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Social evolution in shorebirds: mating systems, population demography and biodiversity conservation


Project Description

Lead supervisor: Dr Tamas Szekely, Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath, email:

Co-supervisors: (1) Dr Ben Ashby, Dept of Mathematics, (2) Dr Richard James, Dept of Physics

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Mating systems and parental behaviour are among the most diverse social behaviours, and recent works suggest that the social environment influences these behaviours. Shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers and allies) exhibit extremely diverse social systems, and this variation appears to relate to sex ratios. Recent works by our team have explored mating system dynamics, social organisations and host-parasite interactions, and here we seek to continue this cutting-edge research (see below selected publications of the supervisors).

PROJECT AIMS AND METHODS

The objective of the PhD studentship is to analyse the impacts of mating system and sex ratios on population dynamics, carry out fieldwork in shorebird populations, and use these research achievements to inform biodiversity conservation. Since many shorebird populations are globally endangered, the PhD student will develop theoretical tools and field-based approaches to support conservation actions that will benefit shorebirds.

We seek a bright and motivated student with strong interests in evolutionary ecology, behavioural ecology and biodiversity conservation. Willingness to carry out fieldwork in a harsh environment is essential for this position. The student will search for nests, trap birds to take blood samples, and record their behaviour. In addition, he/she will use theoretical models to test hypotheses of mating system evolution and use theoretical models to estimate key demographic properties of natural populations. Previous experience with avian field biology, statistical modelling and/or mathematical modelling is advantageous. Strong quantitative skills are essential, and willingness to program is a must.

Fieldwork will be in remote and pristine locations that may include Madagascar, Cape Verde, Mexico and/or Russia. Commodities are basic, the weather can be harsh, and a great deal of walking and cycling are required. Opportunities for outside communication will be limited. You must be physically fit, hard-working and meticulous, and have a proven ability to work independently. You must have a positive attitude and an ability to look after yourself (i.e. cook your own meals, deal with logistics and organise your own work over extended periods).

The student will be based at the Milner Centre for Evolution of University of Bath; a new initiative that fosters interdisciplinary research collaborations https://www.bath.ac.uk/research-centres/milner-centre-for-evolution/. The Centre offers a stimulating international environment and an excellent research infrastructure with access to state-of-the-art techniques. Further information on the Department of Biology & Biochemistry are at http://www.bath.ac.uk/departments/department-of-biology-biochemistry/

CANDIDATE

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or high Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent qualification gained outside the UK) in a relevant subject. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

APPLICATIONS

In the first instance, interested candidates should send a CV, the name of 2 referees and a concise statement of their research interests as a single PDF file to . Prof Szekely will advise if a formal application should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form found here: https://www.bath.ac.uk/study/pg/applications.pl#bio-sci

Early application is strongly recommended. Selection of candidates will commence on 17 December 2018.

The anticipated start date is 30 September 2019.

Funding Notes

We seek applicants who can self-fund their studies or who are willing to secure their own funding. Partial support may be possible, e.g. for fieldwork and/or tuition fees, although most funds should be secured using external sources.

How good is research at University of Bath in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.50

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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