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What’s the Matter with Walruses?

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Walruses, the tusked and massive marine mammals, spend much of their time resting on polar sea ice, but when that ice recedes in the summer months, they must find shore. There, the highly social animals congregate in crowded groups of thousands, known as haulouts. Due to climate change-induced ice reduction, haulouts have been reported earlier in the year and later into the autumn. Additionally, they have been growing in size. Haulouts as large as 35,000 walruses and calves have been reported in recent years – of a worldwide population of only 250,000. Tragically large haulouts can suddenly stampede toward the sea when spooked, trampling hundreds of vulnerable calves.

Through a combination of agent-based simulations and liquid crystal theories of active nematic droplets, this computational project seeks to understand the structure of haulouts from the perspective of material science. Taking inspiration from recent successes in modelling dense suspensions of many motile microbes as an active material, it will seek to understand the biophysics behind the contact angle that haulouts make with the sea and the transition from tranquil haulout to stampede. Your role will be to develop mathematical models and algorithms to understand assembly and structure of haulouts. You will be working in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment, and will become familiar with cutting-edge modelling techniques. Applicants should have experience with or show enthusiasm to learn numerical modelling. We are particularly eager to see diverse applicants who demonstrate creativity, and an eagerness to computationally model exciting and dynamic biological systems.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Applied Mathematics or a related subject, or Marine Biology.
A relevant Master’s degree and/or experience in one or more of the following will be an advantage: Statistical physics, marine mammal science, hydrodynamics, non-equilibrium systems, molecular dynamics simulations, programming with C and python.

Funding Notes

UK/EU Fee band * Research Band 1 Classroom Based (£TBC)
International Fee band * Research Band 1 Classroom Based (£16,900)

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