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The relationship between song characteristics and reproductive success in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae): does song fulfill an intersexual function?

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  • Full or part time
    Dr E Garland
    Dr LE Rendell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Male humpback whales sing a long and complex vocal display. Thousands of males can rapidly and synchronously change their population-specific song to a new version in as little as two months, a feat which is unparalleled in any other animal except humans. Despite our advances in understanding the cultural aspects of song, the underlying function(s) of humpback whale song are still debated. Using acoustic and genetic data, this PhD project seeks to understand the relationship between song characteristics and reproductive success to assess the contribution of inter-sexual drivers on the function of humpback whale song.
The student will be based at the University of St Andrews under the supervision of Dr Ellen Garland, and co-supervised by Dr Luke Rendell (St Andrews), and Dr Emma Carroll (St Andrews), in collaboration with Dr Claire Garrigue (IRD UMR ENTROPIE), and Assoc. Prof. Mike Noad (University of Queensland). Candidates should have a strong background in behavioural ecology or evolutionary biology. Knowledge or experience in bioacoustics or laboratory genetic analysis is essential, and experience of both desirable. Given the broad nature of the project and the expectation that the candidate will undertake both the acoustic analysis and genotyping of samples, training in molecular or acoustic techniques will be tailored to the candidate’s experience. The student will be expected to participate in annual fieldwork lasting two to three months in semi-remote locations. Previous field experience involving small boats, marine mammals, and remote locations would be advantageous. The candidate should have strong communication (oral and written) and interpersonal skills given the collaborative nature of the project and extended fieldwork. The ability to speak French would also be desirable (but not essential).
Please send any enquiries to Dr Ellen Garland at [Email Address Removed] with the subject line: PhD studentship - paternity.

Funding Notes

General requirements include a background in evolutionary and behavioural biology, and a BSc (Hons) or MSc degree (first class) in a relevant discipline. This three-year School of Biology studentship (stipend and fees) will be provided at UK/EU citizen rates. International students may apply but will be responsible for the difference in fees; a fee waiver scholarship may be available for outstanding candidates. Enquiries from Chinese nationals are particularly welcomed as the University of St Andrews has additional funding opportunities for Chinese students.

References

Payne & McVay, Science 173:585. Noad et al., Nature 408:537. Garland et al., Curr Biol 21:687. Garland et al., PNAS 114:7822. Herman, Biol Rev 92:1795.

How good is research at University of St Andrews in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 50.45

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