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Animal collective behaviour: avoiding predators and making decisions in groups

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

How do animals interact in groups? What benefits can this bring? How do differences between individuals impact group behaviour? How do predators target prey, especially those in groups? What selection does this impose on prey? These are some of the questions that the Ioannou group ( tackle, primarily using fish as a model system. We use the latest technology (computer tracking of fish movements, virtual and robotic prey) in laboratory and field studies. Most of our work happens in our state-of-the-art fish facility at the University of Bristol, but we also have fieldsites in Trinidad (working with wild guppies) and Tanzania (working with wild cichlids). Note that although we do experimental work, we also do a lot of statistical analysis.

We are also increasingly interested in how these behaviours interact with wider environmental variables, such as anthropogenic noise (in collaboration with Prof. Andy Radford) and turbidity (in collaboration with Dr. Amy Deacon), the role they may play in invasive species biology (in collaboration with Dr. Martin Genner), and how behaviour in groups can be quantified to determine health status (in collaboration with Prof. Eric Morgan and Prof. Richard Wall).

Although we are based in the School of Biological Sciences, I am keen to hear from physicists, engineers, mathematicians, psychologists and computer scientists interested in working on animal behaviour, as well as biologists.

Funding Notes

This is an open call to all students interested in joining the Ioannou group for their PhD. For UK students (or EU students that have been in the UK for at least 3 years), there is competitive funding we apply for from various sources here, but note that our successful applicants have some of the following: first class bachelors degrees, distinction in their masters, relevant experience, first-author published paper (or in press) and prizes for academic achievement. For non-UK students, please only get in touch if you know of PhD funding opportunities that you are eligible and competitive for.


Herbert-Read J.E., Kremer L., Bruintjes R., Radford A.N., Ioannou C.C. (2017) Anthropogenic noise pollution from pile-driving disrupts the structure and dynamics of fish shoals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B., 284: 20171627, 10.1098/rspb.2017.1627.

Duffield C., Ioannou C.C. (2017). Marginal predation: do encounter or confusion effects explain the targeting of prey group edges? Behavioral Ecology, 10.1093/beheco/arx090

Ioannou C.C. (2017) Swarm intelligence in fish? The difficulty in demonstrating distributed and self-organised collective intelligence in (some) animal groups. Behavioral Processes, 141: 141-

Ioannou C.C., Ramnarine I.W., Torney C.J. (2017) High-predation habitats impact the social dynamics of collective exploration in a shoaling fish. Science Advances, 3, 5, e1602682, 10.1126/sciadv.1602682.

Ioannou C.C., Dall S.R.X. (2016) Individuals that are consistent in risk-taking benefit during collective foraging. Scientific Reports, 10.1038/srep33991.

McDonald N.D., Rands S.A., Hill F., Elder C., Ioannou C.C. (2016) Consensus and experience trump leadership, suppressing individual personality during social foraging. Science Advances, 2, 9, e1600892, 10.1126/sciadv.1600892.

Santos R.G., Pinheiro H.T., Martins A.S., Riul P., Bruno S.C., Janzen F.J., Ioannou C.C. (2016) The anti-predator role of within-nest emergence synchrony in sea turtle hatchlings. Proceedings of the Royal Society B., 283: 20160697, 10.1098/rspb.2016.0697.

Ioannou C.C., Singh M., Couzin I.D. (2015) Potential leaders trade-off goal-oriented and socially-oriented behaviour in mobile animal groups. American Naturalist, 186: 284-293, 10.1086/681988.

Bauer U., Federle W., Seidel H., Grafe T.U., Ioannou C.C. (2015) How to catch more prey with less effective traps: explaining the evolution of temporarily inactive traps in carnivorous pitcher plants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B., 282: 20142675, 10.1098/rspb.2014.2675.

Guillaume, R., Fernö, A., Ioannou C.C., Handegard N.O. (2015) Towards a firmer explanation of large aggregations in fish. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 10.1007/s11160-014-9367-5.

Berdahl B., Torney C.J., Ioannou C.C., Faria J.J., Couzin I.D. (2013) Emergent sensing of complex environments by social animal groups. Science, 339: 574-576, 10.1126/science.1225883.

Ioannou C.C., Guttal V., Couzin I.D. (2012). Predatory fish select for coordinated collective motion in virtual prey. Science, 337: 1212-1215, 10.1126/science.1218919.

Couzin I.D., Ioannou C.C., Demirel G., Gross T., Torney C.J., Hartnett A., Conradt L., Levin S.A., Leonard N.E. (2011). Uninformed individuals promote democratic consensus in animal groups. Science, 332: 1578-1580, 10.1126/science.1210280.

Katz Y., Tunstrøm K., Ioannou C.C., Huepe C., Couzin I.D. (2011). Inferring the structure and dynamics of interactions in schooling fish. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108: 18720-18725, 10.1073/pnas.1107583108.

How good is research at University of Bristol in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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