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Information under anthropogenic change: how does social living respond to increased noise and turbidity?

Project Description

Many species, across a wide range of taxa, rely on indirect information from others in addition to private information they have acquired directly from their environment. When living in groups, sharing of this ‘social’ information can result in more efficient avoidance of predators or exploitation of ephemeral resources. However environmental conditions, often changed by human activity, can alter the ability of individuals to gain information and then to make adaptive decisions. While recent research has begun to reveal how anthropogenic effects such as turbidity and noise pollution are affecting individual decision making and social interactions, very little is known about how information and decision making in a social context are affected. This project will use the guppy, Poecilia reticulata. In its natural range in Trinidad, the fish is known to balance private and social information, have a fission-fusion social structure, and make decisions collectively. Moreover, there is variation between sites in exposure to turbidity and noise, making this an ideal model system to study anthropogenic effects on information use.

Funding Notes

This is a competition funded project through the NERC GW4+ DTP. There is a competitive selection process. This studentship will cover fees, stipend and research costs for UK students and UK residents for 3.5 years.

The project will suit a candidate interested in the interface between animal behaviour and environmental change. The project requires long periods (months) to be spent in the tropics (Trinidad) running experiments and collecting data, often in streams and rivers in rainforest. Thus the candidate will need to be independently minded, well organised, and willing to work in challenging conditions.


Herbert-Read J.E., Kremer L., Bruintjes R., Radford A.N., Ioannou C.C. (2017) Anthropogenic noise pollution from pile-driving disrupts the structure and dynamics of fish shoals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B., 284: 20171627, 10.1098/rspb.2017.1627

Ioannou C.C., Ramnarine I.W., Torney C.J. (2017) High-predation habitats impact the social dynamics of collective exploration in a shoaling fish. Science Advances, 3: e1602682, 10.1126/sciadv.1602682.

Chamberlain A.C., Ioannou C.C. (2019) Turbidity increases risk perception but constrains collective behaviour during foraging by fish shoals. Animal Behaviour, 156: 129-138, 10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.08.012

Magurran A.E. (2005) Evolutionary Ecology: the Trinidadian Guppy. Oxford University Press.

Halfwerk W., Slabbekoorn H. (2015)Pollution going multimodal: the complex impact of the human-altered sensory environment on animal perception and performance. BiologyLetters,11, 20141051, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.1051.

How good is research at University of Bristol in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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