We have two PhD positions coming up as part of the IMPRS 2019 and Advanced Centre for the Study of Collectives Call:
The interaction between social behaviour and physical structures in coral reef fishes
We are looking for a candidate to join a diverse and cross-disciplinary research project exploring how the (bio)physical structures that coral reef fishes inhabit influence their social structure and behaviour, and in turn how animal behaviour influences the structural environment around them. Many animals manipulate their environment through processes of ecological engineering or the production of extended phenotypes, and these biophysical structures can in turn modify the type and frequency of social interactions. In order to understand social and behavioural evolution in many taxa, we must therefore consider the reciprocal relationship between animal behaviour and the environment. In marine and aquatic systems human impacts are increasing, and we are therefore interested in asking this question with respect to both natural and artificial (e.g. intentional or accidental anthropogenic) structures.
The successful candidate will be based within the Integrative Field Biology Lab (thejordanlab.com) at the Max Planck Institute Department of Collective Behaviour (collectivebehaviour.com). This project also forms a central part of ‘The Current’, a program focused on ocean science and advocacy within TBA21Academy, which brings together expertise from architecture, conservation policy, art, and science. As such, the candidate will gain experience that spans formal research and scientific communication, with the aim of creating a direct link between ocean research and effective public engagement. The project involves the JordanLab, TBA21 Academy, the Alligator Head Foundation, and the Art Collective SUPERFLEX, and will give the successful candidate a broad range of experience rarely found in PhD candidacy.
The project will be field-based, with observations and experiments conducted with SCUBA employing underwater videography in marine and freshwater environments over long fieldwork periods. Analytically, the project will draw on techniques including machine-learning based animal tracking, behavioural decomposition, and social network analysis. Prospective students should have proficiency in SCUBA (PADI Advanced or equivalent), demonstrated ability in peer-reviewed scientific writing, and an interest in developing programming skills (Python, MATLAB), but also a willingness and ability to engage with non-scientific audiences. The position can begin as early as March 2019 and will be funded for three years, with the possibility of extension through external funding sources. Students will be living in Konstanz, Germany and will be part of the International Max Planck Research School, with extended periods of field work at the Alligator Head Foundation in Jamaica.
Quantitative comparison of behavioural evolution in social fishes
We are looking for a candidate to explore how social behaviour evolves over the adaptive radiation in cichlid fishes. Within this group, many species of shell-dwelling Lamprologines live in identical ecological conditions in the same locations in Lake Tanganyika. However, they differ fundamentally in their degree of social and collective behaviour, with some species living solitary life-histories while others are obligately social and cooperative. We wish to explore which behaviours and socio-cognitive abilities may have evolved in the transition among these social states. For example, does social-group living require the evolution of novel behaviours to resolve social conflicts? Does living in complex groups require differing modes of communication than living solitarily? Do social animals possess increased socio-cognitive skill sets, for example the ability to recognise more individuals or remember interactions with them? Overall, what is required for animals to become social?
This project will involve SCUBA diving field work in Lake Tanganyika, Zambia for extended periods, as well as lab-based experiments. In particular, the lab projects will employ virtual reality based approaches to explore social interactions among fishes. Analytically, the project will draw on techniques including machine-learning based animal tracking, behavioural decomposition, and social network analysis. We aim for an objective quantification of social behaviour and an analysis of the functional significance of different behavioural elements by combining behavioural decomposition with Markov chain analyses and network graph theory. Prospective students should have proficiency or be willing to take courses in SCUBA (to PADI Advanced or equivalent), demonstrated ability in peer-reviewed scientific writing, and be proficient in programming (Python, MATLAB).
The successful candidate will be based within the Integrative Field Biology Lab (thejordanlab.com) at the Max Planck Institute Department of Collective Behaviour (collectivebehaviour.com). The position can begin as early as March 2019 and will be funded for three years, with the possibility of extension through external funding sources. Students will be living in Konstanz, Germany and will be part of the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS; https://www.mpg.de/en/imprs), with extended periods of field work on the Zambian shores of Lake Tanganyika.
In the deep heart of Africa once again. Good photos by Jakob and Paul, bad ones and drone ones by Alex!
Out on the water for an aquatic “lab meeting”
Collective Behaviour Summer School
Ringberg Castle Retreat
At an Alpine Castle as guests of our friends from MPI Neurobiology
Great projects from our Masters Advanced Course students – Collective Animal Behaviour
Field work in Tanganyika!
A lab trip up to Bern for a hike with the Taborsky Lab
Thesis Defence at Castell Ruine
Ian and Etienne give their thesis proposals at a nice spot in the forest at Ruine Castell, followed by a BBQ and beers.