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Sleep in the wild: reproductive benefits and health costs of natural sleep deprivation in fallow deer

Project Description

Project details:

Like us, animals sleep. When sleeping, animals do not perform any of the activities that enhance their chance of survival or reproduction, such as feeding, finding mates or raising offspring. In addition, they face high risk of predation. Sleep has important benefits that offset these costs, like boosting the immune system and maintaining brain functions. How do animals balance the costs and benefits of sleep under changing environmental and social conditions? To answer this question, we need to study sleep in natural environments; yet, virtually all we know about sleep comes from laboratory studies under very artificial settings where animals do not experience any costs associated with sleeping. This project will measure sleep, and the health costs of natural sleep loss, in wild animals of different age and personality, facing the challenge to balance time for sleep and reproduction in a seasonal environment. Using the unique combination of sleep recording with state of the art dataloggers (Daily Diaries), observations of deer behaviour, measures of reproductive success and parasite load, and environmental data, the student will quantify how sleep time varies over the year in fallow deer, and what health costs animals pay when sleep deprived to invest in reproduction.

This project will be supervised by Dr Isabella Capellini and Professor Eric Morgan (Queen’s University School of Biological Sciences) and Dr Simone Ciuti (University College Dublin) and Professor Luca Borger (Swansea University).

Applications MUST be submitted through

Specific skills/experience required by applicants:

Essential: Applicants hold or are expected to hold an Honours degree in biology, ecology, zoology or related disciplines. The ideal applicant has experience with field work, data collection and analysis of animal behaviour, is self-motivated, able to work both independently and in collaboration with others.
Desirable: Masters degree in a relevant discipline. Previous research experience with dataloggers and studying animal behaviour in the field will be of great advantage.

All applicants must meet the academic entry requirements:

Funding Notes

Only UK and EU students are eligible to apply. Before applying, it is strongly recommended that you read the full information on eligibility criteria available from DfE: View Website.

Please note in particular that not all successful applicants may be eligible to receive a full studentship (i.e. fees and stipend) - please read in detail the Residency and Citizenship requirements in the document linked to above.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.40

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

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