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The fitness consequences of spatial cognition in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, January 31, 2017
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A fully-funded 3-year PhD studentship is available to join the Insect Cognition Lab at Royal Holloway University of London, under the supervision of Dr. Elli Leadbeater. The studentship covers tuition fees, a student stipend of £16 296 per year (in line with Research Council stipends) and research costs. The position must start on 1st August 2017, but applicants who are due to finish a Masters degree in September 2017 are welcome to apply. Owing to funding rules, the position is open to UK and Non-UK EU applicants only.

There is evidence from diverse animal groups that demand for high-level performance in spatial memory tasks selects for brain structural evolution, and foraging bees face spatial challenges on multiple levels. For example, long-term recall of visual landmarks is important in re-locating the nest or feeding sites, while on a shorter timescale, individuals must navigate through dense forage patches that may contain hundreds of flowers, without revisiting inflorescences. Here, we will investigate the cognitive abilities that bumblebees employ to meet these demands. The PhD student will (a) seek to establish for the first time whether bees form working memories of individual flower locations (b) explore the capacity and temporal properties of such memories (c) evaluate the power of cognitive task scores to predict performance in a fitness-determining spatial assay.

The student will be based in the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway University of London. Our department is a centre of excellence for social insect research, and the project will capitalize upon our EU-funded research apiaries. The PhD student will join a diverse and productive team of researchers in the Insect Cognition Lab. She or he will work independently in developing the protocols for the PhD project, but the position is part of a Leverhulme-Trust funded research project into the fitness consequences of cognitive abilities in bees, and the student will also contribute to data collection for the wider project and will work closely with the other team members. More information about the research that takes place in our group can be found at http://ellileadbeater.wixsite.com/insectcognition.

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a 1st Class or 2:1 Bachelor’s degree in a relevant Biological or Psychological subject. A Masters degree is desirable, with a grade (or expected grade) of Merit or Distinction. Experience of working with insects is not essential, but the successful candidate will have experience of independent research with live animals (e.g. through an undergraduate or postgraduate research project) and must be able to provide strong evidence of aptitude and enthusiasm for research in Animal Behaviour, together with a broad knowledge of biological topics and a firm grasp of appropriate statistical methods.

How good is research at Royal Holloway, University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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