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The impact of sensory pollution on fish navigation

   Department of Biology

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  Dr Cait Newport, Prof Theresa Burt de Perera  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project is part of the DPhil in Biology at the University of Oxford

All animals use senses to gather information. However, sensory systems are not perfect and cannot always detect a clear signal. Interfering external sources can cause ‘sensory pollution’ thereby interrupting normal behaviour. Vision in reef fish presents an extreme example: water visibility can fluctuate rapidly, limiting distances at which objects can be detected.

How fish assess their environment in variable conditions is poorly understood, but is important to our understanding of how animals adapt to changing environments. Our research group will investigate the effects of sensory pollution on fish behaviour and determine how resilient animals are to natural and human-induced sensory pollution. The results of this project are important both from a conservation perspective, as navigation is a fundamental behaviour that underpins many other activities (i.e. foraging, mate selection, predator avoidance), as well as a mechanistic perspective as we will determine how the navigation systems works when sensory information becomes unreliable.

This project will require both laboratory and field animal behaviour studies. We are looking for a student who would focus on this field portion of this research. This work will involve tracking the movement trajectories of fish on coral reef using a camera system that the student must continue to develop. The ideal candidate must have some experience with programming and motivation to continue to develop this skill. It is also important that the student can swim and either has SCUBA diving experience or is willing to learn.

This project is part of the Behaviour and Biomechanics theme in the Department of Biology.


This project is part of the DPhil in Biology programme, and is not a funded course at the University of Oxford, as such, students are expected to explore options for funding. However, we anticipate being able to offer around 6 full graduate scholarships to incoming DPhil Students in 2023-24

You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by 20 January 2023. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic achievement and potential to excel as a DPhil student. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit the University’s dedicated Funding pages.


For full entry requirements and eligibility information, please see the main admissions page.

How to apply

The deadline for applications for 2023-2024 entry is midday 20 January 2023. We will continue to accept applications submitted after 20 January 2023, but these late applications will not be considered for scholarship funding.

You can find the admissions portal and further information about eligibility and the DPhil in Biology Programme at the University's graduate admissions page.

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