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Causes and consequences of dispersal and recruitment in African Penguins- Bioscience – MPhil/PhD (Funded)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr SC Votier
    Dr RB Sherley
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

For long-lived animals, little is known about the ecology of immatures. This is especially the case for marine vertebrates characterised by extreme longevity and delayed maturation. The current studentship will study dispersal and movement ecology of immature marine vertebrates to inform conservation.

African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) have declined steeply throughout their range in recent years. Although work suggests a role for anthropogenic impacts on juvenile foraging, the importance of juvenile recruitment and dispersal in this decline is unknown. This discrepancy is crucial since there is a planned translocation underway to establish a new colony in the Eastern Cape, where there is more food and the success of this translocation is dependent upon understanding the movement ecology of young penguins. Therefore the current proposal will provide crucial information on post-natal dispersal and natal-site fidelity by tracking immature penguins during unique displacement experiments.

Objectives & methods
The aim of this studentship is to reveal the causes and consequence of dispersal and recruitment in African penguins. There are three key elements:

1. Compare the dispersal of hand-reared and wild-reared 1-year-old penguins released at unfamiliar and natal sites. This will provide insight into the feasibility of using hand-reared individuals to populate a new colony.

2. Track 2 to 3 year-old penguins to determine habitat use and prospecting. Crucially, we aim to determine to what extent these factors are influenced by fish biomass and assess whether fisheries management interventions protect penguins from fledging until maturity.

3. Quantify the population-level consequences of dispersal and recruitment in immature penguins. The student will use integrated population models and existing multi-year resighting data to estimate immature survival and recruitment and relate dispersal to early-life body condition and environmental variability.

Entry requirements
Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.
If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents:
• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to [Email Address Removed] quoting the studentship reference number.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 3rd July 2018. Interviews will be held on the University of Penryn Campus the week commencing 16th July 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email [Email Address Removed] or phone +44 (0)1392 722730. Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.

Funding Notes

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,777 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.

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