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Behavioural adaptation to climate change in birds


   College of Science and Engineering

   Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

It has been suggested that social species have evolved in harsh environmental conditions, allowing for successful reproduction and survival in environments where pairs alone cannot succeed. This implies that social behaviour may buffer against adverse weather conditions. However, an overlooked issue is that social behaviour itself will also be affected by adverse weather. The project will study the dynamic interplay between ecological conditions and social behaviour through a combination of new experiments, detailed behavioural observations and long-term datasets using iconic Australian birds (fairy-wrens) as a model system.

Possible areas of study include:

  1. Field based experiments and behavioural studies to determine whether variation in social behaviour can buffer against adverse weather effects in a long-term population study of red-winged fairy-wrens. Would suit an applicant who: has a passion for fieldwork.
  2. Comparative approaches whereby large-scale social organisation and behavioural data from multiple fairy-wren species and populations will be collected across Australia to examine whether variation in climate drives any of these traits. Would suit an applicant who: has a passion for fieldwork and analyses using large datasets.
  3. Examination of the fitness consequences of variation in social behaviour within and across species using long-term data combined with state-of-the-art genetic techniques. Would suit an applicant who: has a passion for data-based projects and quantitative genetics.

Applications are open for non-Australian applicants both in Australia and overseas, and Australian domestic students.

To be a successful applicant you would ideally have a background in ecology with an excellent GPA. For field-based projects, experience in studying birds/birdwatching is required. You would either have, or be likely, to get a first-class Honours or Master’s degree at an institution of high repute. The degree must have included a research project that represents a significant contribution to the final mark. Peer-reviewed papers will substantially increase your competitiveness for a scholarship.

If you are interested, please email me with a CV and brief letter stating your interest and background and I will let you know whether I think your skill set and academic record would place you well against the competition.

See my website for more information about my research.


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