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The effects of maternal stress on offspring survival in the fallow deer


Project Description

Project details:

The impact of climate change and human-induced habitat fragmentation has resulted in an unprecedented planet-wide biodiversity crisis. Thus, it is crucial to understand the conditions which influence the survival of vulnerable individuals. Stress is associated with an increased risk of mortality, and there is considerable evidence of a link between maternal stress during pregnancy and early-life mortality in offspring. Accumulating evidence indicates that the developing foetus responds to conditions experienced by the mother, and that exposure to stress may have life-limiting effects. The objective of this project is to examine the association of maternal stress with juvenile behaviour and mortality in the fallow deer.

The student will collect behavioural and environmental data from individually identifiable female fallow deer resident in Phoenix Park, Dublin. Fawns are tagged annually in June and a 30% mortality rate is experienced in the first year. The student will observe pregnant females from mating to birth, recording feeding/resting rates, vigilance behaviour, human/dog contact and weather conditions. Estimates of long-term chronic maternal stress will be determined through cortisol levels present in hair samples. It will therefore be possible to estimate the extent to which maternal stress during foetal development predicts fawn survival.

This project will be supervised by Dr Domhnall Jennings, Dr Isabella Capellini, and Professor Jaimie Dick of Queen’s University School of Biological Sciences.

Applications MUST be submitted through https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php.

Specific skills/experience required by applicants:

Essential: Honours degree (awarded or expected) in biology, ecology, zoology or a related discipline. Experience with fieldwork, data collection and the analysis of behavioural data in animal behaviour. The ability to work independently and collaboratively in the field.
Desirable: A master’s degree in a relevant discipline, and experience of studying animal behaviour in the field.

All applicants must meet the academic entry requirements: https://www.qub.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate-research/biological-sciences-phd.html#entry

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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