This project is part of the Wellcome Trust project: From 'Feed the Birds', to 'Do Not Feed the Animals'. Signs stating ‘Do not feed the animals’ are ubiquitous in zoos, national parks and urban spaces. They stress that uncontrolled feeding by people can affect animal health, alter wild animal behaviour and create public hygiene and nuisance issues. However, humans appear to have a widespread and longstanding proclivity to feed other animals. Many ancient cults fed animals, some modern religions require it, and feeding is often actively encouraged as a tourist attraction. Millions of people feed wildlife in gardens and in 2018, the pet-food industry was worth £2.7 billion in the UK alone. The Wellcome Trust funded project From 'Feed the Birds', to 'Do Not Feed the Animals' (DNFTA) will explore the human fascination with feeding animals - and explore the consequences of this feeding for the shared health of humans, other animals and wider environments. The DNFTA project is a collaboration between Exeter’s Departments of Archaeology and Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology alongside partners at the University of Roehampton (Anthropology), University of Reading (Geography and Environmental Science), and National Museums of Scotland (Department of Natural Sciences).
This PhD project will investigate the isotope signals from both modern and past examples of domestication and taming. Key questions will likely be: Can we detect past domestications or taming using a combination of isotopic approaches? What evidence is there from the past for domestication or taming of species? However, within the context of this project title we are open for students coming forward with more detailed project ideas around this area, or their own ideas for a PhD project involving feeding animals and/or domestication. We have thus deliberately not detailed the species, the timescales, approach etc., as we would like applicants to shape the project. One area we would like to include though is a compound specific isotope approach to answering these questions.
In line with the transdisciplinary scope of DNFTA, the PhD project will bring theory, ideas and methods from multiple disciplines to bear upon the above topic. The project will be based at Reading with two main supervisors, but will also be co-supervised by project staff from bioarcheology team at Exeter. The candidate will be part of a cohort of early career researchers already part of DNFTA, including two anthropology PhD’s at the University of Roehampton and a further two PhD’s at the University of Exeter and another at Reading that started earlier in 2021 alongside post-doctoral researchers. The successful candidate will be expected to collaborate closely with project colleagues across all disciplines and work with external stakeholders in the co-production of their research.
A good undergraduate degree result in either Archaeological, Biological, Earth, Ecological or Environmental Science and a relevant MSc qualification. Experience involving isotope analyses and/or studying animals previously is desirable. If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency.
Applications should be made using the University of Reading online application form attaching a current CV and a 500 word research proposal. For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor Dr Stuart Black ([Email Address Removed]).