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School of Mathematics and Statistics - Collective Decision Making in Atlantic Salmon

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Torney
    Dr S Killen
    Prof Colin Adams
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Summary: Atlantic salmon are an iconic species that are ecologically and economically of great importance. This project will study the collective behaviour of migrating Atlantic salmon using a combination of field studies, mathematical modelling and data analysis. The project will evaluate whether collective behaviour has positive consequences on the fecundity and survival of Atlantic salmon and enables them to more effectively navigate their environment. Whether this creates tipping points in population abundance will be assessed by examining the potential for feedbacks among population size, group sizes and group function. The ultimate goal is to develop a mechanistic framework to predict the impact of altered habitats on the migration and population dynamics of Atlantic salmon in Scotland.

Core questions of the project will be:
How does group size affect navigational accuracy? Field work will be performed using an array of acoustic receivers to allow imaging of the migration of varying numbers of returning Atlantic salmon and investigation of how group decision-making impacts migration routes. How does group size influence ability to navigate novel challenges? The student will examine whether social behaviour alters the ability of salmon to cross human introduced barriers such as fish ladders or fishing traps. Will fishing strategies target certain types of individual and lead to evolutionary responses that may impact the migration? Computer simulations will utilize known patterns of fish movement in groups to examine how salmon respond to barriers and deployed passive fishing gears, and whether this will result in novel selection pressure on the species. How does collective movement influence population dynamics of Atlantic salmon? Informed by the results of the behavioural studies the final stage of the project will develop spatial metapopulation models that incorporate a feedback between population size and the ability of groups to navigate.

Prospective applicants should contact Colin Torney, [Email Address Removed] if they have any questions.

How to Apply: Please refer to the following website for details on how to apply:

Funding Notes

Funding is available to cover tuition fees for UK/EU/International applicants, as well as paying a stipend at the Research Council rate (estimated £14,553 for Session 2017-18).

1st/2.1 undergraduate or masters degree in subject with strong quantitative component
Experience of field work and/or animal behaviour studies desirable
Strong quantitative skills desired including experience of mathematical modelling and programming (python/matlab/c++)
Ability to work independently and as part of an interdisciplinary research team

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