Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Honours in Environmental Sciences

Honours student checking nest boxThe Faculty offers an Honours year program through each of its schools. While it has a distinct structure it also has the flexibility to meet the differing needs of students wishing to specialise in many of the disciplines offered by the constituent schools.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions

Potential Future Honours Projects 2017

If you are interested, please contact the supervisor at the bottom of each project.

Yabby and Flatworm Symbiosis

Effects of an ectosymbiont on yabby hosts. This project would involve potential collaboration with staff from DPI Fisheries or Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, and explore the physiological impact of the natural ectosymbiotic flatworm (Temnocephala: Platyhelminthes) to its host, the common yabby (Cherax destructor). Eastern Australia is the centre of diversity for temnocephalans, and several species inhabit the common yabby—it is not known if hosting these flatworms has any positive or negative impacts on the host. Both field and laboratory research would be included, with the aim of informing future conservation work on Endangered spiny crayfish (Euastacus) species. Limited financial support for equipment and travel will be available from the ILWS. Supervisor: Dr Maggie Watson (02) 6051 9893

Grassy Woodlands

Restoration of grassy woodlands. Projects are available to examine barriers to restoration of grassy woodlands. Many grasslands and grassy woodland communities in SE Australia are endangered. Seed is the fundamental unit of restoration in these endangered communities, but germination and establishment of species which are key contributors to the diversity, structure and habitat values are often poor. Factors such as soil nutrients, weeds, grazing and inappropriate disturbance regimes can also impact successful establishment. The projects will be conducted in collaboration with the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, funding support for field and lab work is available. Supervisor: Dr Jodi Price

Mammal Ecology

Dunnarts on farms. This project involves a collaboration between the Goulburn-Broken CMA (Dr Jenny Wilson) and aims to reveal what comprises good dunnart habitat on farms across north-central Victoria. Dunnarts are one of the few small marsupials that are still regularly encountered on farms, and this project will find out ways to further ensure their conservation. There is $3,000 in project funding available to support the project's operational costs. Supervisor: Dr Dale Nimmo (02) 6051 9827

The effects of fire on mammals in north-central Victoria.This project involves a collaboration between the Goulburn Broken CMA (Dr Jenny Wilson) and the Department of Land, Water and Planning (Dr Jane Roots). The project will use camera traps to explore the impact of fire on mammals of the Strathbogie ranges of north central Victoria. There is also a possibility to study pollinators (with co-supervision by Dr Manu Saunders) or plants (with co-supervision from Dr Jodi Price) if mammals don't float your boat. There is $5,000 in project funding available to support the project's operational costs. Supervisor: Dr Dale Nimmo (02) 6051 9827

People and Places

Place attachment as a critical element of social capital. This project explores the importance of place attachment as a bonding mechanism between people in communities prone to disasters such as flood, fire and drought. Building community capacity to respond to such events is a high priority for many NRM programs because of the ongoing effect of climate change. One element of social capacity that has not been explored is place attachment.  Place attachment is the emotional bond between people and places and is a key concept in environmental psychology. We know place attachment is highly influenced by an individual and his or her personal experiences. We see signs of it in small communities affected by disasters in the past –such as the marking of flood levels on buildings, the building of memorials, or the remembering of events each year. Perhaps rural communities are more resilient to disaster if are already bonded by place attachment- who knows? This is your opportunity to find out.  Supervisor: Jonathon Howard (02) 60519350.

Applied Fish Ecology

Reducing fish mortality in hydropower plants. Fish mortality at water infrastructure for usage is a major issue globally. The use of technologies to understand the processes leading to fish mortality events are of paramount importance to mitigate the problem. This project aims to study the effects of pressure changes on fish. The work will involve being trained in the use of specialised hydropower simulation facilities and performing a series of threshold trials on fish from Australia and Brazil. The outcomes of these studies are highly applied and have a strong connection with the industry, as well as with government agencies aiming to develop better strategies for fish conservation.  Supervisors: Dr Lee Baumgartner and Luiz Silva (0427 070 056);

Enhancing fish tagging studies. There are a range of technologies available to monitor fish movements. Many new technological advances have potential to revolutionise the understanding of basic fish ecology. Specifically, the development of self-charging tags means that fish can be theoretically tagged for live, providing information over many decades. The development of micro acoustics (tags the size of rice grains) also means that fish, smaller than have ever been tagged before, could be tracked from a very young age. But neither technology has been assessed. The project will be performing a series of laboratory trials at CSU investigating tag burden thresholds for a range of species.  Supervisors: Dr Lee Baumgartner and Luiz Silva (0427 070 056);

Unlocking the secrets of fish movements. A fish tracking systems, and associated database has been established in the Murray River to track movement behaviour. Data has been transmitted to the database for over 10 years, and there is now over 1 billion datapoints. The system is tracking fish movements up and down the Murray River and each data point (individual fish) behaves differently. An opportunity exists for a mathematically-inclined student to interrogate  this mass of data, and try to determine whether there are any patterns emerging, whether fish movements can be linked with environmental variables, if there are any aspects of fish movement that can be predicted. Supervisors: Dr Lee Baumgartner and Zhenquan (Jan) Li. (0427 070 056); and

