Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship

The NSW Government has developed a postgraduate scholarship in honour of the late Professor Peter Cullen AO FTSE. Professor Cullen contributed significantly to water policy and water management in Australia and NSW.

The Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship is an appropriate way to remember Professor Cullen and will support some of the brightest up and coming scientists to undertake water research in New South Wales.

The program is jointly funded by various NSW Government water agencies, including the NSW Office of Water, Sydney Catchment Authority, State Water and Sydney Water. The aim of the scholarship is to:

  • improve our understanding of how rivers, groundwater, wetlands and estuaries function and respond to enhanced management
  • improve the linkages between aquatic science and water management in NSW
  • provide research opportunities in NSW for water specialists.

Funds available

A three year scholarship of up to $16,000 per annum will be awarded each year. Funds totalling $48,000 will be available to the successful student over a three year period. The scholarship is mainly to support student research, but may form part of a stipend. The scholarship can be used to pay for such things as equipment, field expenses and sample processing. These conditions will be further defined in the scholarship agreement between the NSW Government and the University/Research Organisation.

Selection criteria


There are a number of criteria upon which students will be assessed. They must show they:

  • are a first or second year PhD research student that will be enrolled at an Australian university in the first semester of funding
  • are an Australian citizen or have permanent residency
  • can demonstrate expertise in one of the following disciplines: bio-physical sciences, mathematics, statistics, information sciences, spatial analysis and modelling. Students with expertise in law, resource management, social sciences, and resource economics are also eligible
  • can demonstrate academic excellence in their chosen field (a copy of their full academic transcript must be supplied)
  • can provide written proof of their supervisor's support, indicating how a scholar may benefit from participation in the Peter Cullen Scholarship.

The proposed project

The student's proposed project will be assessed on how well they:

  • demonstrate how the project will lead to an improvement in our understanding of how rivers, groundwater, wetlands or estuaries function
  • demonstrate the relevance of the research to water management in New South Wales
  • demonstrate how the project improves the linkages between water science and water management in New South Wales
  • demonstrate how the project is innovative, and
  • demonstrate the project methods.

Note: The scholarship seeks projects on a wide range of water topics, not just those that relate to water sharing and environmental flows.

The following additional conditions apply:

  • supervisor endorsement will be necessary
  • employer endorsement will be required
  • preference will be given to full-time students

Assessment of applications

A selection panel will be convened by the NSW Office of Water with industry partners. The selection panel will undertake an initial assessment of applications and generate a short list of eligible applicants.

The short-listed applicants will be required to attend an interview and/or make a formal presentation of the proposed research to the selection panel. The selection panel will make a recommendation to the Minister.


The successful applicants will be required to submit an annual progress report to remain eligible for the scholarship. The progress report will include:

  • a financial report on expenditure
  • a list of project activity
  • a report of project outcomes.

Funding for the following year is predicated on the Scholar completing the activity report to the desired standard.

All communication for the project will be required to acknowledge the scholarship.

Additionally, the successful applicant will be required to give presentations to the funding bodies and NSW Government Scientists.


Applications for the 2014 scholarship are now closed.


Simon Williams, Scholarship Convenor, NSW Office of Water
Telephone (02) 4224 9728 or 0413 601 500 or email

Peter Cullen Scholars

2013 Scholarship winner

Samantha Dawson winner of the 2013 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship

Samantha Dawson, from the University of New South Wales, won the 2013 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship.

In Samantha Dawson's project, 'The effectiveness of environmental flows during wetland vegetation restoration', she will be examining the use of managed and environmental flows in the rehabilitation of wetland vegetation. This project is based in the Macquarie Marshes in north-western NSW, where a rehabilitation project has been underway since 2009. Outcomes of this project will cover the effectiveness of environmental and managed flows as a rehabilitation technique and the relative influences of disturbance (cropping) and flooding history on plant recovery. This research will assist managers of wetlands in both long term environmental water planning and the accounting of environmental water used in these systems.

2012 Scholarship winner

Eytan Rocheta winner of the 2012 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship

Eytan Rocheta, from the University of New South Wales, won the 2012 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship.

Eytan will be studying the Simulating persistence in future rainfall: correcting Global Climate Model bias in regional climate models. This study seeks to develop a methodology for improving the representation of regional climate extremes. Simulating climate change's impacts on the water cycle is one of the key challenges facing climate scientists and hydrologists, especially the simulation of climate extremes which cause floods and droughts. This research will assist in developing a greater understanding of the role of atmospheric variables in driving climate extremes in a regional scale and improve the quality of hydrological models.

2011 Scholarship winner

Daniela Cortez winner of the 2011 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship

Daniela Cortez, from the University of Technology Sydney, won the 2011 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship.

Daniela will be studying the 'Water abstraction effects on food web linkages between benthic algae and macroinvertebrates: an ecological monitoring and modelling approach'. This study will assist in the development of our understanding of the ecology of unregulated coastal rivers during low flow periods. This new information will assist the NSW Government in developing water access rules during low flow periods.

2010 Scholarship winner

James Hitchcock winner of the 2010 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship

James Hitchcock, from the University of Technology Sydney, won the 2010 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship.

The proposed research is entitled 'The role of estuary inflows in structuring the plankton community in the Bega River; importance of environmental flows in supplying dissolved organic carbon and inorganic nutrients'. The research will assist in developing a greater understanding the role of freshwater inputs into estuaries.

2009 Scholarship winner

Celine Steinfield winner of the 2009 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship

Celine Steinfeld, from the University of New South Wales, won the 2009 Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship.

Celine's study 'Social and ecological interactions towards sustainable management of dryland river systems', will attempt to map the floodplain modifications in the Murray–Darling Basin catchments of the Macquarie Marches and Gwydir wetlands, and assess the governance and social implications of these floodplain developments.

On being awarded the inaugural scholarship, Celine said "This scholarship gives me an opportunity to access key wetland systems, explore emerging wetland mapping techniques and engage with the scientific community and specialists within government."