PhD Research Opportunities at University of Melbourne

The Bushfire Behaviour and Management Group is currently advertising several PhD positions for commencement before the end of June 2021. International applicants must apply before the 30th of September 2020, and domestic applicants before the 30th of October 2020. Please contact Trent Penman ([email protected]) as soon as possible for more information or to discuss preliminary ideas and potential projects. 

Research Environment 

The Bushfire Behaviour and Management Group is part of The University of Melbourne’s School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences. Our team aims to improve a strong scientific basis for the prediction of wildfire behaviour and the impact of wildfires in order to identify management strategies that reduce the risk of damage to human values while maintaining environmental values in the landscape. Research within the team covers the key themes of fire behaviour, fire management, ecosystem and landscape fire feedbacks, fire risk assessment and future fire regimes. Our diverse team includes ecologists, engineers, software engineers and data analysts. 

We have a range of projects and supervisors available. Successful applicants will contribute to cutting edge research in fire behaviour, risk modelling and fire management. Projects may involve laboratory and/or field experiments, as well as computer modelling. 

All applicants must satisfy the entry requirements for the PhD course at the University of Melbourne ( Furthermore, applicants are expected to apply for a Research Higher Degree scholarship and will only be accepted if successful ( 

1. Fine-scale Modelling in Fire Management 

Supervisors: Dr Alexander Filkov, Assoc Prof Trent Penman, Dr Jane Cawson and Dr Luke Collins 

Physics-based modelling provides unique opportunities to understand fire behaviour in unprecedented detail. They are capable of including wind flow dynamics, role of radiative and convective heat in fire propagation. Operational fire behaviour simulators cannot provide this information due to their coarse temporal resolution. Fuel management covers a range of techniques which aim to alter fuel load and structure to reduce fire risk. Often these treatments are undertaken at small spatial scales or with high heterogeneity making them difficult to include in fire risk modelling. As such, there is little quantitative understanding of how alternative fuel treatments alter fire behaviour, and therefore landscape fire risk. This project will investigate the effect of fuel structure and arrangement on fire. The primary focus of the project will be to apply a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model using experiments in the laboratory and in the field. 

Position Requirements 

The successful applicant will have a background in mechanical/fire protection engineering, computer science, applied mathematics and statistics or any related field. A background or knowledge of CFD modelling and fire simulation tools such as Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) is highly desirable. The successful candidate should have excellent analytical and problem-solving skills and strong written and verbal communication skills. Applicants must satisfy the University of Melbourne entry requirements for the PhD course.