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Linking Personality to Ageing in a wild bird.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Bize
    Dr J Martin
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Understanding the causes of individual variation in the rate of ageing is a major topic in gerontology and evolutionary biology with clear application to human health.

Nowadays, there is fast growing evidence in a wide range of animal species that, just as in humans, individuals can differ consistently in their behavioural responses to stressors (often encapsulated in the term ‘personality’). However, few studies have addressed the connections between personality and ageing. Different personality types are expected to be associated with different circulating levels of the stress hormone corticosterone, which can in turn hasten telomere erosion and shorten life expectancy. Telomeres are conserved non-coding DNA repeats that protect the end of linear chromosomes and regulate cell replicative potential and thereof organism life expectancy. Furthermore, the importance of genetics versus early and late socio-ecological environments in shaping circulating levels of corticosterone and modulating the links between personality and ageing remains unknown.

In this PhD project, you will address these question using a 20 year individual-based study in a colonial bird, the Alpine swift, where for most individuals detailed information is readily available on their early and late socio-ecological environment, their risk taking behavioural tendencies and their rate of ageing. This project will enable you to learn a variety of important methods in molecular biology and physiology and evolutionary biology and to participate in the field work. The project will be supervised by Dr Pierre Bize and Dr Julien Martin. We will provide a thorough training in laboratory skills, experimental design, basic and advanced statistical analyses, animal ecology, behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology. The project will be based at the University of Aberdeen where the student will benefit from interaction with a thriving community of postgraduate students, postdocs, and faculty in animal physiology and evolutionary biology.

Information on the PI’s
Pierre Bize
Julien Martin

Please apply for admission to the ’Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Science’ to ensure that your application is passed to the correct School for processing.

Please provide a copy of the degree certificate and transcript for each previous degree undertaken, a copy of your English language proficiency certificate (if relevant), and contact details of two referees who can comment on your previous academic performance (at least one should be from your current degree programme). Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, it is for self-funded students only.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.


Bize P, Daniel G, Viblanc VA, Martin JGA, Doligez B. 2017. Negative phenotypic and genetic correlation between natal dispersal propensity and nest-defence behaviour in a wild bird. Biology Letters 13(7):20170236.

Bize P, Diaz C, Lindström J. 2012. Experimental evidence that adult antipredator behaviour is heritable and not influenced by behavioural copying in a wild bird. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279:1380-1388.

Martin JGA, Festa-Bianchet M. 2011. Age-independent and age-dependent decreases in reproduction of females. Ecology Letters 14(6):576-581.

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