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Do hydrological models cope with complex Australian catchments?


Climate change and rapid land use change has forced a rethink on hydrological models. Non-stationarity (where trends in time-series are non-linear or non-uniform) is now the norm, and many hydrological model structure are not designed to cope with this. This leads to so-called "wicked hydrological problems". Australian catchments are specifically "wicked" due to the intermittent streamflow, long droughts, variable groundwater surface water connectivity, and often large scales with spatially variable and changing agricultural land use. Using new modelling approaches, such as Bayesian statistics, and remote sensing data, this project identifies how we can design spatially and temporally coherent tests to improve existing models to deal with these wicked problems.


Associate Professor Willem Vervoort, Associate Professor Thomas Bishop, Dr Floris Van Ogtrop.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



This project will deliver important understanding on how we test model performance in space and time, what models are best suited to deal with the variable Australian environment, or can be most easily adapted. Data from the project will use satellite, satellite derived and publicly available data, and will involve running high performance computing using ARTEMIS.

The project will actively collaborate with A/Prof Lucy Marshall at UNSW and other researchers at the University of Sydney, as well as other international experts. The project has the potential to be world leading in the areas of model structure assessment, Bayesian model calibration and uncertainty analysis. The outcomes will allow global comparisons to understand the uniqueness of Australian hydrology.

Additional information

We are seeking a PhD candidate to work on this project in the area of remote sensing, biophysical and hydrological modelling. The ideal student would have a strong background in scripting languages, mathematics and computer modelling, or a willingness and ability to learn fast, and have a good understanding of hydrological science.

Scholarships for domestic students are available from the Faculty of Science and the University.
International students would need to apply and obtain an International Postgraduate Award, Endeavour or similar scholarship that covers both University fees and living allowances.

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2347

Other opportunities with Associate Professor Willem Vervoort