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The behaviour and ecology of wild seabirds.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 24, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Merton College are seeking outstanding applicants for a DPhil scholarship to conduct research at the Department of Zoology on the behaviour and ecology of wild seabirds in the Oxford Navigation Group (OxNav) under the supervision of Professor Tim Guilford.
OxNav is a lively and productive research group exploring the controls and consequences of wide-ranging animal movement, and focussing on the problem of oceanic navigation in pelagic and migratory seabirds as a model natural system. We are interested in the information needed to control such movements efficiently during time-critical tasks (such as rearing a chick), how it is organised in cognitively simple systems, how it may be communicated between individuals, and how it may be shared or exploited across loose collectives. We study the degree to which effective spatial cognition on a global scale requires innate, individually learnt, or shared information; the types and accuracy of information used, and the system’s flexibility. We employ "ethoinformatics" approaches combining data from advanced miniature bio-logging technologies and moitoring systems, and the computational engineering (machine learning) techniques needed to make sense of this information in relation to space, time, and diverse remotely-sensed environmental data streams. Potential questions range from fundamental scientific to conservationally critical, in a group of birds amongst the most the most threatened on earth, and where the environment is undergoing massive anthropogenically induced change. The project will make use of, and add to, a 12 year biotelemetry dataset in shearwaters covering both year-on-year individual migrations and long-distance foraging excursions during breeding to investigate any one of a range of questions, including: inter-seasonal carry-over effects on breeding and remotely-sensed behaviour at-sea; how inter and intra-colony competition for marine resources drives population distributions; mitigation of fisheries by-catch in a critically endangered species; how individuals acquire spatial knowledge with experience and how this affects their movements; how foraging and migration patterns may be changed in response to environment; what are the map and compass guidance systems used in oceanic navigation, and how are these cognitively controlled. Whilst fitting in with our current research priorities, the successful candidate will have considerable autonomy in developing their own project ideas.
The successful applicant will have the opportunity to employ analytical skills involving very large datasets, and to learn field experimental skills deploying state-of-the-art bio-telemetry and other advanced monitoring systems on wild seabirds breeding at one or more of our island seabird study colonies. The successful applicant will have (or expect to gain) excellent performance in an undergraduate degree in Biology or other relevant discipline, and should have good quantitative abilities.
Please contact Professor Tim Guilford in the first instance on .
Application procedure details at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/dphil-zoology?wssl=1. The application deadline is Friday 24th January 2020.
[Please note a personal statement rather than a research proposal will be required and the advertised studentship code is Guilford01].


Funding Notes

This scholarship, funded by Merton College, will cover Home/EU course fees and a stipend (RCUK level) for 3 years.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 223.80

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

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