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Private land conservation refers to the voluntary efforts undertaken to conserve biodiversity on private properties. This work is often achieved through private protected areas (PPAs), which are privately owned land parcels primarily managed for the purpose of biodiversity conservation.

There are many unanswered questions concerning PPAs including: (i) What are the contributions PPAs are making to reducing biodiversity loss? (ii) Are there benefits from PPAs beyond biodiversity conservation, such as socio-cultural and economic benefits? (iii) To what extent do these benefits arise within the boundaries of a PPA, and what sort of benefit flows into and out of the PPA occur? (iv) Who are the human, non-human, current and future beneficiaries of these benefit streams? (v) What dis-benefit flows arise from PPAs and what are the effects of these dis-benefits? Figure 1, below, shows a schematic representation of beneficiaries and benefits streams.

These are some of the questions we will be addressing in a new 3-year Linkage Project recently funded by the Australian Research Council titled “More than a reserve? Measuring the benefits of private protected areas”.

This interdisciplinary project, based at RMIT University (Melbourne), brings together top researchers from academia (UNSW, Griffith, and QUT) along with NGOs and the most important organisations involved with private protected areas in Australia: Bush Heritage Australia, BridLife Australia, Trust for Nature, The Nature Conservancy, and the Australian Land Conservation Alliance. More details about the project, including personnel and a list of potential PPA case studies, can be found here.

Several research positions will become available within this project comprising a 3-year Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship and PhD scholarship (both starting around April 2024), and 2 Research Assistants (part-time/casual), starting late 2024. These positions are described in more detail below and are suitable for people who are:

  • Passionate about private protected areas and biodiversity conservation;
  • Inspired by working on a project with leading conservation organisations in Australia;
  • Keen to undertake research that builds the evidence base on the benefits accruing from PPAs, and assist PPA organisations to leverage more support for their important work;
  • Motivated by solving interdisciplinary problems, involving collaboration across academia, conservation organisations and government; and
  • Keen to learn about and make significant contributions to national and international environmental reporting frameworks.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
This is a 3-year position to be based at RMIT University in Melbourne, starting around April 2024. The position will be open to Australian and international applicants. Applicants are encouraged to discuss the flexible working arrangements for this role.

The role will involve all aspects of the project, working closely with the investigator team. In particular, the Research Fellow will focus on developing processes for identifying the range of beneficiaries relevant to PPAs and generating the theoretical framework for understanding and measuring the benefit streams flowing between the PPAs and these beneficiaries. It is envisaged that benefit streams investigated would include ecological, socio-cultural, and economic aspects.

This position requires a PhD or equivalent in conservation science, ecology, social science, environmental economics, or other relevant field, along with demonstrated expertise in qualitative and quantitative methods relevant to understanding socio-ecological systems. The successful candidate will have a continuing commitment to research that has achieved national recognition demonstrated by a record of high-quality publications, presentations at conferences and preferably success in securing external competitive and other funding. Experience working within a multidisciplinary research team and effectively communicating with industry partners and other stakeholders is also desirable.

This role will also involve contributing to the administration and logistics of the project and will likely involve travel to one or more case study PPAs, which have been identified in Western Australia, South Australia, NSW, and Victoria.

PhD Student
The project includes funding for a PhD stipend for a student based at RMIT University, starting around April 2024. The position will be open to Australian and international applicants and standard RMIT PhD eligibility requirements will apply.

Dr Ascelin Gordon will be the primary supervisor along with co-supervision from other investigators on the project (and optionally, other academics at RMIT). The PhD research will involve: (i) the collation, review, and synthesis of existing approaches for measuring benefit streams from PPAs; and (ii) data collection from the case studies and analysis of that data to measure specific benefit streams. This work will require addressing novel questions regarding the benefits that flow from (and to) PPAs, including social, ecological, and economic aspects of benefit streams. Applicants with backgrounds in one or more of, social science, ecology/conservation or environmental economics will be considered, and applicants should be able to demonstrate a capacity to implement or learn qualitative and quantitative methods relevant to understanding socio-ecological systems.

The PhD research may involve travel to one or more case study PPAs, which have been identified in Western Australia, South Australia, NSW, and Victoria.

To apply for the PhD position: follow the instructions here.

Research Assistant 1 – Social Science
This is part-time/casual position based at UNSW under supervision of Dr Katie Moon. Likely start date will be from the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2024. The position will be open to Australian applicants only and will involve gathering and analysing social-cultural data from the case study PPAs.

Research Assistant 2 – Environmental Economics
This is part-time/casual position based at Griffith University, under supervision of A/Prof Sayed Iftekhar. The likely start date will be from the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2024. The position will be open to Australian applicants only and will involve gathering and analysing economic data from the case study PPAs.

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Figure 1. Schematic depiction of beneficiaries and benefit streams under two hypothetical examples. In example 1, where the dominant land use is intensive agriculture, the most significant benefit stream flows to the parcel owner with some remnant native vegetation producing small benefit streams. This is replaced with a diverse range of beneficiaries receiving ecological, financial, social, and cultural benefit streams in example 2, which depicts a PPA implemented in the same parcel with ecotourism and restoration.

For more information about any of these positions please contact Ascelin Gordon