The timing of the great ape's last stand in southern Asia; defining a precise extinction window

The timing of the great ape's last stand in southern Asia; defining a precise extinction window

Programs Available


Reference Number


Opening Date

01 Jul 2019 12am AEST 

Closing Date

30 Sep 2019 12am AEST 

Scholarship available to



A highly motivated student that is passionate about Quaternary Science is invited to join an international research team supported by an ARC funded Discovery Project (“Unravelling the mystery of the great ape’s last stand; primate extinction versus human survival in southern Asia”) led by Dr Kira Westaway in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University. The aim of the project is to determine precisely when and why a large megafaunal species became extinct in Southern China.

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Gigantopithecus blacki, the largest ever primate, has never been resolved despite evidence for contemporaneous human survival in the region. This project will provide critical new insights into the fate of primates in southern Asia where evidence for megafaunal extinction is rare. Applying multiple dating techniques modelled across key sites will identify a precise extinction window and enable a focused comparison of behaviour and past environmental conditions to determine why the ape failed and humans persevered. This will generate a new understanding of past extinction in comparison with human adaption and survival.

The successful candidate will join the team at the MQ luminescence dating facility and apply luminescence and U-series dating techniques to cave sites in the southern Chinese region of Guangxi to define a precise window of extinction for G.blacki. Knowledge or experience of geochronological and/or luminescence techniques is recommended but not required.

This project will involve fieldwork to remote areas in Southern China, working in cave environments and laboratory analysis of luminescence samples in red light conditions and therefore requires experience in science related disciplines and/or geoscience fieldwork. Interested candidates are encouraged to get in contact with Dr Kira Westaway to discuss the project before applying.


This scholarship is available to eligible international or domestic candidates to undertake a direct entry 3-year PhD program.

To be eligible for a scholarship, applicants are expected to have a record of excellent academic performance and additional relevant research experience and/or peer-reviewed research activity at a minimum level of a first-class Honours research degree or Master of Research, in line with the University’s scholarship rating guidelines. Refer to the Rating Scholarship Applicants section for more information about these guidelines.

Scholarship Components

The scholarship is comprised of a Tuition Fee Offset scholarship and a Living Allowance Stipend scholarship.

The value and tenure of the stipend is at the iMQRES full-time stipend rate of $27,596 per annum (2019 rate, tax exempt for up to 3 years).

This scholarship is available to domestic and international candidates.

Contact Details

Name: Dr Kira Westaway
Phone: 02 98508429 or 0424285977

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