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Wellcome Trust, From ’Feed the Birds’, to ’Do Not Feed the Animals’ PhD studentship in Isotope Ecology/Archaeology of raptors


School of Geography and Environmental Science

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Dr S Black No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Signs stating ‘Do not feed the animals’ are ubiquitous in zoos, national parks and urban spaces. They stress that uncontrolled feeding by people can affect animal health, alter wild animal behaviour and create public hygiene and nuisance issues. However, humans appear to have a widespread and longstanding proclivity to feed other animals. Many ancient cults fed animals, some modern religions require it, and feeding is often actively encouraged as a tourist attraction. Millions of people feed wildlife in gardens and in 2018, the pet-food industry was worth £2.7 billion in the UK alone. The Wellcome Trust funded project From ’Feed the Birds’, to ’Do Not Feed the Animals’ (DNFTA) will explore the human fascination with feeding animals - and explore the consequences of this feeding for the shared health of humans, other animals and wider environments. The DNFTA project is a collaboration between Exeter’s Departments of Archaeology and Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology alongside partners at the University of Roehampton (Anthropology), University of Reading (Geography and Environmental Science), and National Museums of Scotland (Department of Natural Sciences).

This PhD project will investigate the feeding of raptors from a modern, ecological perspective and also from a time-depth perspective using archaeological and historical samples via an isotope (stable and radiogenic) approach. Key questions will likely be: How has feeding of raptors shaped our relationship with these birds? What are the impacts of such feeding?, and what is the evidence for feeding in the past? However, within the context of this project title we are open for students coming forward with more detailed project ideas around this area, or their own ideas for a PhD project involving raptors. We have thus deliberately not detailed the types of raptors, the timescales, approach etc., as we would like applicants to shape the project.

In line with the transdisciplinary scope of DNFTA, the PhD project will bring theory, ideas and methods from multiple disciplines to bear upon the above topic. The project will be based at Reading with two main supervisors, but will also be co-supervised by project staff from bioarcheology team at Exeter. The candidate will be part of a cohort of early career researchers joining DNFTA in early 2021, including two anthropology PhD’s currently advertised at the University of Roehampton and a further two PhD’s at the University of Exeter and another at Reading starting later in 2021. The successful candidate will be expected to collaborate closely with project colleagues across all disciplines and work with external stakeholders in the co-production of their research.

A good undergraduate degree result in either Archaeological, Biological, Earth, Ecological or Environmental Science and a relevant MSc qualification. Experience involving isotope analyses and/or studying raptors previously is desirable. If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency.

Applications should be made using the University of Reading online application form attaching a current CV and a 500 word research proposal. For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor Dr Stuart Black ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

The project is fully funded with an enhanced stipend (see below), tuition fees at the current UK/home rate, together with research expenses as part of the Wellcome Trust project, From 'Feed the Birds', to 'Do Not Feed the Animals'. Note this project is supported by a Wellcome Trust stipend that is £19919 in Year 1 rising to £23298 in Year 3. Applicants will also need to meet residency entry requirements for full funding (tuition fees and stipend).



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