Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD scholarship to explore how human activities within the McMurdo Dry Valleys are vectors of change for one of the least visited places on earth.

Although humans are increasingly impacting the environment across the continent, human activity is not a key focus in Antarctic research. The McMurdo Dry Valleys, accessible from Scott Base (Aotearoa New Zealand’s Antarctic base) and McMurdo Station (one of three US bases on the continent – and the largest), are geographically and scientifically distinctive and like most ice-free regions in Antarctica, increasingly vulnerable to change caused by humans.

In this project, you will access, rescue, and analyse the vast range of (mostly hidden) historical information about human activities in this region (from Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton expeditions through to current-day scientific field events). You will analyse this data to explore how patterns of activity have changed, the range and scale of activities undertaken, and the impact on what is regarded as a pristine landscape.

Your work may also include novel analytical and modelling approaches, such as agent-based models, to provide scientific and policy insights into how human activity has affected, and will affect Antarctica into the future.


You will need to be in New Zealand and meet the requirements for a PhD at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. Your background could be in number of disciplines, including but not limited to geography, history, statistics, data science, or computer science.

Depending on your background, strengths and interests, your work may include reading online sources, quantitative and qualitative textual analysis, spatial and aspatial data cleaning and collection, network analysis, sentiment analysis, spatial and aspatial data visualisation, and summarising different research strands.

Applicants from all backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply. Members of underrepresented groups are very welcome, as are students with families. Our research team aims to achieve work-life balance within a productive research environment.


You will be based at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. You will be jointly supervised by Associate Professor Rebecca Priestley (Centre for Science in Society) and Dr Fraser Morgan (Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research). You will also work with researchers within Te Pūnaha Matatini (Pierre Roudier, Claire Postlethwaite, Cilla Wehi, Thegn Ladefoged), the wider Antarctic Research Centre at Te Herenga Waka Victoria – University of Wellington, and the New Zealand Antarctic science community.

You will be part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together different disciplines, ways of thought, methods, and people to define and solve society’s thorny interconnected problems. Through this scholarship you will also become a Whānau member of Te Pūnaha Matatini. The TPM Whānau an active transdisciplinary community and network for Te Pūnaha Matatini’s emerging scientists, comprising postgraduate students, postdocs and early career researchers from all over New Zealand.


Informal enquiries are welcome by email:

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$28,500 per year (tax free)

Start date

Start date is flexible but would preferably be April 2022 (up until July 2022 by negotiation).

How to apply

Send an email expressing your interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Applications received by 28 February 2022 will receive full consideration.