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Over the past two decades we have probed the local Universe in unprecedented detail with surveys such as GAMA and SDSS. Using these impressive datasets we have parameterised many fundamental relationships at the current epoch, such as the distribution of stellar material and star-formation, how different galaxy populations correlate with local environment and the large-scale distribution of dark matter. However, it is not the processes occurring today which shape these relations, but the factors which drove galaxy evolution over the proceeding 8 billion years. In order to probe factors which shaped these fundamental relations we require highly complete and well sampled observations of both galaxies AND their environments over cosmological timescales.

Left: DEVILS will target three, well studies deep extragalactic fields. Right: DEVILS will probe to much earlier times than GAMA and SDSS but with similar levels of completeness, targeting the evolution of galaxies and structure to z~1.

Left: DEVILS will target three, well studies deep extragalactic fields. Right: DEVILS will probe to much earlier times than GAMA and SDSS but with similar levels of completeness, targeting the evolution of galaxies and structure to z~1.

Until recently there has been a paucity of galaxy evolution surveys with sufficient numbers and/or completeness to perform a robust analysis of the processes driving formation of these relations, both in terms of galaxies and the dark matter halos in which they reside. This is set to change with the upcoming Deep Extragalactic VIsible Legacy Survey (DEVILS), a new large survey being under taken at the Anglo Australian Telescope (AAT) and led from ICRAR/UWA. DEVILS will target 60,000 galaxies out to redshift=1 to measure the influence of local environment in regulating galaxy evolution and the evolution of the dark matter distribution in the most massive groups and halos. We will combine spectroscopic observations from the AAT with an extensive multi-wavelength dataset from multiple world leading facilities and bespoke galaxy simulations.

Potential students will join the ICRAR/UWA DEVILS team which currently work on diverse aspects of galaxies evolution science using DEVILS including star-formation, mergers, the evolution of stellar mass and spectral analysis pipelines (Davies), structural decompositions of galaxies and the energy output of the Universe (Driver), group and large scale structure evolution (Robotham), the effect of environment on neutral hydrogen gas (Cortese), and galaxy simulations for DEVILS (Lagos). There is scope for students to work in any of these associated fields and define an appropriate project within DEVILS.

The student will be trained in observational astronomy using large surveys, galaxy evolution science, and rigorous statistical analysis of big data and/or modelling of astrophysical phenomena, galaxy formation and cosmological simulations. The student will also be expected to participate in observing runs at remote telescope locations inside and outside of Australia, and become part of the extended DEVILS team which includes a large international team of researchers.

Key projects include:

  • How is the Universal distribution of dark matter evolving from 0<z<0.8? Our currently cosmological model predicts that the distribution of dark matter in high mass groups and clusters evolves dramatically over this epoch – is this observed?
  • What governs the distribution of stellar mass in the Universe? Probing the evolution of mergers and star-formation, and how the contribute to the observed stellar mass function.
  • How are the z~0 environmental-density relations formed? Probing the effect of environment on galaxy evolution processes at 0.3<z<0.8 by exploring star-formation, HI gas, stellar mass, morphology as a function of environment
  • Simulating the effect of mergers and environment over the past 8 billion years. Current galaxy formation models reproduce the z~0 distribution of galaxies relatively well. However, they predict vastly different evolutionary paths to reach this. Using the DEVILS dataset we will accurately constrain these evolutionary paths.

Potential Supervisors

Dr Luke Davies

WAVES Project Scientist

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Prof Simon Driver

Winthrop Research Professor

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Dr Aaron Robotham

Senior Research Fellow

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Dr Luca Cortese

Senior Research Fellow

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Dr Claudia Lagos

ARC Early Career Researcher

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