successful domestic candidate. This amounts to AU$28,092 per annum, tax-free for up to three years to support a full-time candidate of MSc/PhD. The level of the stipend will not be reduced over the period of the Scholarship.  In addition to the stipend, students will receive AU$3,500 p.a. as operational costs for research support toward their project. There is additional funding provided by local land services for operating costs and equipment.

How to Apply

Applicants must meet UNE’s admission requirements for a Hons/MSc/PhD program. Please see the entry requirements. Applicants must submit a candidature application if they wish to apply for a scholarship. For more information on submitting a candidature application please see our how to apply/enrol webpage.

To apply for the scholarship please review the relevant application guidelines and complete the application form:

This project will suit a student with a background in ecology, conservation biology, environmental science or zoology. A love of field work is imperative and a desire to work with a range of taxa from plants and insects to reptiles and amphibians is ideal. Familiarity with statistics or a strong desire to master statistical techniques is crucial. The candidate should have a relevant background degree and demonstrated output in scientific outreach or publication is favourable. 

Scholarship and candidature applications can be sent directly to

General Enquiries

Enquiries may be emailed to Dr Deborah Bower.

Alternatively, you can visit the Laboratory of Applied Zoology and Ecological Restoration (LAZER)

About Armidale

In an ideal location for environmental scientists and nature lovers, the University of New England is situated in the town of Armidale on the New England Tablelands. Surrounded by wild gorges, four types of rainforest and the headwaters of the Murray Darling Basin, the landscape is a naturalist’s dream. The University of New England owns several SMART farms which enable us to experimentally manipulate ecological treatments in our own back yard. Our very own Mount Duval nature reserve abuts the campus bringing echidnas, greater gliders and koalas as regular visitors.

The university boasts mountain bike tracks and prime climbing locations in close surrounds providing the opportunity for academic studies with an adventurous twist. Country life is vibrant with regular activities at the New England Regional Art Museum, local breweries and vineyards. A French Patisserie in town provides mouth-watering crepes for the refined palette and you can warm the cockles of your heart on mulled wine at Charlie’s wine bar on fresh evenings. Our community is diverse and represented by an active LGBTQIA+ contingent and many multicultural backgrounds.