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VC International Scholarship in Combining game theory and the weak noise limit to understand spatio-temporal ecological models of animal movements.

Cardiff School of Mathematics

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Dr TE Woolley , Dr V Knight No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Please see eligibility criteria before applying

The project seeks to bring together two different but complementary fields of mathematics in order to extract further understanding from each.

Locusts and other migrating insects can form cohesive swarms at large population densities, which subsequently travel over huge distances and can have a devastating effect on agriculture. It is therefore important to understand the mechanisms governing how the population decides collectively on the direction of migration and the population density at which this occurs.

There has been much interest recently regarding the modelling of such animal movement. Specifically, as mathematicians we try to express animal interactions mechanistically, with a view to understanding emergent group phenomena, such as swarming and directionality.

Critically, there are multiple ways of understanding such phenomena. Two such ways are through using game theoretic techniques (Vince Knight’s (VK) area of expertise), whilst another is through using agent based modelling and the weak noise limit (Thomas Woolley’s (TW) and Louise Dyson’s (LD) area of expertise). This project seeks to bridge the gap between these two complementary skill sets in order to understand the role of noise in agent based decision making and specify how individual actions can lead to global decision making.

Our initial point of interest is a recent minimal model of collective motion (developed by LD). The model describes density-dependent bistability in population-level decision making. This model demonstrates a kind of bistability that is only present when demographic noise is included. Namely, the randomness in the system does not simply cause transitions between different population states (e.g. individual left movement vs individual right movement) but instead actively constructs new possible population states (globally organised movement).

We seek to use game theoretic approaches (a specific example being the Ohtsuki-Nowak approximation) that will allow us to remove topology from this problem and, thus, lead to a dramatic simplification. This simplification will shed light on the creation of the new states that depend on randomness, thus, generalising the cases in which we would expect noise dependent dynamics to occur. In turn, this will highlight ecological cases were such complexity would be expected to arise.

The project will be co-supervised by Dr Louise Dyson, University of Warwick.


Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the online application service

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, enter VC International Scholarship

Duration: 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress
Start Date: 1 October 2020.

A 2:1 or above Honours undergraduate degree or a master’s degree, in Mathematics or a related subject. Applicants for whom English is not their first language must demonstrate their proficiency by obtaining an IELTS score of at least 6.5 overall, with a minimum of 5.5 in each skills component.

Funding Notes

This is a 3 year scholarship covering:
- overseas tuition fees;
- annual stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21);
- research consumables, training, conference travel.


Applicants must:
- be nationals of (or permanently domiciled in) the world’s Least Developed and Other Low Income Countries based on the DAC list of ODA Recipients 2020. See
- meet the academic criteria;
- be liable to pay overseas tuition fees;
- not have been awarded another scholarship covering both tuition fees and stipend
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