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Temporal activity cycles and disease transmission dynamics in ant colonies

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr Nathalie Stroeymeyt  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Animal and human social networks are shaped by multiple selection pressures, including the need to ensure efficient group functioning while simultaneously limiting the spread of infectious diseases. Recent experimental work has highlighted the importance of spatio-social organisation in shaping interaction networks and determining epidemic risks in ants [1]. However, the prediction that temporal heterogeneities in activity should also have a strong impact on disease transmission within social groups has received very little attention [2, 3]. This PhD project will aim to use experimental manipulations to investigate the effect of short-term temporal activity cycles on transmission dynamics in ants. Using an automated behavioural tracking system [1, 3], the candidate will quantify short-term activity cycles within Leptothorax acervorum ant colonies and design reliable methods to manipulate these activity cycles (e.g. either disrupt them, accelerate them or slow them down). These methods will then be used to carry-out fully-controlled experiment testing the effect of experimental manipulations of the colony’s activity cycles on the transmission dynamics of both pathogenic and non-pathogenic agents through the colony. This project should provide the first formal empirical test of whether coordinated bursts of activity within a social group slows down the propagation of disease through ant colonies, and whether activity synchronization may be used as a strategy to fight diseases.

Please use the link provided on this page to apply online:  PhD Biological Sciences | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol

When making your application, please indicate the supervisor name and the project title on the form. Ensure you provide all supporting documents as per the programme admissions statement.

An upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in biological sciences or related discipline is required for entry to the PhD programme. English language requirements: please refer to the entry requirements as detailed on the postgraduate prospectus.

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded by the University of Bristol Studentship scheme
To be eligible to apply you must be an international student (i.e. not eligible for home UK tuition fee)
The studentship is for 4 years
Tuition and bench fees are included
The studentship includes a stipend of £15,609 per year to support living costs


1. Stroeymeyt, N., et al. Science, 2018. 362(6417): p. 941-945.
2. Richardson, T.O. and T.E. Gorochowski. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2015. 12(111).
3. Richardson, T.O., et al. PLOS Computational Biology, 2017. 13(5): p. e1005527.

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