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KESS2 Scholarship: The magnetic sense of bees: mechanism, function and vulnerability to electromagnetic noise

School of Natural Sciences

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Dr R Holland , Dr P Cross No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a three year PhD research studentship investigating the magnetic sense in bees and the impact of electromagnetic noise on their behaviour. The studentship is funded by the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships East (KESS 2 East) ( in collaboration with the National Grid. It will cover tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend, as well as a travel budget for workshop and conference attendance.

Insect pollinators face serious threats from anthropogenic pollutants. Recent evidence highlights that anthropogenic electromagnetic radiation is at levels never before experienced in human history, and several recent reviews have highlighted the need to understand the effects of this on biological systems (Bandara and Carpenter 2018) and particularly in pollinators such as bees (Vanbergen et al. 2019).

One line of evidence suggests that at least some frequencies of electromagnetic radiation may be disrupting the magnetic sense in other animals such as birds. There is a suggestion that fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field may be a factor in certain types of colony collapse disorder, such as desertion syndrome (Ferarri 2014). However, while there is evidence that bees possess a magnetic sense and can be trained to discriminate magnetic signatures, its function in their foraging and navigation remains to be determined.

In light of this, the PhD project aims to address this gap in our knowledge of bee behaviour by investigating the role of the magnetic sense in bee navigation. The successful student will carry out experiments to test hypotheses of the function and mechanism of magnetic sense use in bees. They will have access to state of the art tracking technology to test the behavioural response of the insects to magnetic field manipulations, through an initiative at Bangor University, which is developing drone based tracking technology to follow the foraging flights of bees in the wild.

The project is a collaboration between Bangor University (Primary Supervisor Dr Richard Holland [Email Address Removed], co-supervisor Dr. Paul Cross [Email Address Removed]), Queen Mary University of London (co-supervisor Professor Lars Chittka [Email Address Removed]) and the National Grid (co-supervisor Hayley Tripp [Email Address Removed]). The successful student will spend 30 days per year on placement with the National Grid as part of the project.

Please send a CV and covering letter to Richard Holland ([Email Address Removed]) and cc to Penny Dowdney ([Email Address Removed]). The closing date for applications is 5thth May 2020. The start date of the project is at the latest 1st July 2020, but the applicant will not be required to move immediately to area if COVID 19 related travel restrictions are still in place. For informal inquiries, please contact Richard Holland.

Funding Notes

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships 2 East (KESS 2 East) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for East Wales.

Due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be resident in East Wales on University registration, and must have the right to work in the region on qualification.


Bandara, P. and Carpenter D.O. (2018). Planetary electromagnetic pollution: it is time to assess its impact. The Lancet: Planetary Health 2, e509-547.
Vanbergen A. et al. (2019) Risk to pollinators from anthropogenic electro-magnetic radiation (EMR): Evidence and knowledge gaps. Science of the Total Environment.
Ferrari, T. (2014) Magnets, magnetic field fluctuations and geomagnetic disturbances impair the homing ability of honey bees (Apis mellifera), Journal of Apicultural Research, 53:4, 452-465.

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