Impartial third party interventions in wild chimpanzees
Applicants are invited to apply for a project that will be in competition for funding for an internal university award. The outcome of the application will be determined by several factors including the quality of the candidate. Applicants must have a relevant MSc degree, experience of animal behaviour data collection, expertise in study design / statistical analysis (proficient use of R) and excellent writing skills, ideally evidenced with a publication in a peer reviewed journal. Desirable characteristics include an interest in primate social behaviour, field experience. UK/EU nationals only.
Investigating factors affecting the maintenance of stable social groups is important for understanding the evolutionary basis of sociality. Group living is a delicate balance between competition and cooperation. While there are many benefits to group living, for example, predator defence and/or cooperative defence of food resources, there are also costs related to increased competition for limited resources. Inter-individual conflicts of interest give rise to aggressive interactions with costly consequences such as injury, damaged relationships and destabilised social networks that negatively influence fitness. Thus, evolution should favour mechanisms that minimise disruption and promote group stability. One important mechanism that can stabilise society is policing.
Whilst the area of conflict management has been well studied in primates, relatively less attention has been paid to whether, and how, third parties police conflicts between group members. Policing is thought to be supported in societies that have a high variance power structure where individuals signal their submission. Policing is defined as an impartial intervention by a third party in an on-going aggressive conflict. Crucially, conflict participants are treated the same, either with a neutral approach, affiliation or aggression. There are relatively few quantitative studies on policing in primates. Researchers have noted its occurrence in several macaque species, mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.
How policing operates in a species with a fission-fusion system where group members fission into several smaller sub-groups is not yet understood. This project presents an exciting opportunity to investigate the patterning and function of policing behaviour in a community of wild, chimpanzees at the established Greater Mahale Ecosystem Research and Conservation (gmerc.org) field site in Tanzania, run by Dr Alex Piel (second supervisor). The student will spend 18 months collecting behavioural observation data on the previously habituated chimpanzees using standard sampling methods (continuous focal, instantaneous group and all occurrence sampling). There is flexibility within the project for the student to develop additional research questions.
Please apply by email to [Email Address Removed] with a CV and cover letter, along with contact information for two referees. The deadline for applications is Monday 18th February 2019. Please feel free to email me with any questions. The potential start date is between 24 September and 5 October 2019.
The successful applicant will be put forward in a competitive internal bid for a three-year , full-time LJMU PhD Scholarship (UK/EU nationals only) comprising annual tuition fees, an annual stipend (£14,777 in 2018-19) and a contribution towards running costs.