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Using computer generated social stimuli to examine the behavioural, hormonal, and neural responses to agonistic signals in a highly social fish

Faculty of Science

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Dr A Reddon , Dr William Swaney , Dr Peter Falkingham No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

To live together, animals must communicate, and so to understand social groups, we need to understand communication. How the receiver of a signal reacts depends on the signal content, the characteristics of the signaller, and the context in which the communication takes place. We will be using realistic computer-generated stimuli to control and manipulate all of these aspects of signal production in order to investigate how animals respond to social signals at behavioural, neural, and hormonal levels. Our study system is the highly social daffodil cichlid fish (Neolamprologus pulcher), which has a fascinatingly complex social behaviour and signalling repertoire.

I am looking for students with excellent CVs (first class degree and/or distinction at Masters level, plus relevant experience and/or publication success in peer reviewed journals) to apply for a competitive 3 year doctoral scholarship in the school of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University (

We will make use of an established daffodil cichlid breeding colony at LJMU. Social behaviours can be scored using both live observations and high definition video recordings. We plan to use 3D scanning and computer animation to produce highly realistic artificial stimuli which can vary in phenotype and can be programmed to display a variety of signalling behaviour. We intend to measure the response to these stimuli using detailed behavioural analysis, hormone measurements, and immediate early gene responses to quantify neural activation. This is a highly integrative project which will combine functional analysis of behaviour with measurements of proximate mechanisms while making use of computer generated stimuli.

Preferred candidate characteristics include a keen interest in animal social behaviour; experience studying behaviour in the laboratory; strong writing and analytical skills; knowledge of experimental design and statistical analysis. Previous experience with one or more of the following: behaviour coding, hormone analysis, immunohistochemistry, 3D modeling and commuter animation would be highly valuable. Previous experience working with fish is desirable but not essential. UK/EU nationals only.

Please apply by email to [Email Address Removed] with a CV, a brief statement outlining your interest, and the names and contact information for two references. Please feel free to email me with any questions.

Funding Notes

The selected candidate will be put up for a competitive internal award ( If successful, the scholarship will cover all applicable fees for 3 years including a stipend at the standard UK rate (~£15000pa) and provides £1500pa in research funding. The successful candidate must begin their studies between December 2020 and February 2021.

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