Benchmarking Mekong fish ecology. An existing study has been underway in the Lower Mekong Basin for five years. The work has involved collecting biological information from a range of wild fish including length, weight, reproductive stage and otoliths have been collected to define fish age. Fish were trapped whilst migrating into, and out of, a connected wetland.  There are current opportunities to access the otolith collection, work at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre, to set, section and mount the otoliths to ascertain the age structure for a range of commonly-collected fish species.  The task for the student will be to build a detailed understanding of fish ecology at the site. The existing data will be analysed and interpreted to determine the age structure, reproductive ecology, migratory ecology for a range of species to help ecologists and fisheries managers to better understand the complex interactions between the main channel and wetland habitats in this large tropical river. Supervisors: Dr Lee Baumgartner and Luiz Silva. (0427 070 056);

Effects of eradicating common carp, Cyprinus carpio, on food availability and diet of native and invasive fishes. Invasive C. carpio comprise 60-90% of the total fish assemblage biomass in rivers of the Murray-Darling basin and they consume a large proportion of the total energy available to support populations of native biota.  Removal of C. carpio is expected to provide more energy to support native fish populations through a bottom-up trophic cascade, but this energy may also be utilized by non-native species.  This honours project will examine how the removal of C. carpio influences the food (e.g. zooplankton; macroinvertebrates) available and diet of native and invasive fishes. Supervisor: Dr Keller Kopf (02) 6051 9294

Flowers, Herbivores, Mistletoe and more…

Flowers to die for—do floral traits affect herbivory?

Most studies of flower evolution consider pollinators as the predominant force affecting plant fitness, but other factors may also be involved.  Many herbivores rely on visual and olfactory cues to find their preferred food plants—might they also play a role in constraining flower size, colour or overall 'attractiveness'.  Using a series of comparisons between species with different floral traits, this experimental study will determine whether herbivores (mammals and insects) are more likely to find plants with particular kinds of flowers.  This project will be co-supervised by Adrian Dyer at RMIT. Supervisor: Prof. David Watson. (02)60519621;

Beating the heat—how does flower colour affect thermal tolerance of plants?

As well as affecting attractiveness to pollinators, flower colour interacts with temperature to influence plant growth and survivorship.  But, how do these two selective forces interact—does flower colour reflect pollinator preferences, thermal adaptations or a compromise between the two.  In this study, flower colour of Australian mistletoes will be explored relative to climate and pollinators, modelling the interactions between pollinators and climate using distributional data and testing predictions with a series of comparisons between genera, species, and colour morphs within species. Supervisor: Prof. David Watson. (02)60519621;

Trophic cascades in the Little Desert

Introduced predators (cats and foxes) have had a devastating impact on Australian animals, driving many species to extinction.  But what effect have they had on overall food webs, and what does this mean for community dynamics?  This project will be based in the Little Desert, comparing occurrence patterns of animals either side of two  large predator-proof exclosures installed in 2002.  Using trapping and active searches, the ground-dwelling fauna will compared in areas with and without feral predators to measure the effect exotic predators have on food webs and determine which groups of animals are most sensitive to changes in predation pressure.  This project will be carried out in partnership with the FAUNA research alliance and all project costs will be covered. Supervisor: Prof. David Watson. (02)60519621;

Cultural Heritage

Cultural Heritage: Past, Present and Future.—are excited about finding out who we were, what made us the way we are and where we are going? are you interested in cool places and sites, thinking about how to ensure that our past has a future? In Australia, the Pacific, or even out of this world, such as sites on Venus or Mars?  Come and talk to me.  I am keen to talk with you, hearing about your ideas and interests… both purely cultural heritage topics as well as cross-overs topics in the areas of heritage<>bioconservation/historic ecology and heritage<>recreation/ecotourism.  Supervisor: A/Prof Dirk HR Spennemann.

Freshwater Mussels

Show us your mussels! Examining the feeding ecology and ecosystem role of freshwater mussels

Freshwater mussels are one of the most endangered animal groups in the world. Little is known of their ecosystem roles in riverine-floodplain environments, but as filter feeders, it is likely that population declines have had, and continue to have, significant impacts on riverine food webs and processes. This project will examine the filtration rates and feeding preferences of two species of freshwater Mussel endemic to the Murray Darling Basin, Alathyria jacksoni and Velesunio ambiguous. It is anticipated that this project will involve both field, and laboratory work. Supervisor: Dr Nicole McCasker (02) 6051 9437, Co-supervisor: Dr Paul Humphries (02) 6051 9920

Please email: Dr Paul Humphries or Dr Melanie Massaro (Course Coordinators Honours) for general information.

Click here for current academic staff projects.

Information for Current Honours Students

Project Risk and Hazard Forms

Safety is a prime concern in all Honours projects. All students MUST submit completed risk and hazard assessment forms BEFORE they go into the field or the laboratory. All students must submit the following two forms:

  • Project Risk and Safety Assessment Form [pdf 13.5 Kb| word 23.1Kb]
  • Hazard Risk Assessment Form [pdf 7.7Kb| word 8.0Kb]


Completion of Dissertation Forms