Biosciences: Fully Funded Swansea University and Université Grenoble Alpes PhD Scholarship: Uncovering intra- and inter-specific movement strategies of large herbivores

  • Full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend
  • Phd
  • Deadline: September 15, 2018
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Fully Funded Swansea University and Université Grenoble Alpes PhD Scholarship: Uncovering intra- and inter-specific movement strategies of large herbivores living in dynamic complex landscapes

Supervisors: Anne LOISON (Université Grenoble Alps) , Luca BORGER (Swansea University)

Start date: 15 December 2018 (A total of 18 months will be spent in France, and 18 months in the UK.)

In the current ‘Era of the Anthropocene’, global human impact is fundamentally altering ecological processes on earth. Thus understanding and predicting how biodiversity will respond to environmental change has become one of the most pressing questions for ecological research. Biodiversity responses to global change are ultimately mediated by proximate behavioural processes of individual organisms, affecting energy intake and expenditure and exposure to risks, and ultimately the distribution and demographic performance of individuals. Movement in particular is a key behavioural response to environmental change determining shifts in the abundance and range of species, yet we still lack the ability to understand and predict in a robust way why, and where, animals move.

The goal of this PhD project is to build upon the exceptional opportunities offered by a large set of sub-second biologging (accelerometer, magnetometer) and GPS data collected by an ongoing large UK-France collaboration and a French ANR-funded project running until 2020 (“Mov-It”), which yield sub-second movement paths with associated information on the detailed behaviour, individual state and energy expenditure of each individual, collected on over 100 individuals of five wild ungulate species and three domestic ones, from six contrasting study areas across France, to develop novel mechanistic, predictive models of individual and species responses to environmental change. This will be achieved by tackling three inter-related, incremental objectives. Firstly, the student will quantify movement decisions and costs under different constraints (e.g. food, weather, disturbance); then incorporate the estimated costs functions into Agent Based Models and multi-objective optimisation functions to model and map the full set of biologically realistic movement strategies under environmental change in complex, real landscapes. Thirdly, the student will develop from the modelling results a scenario planning tool for managers and landscape planners, allowing to build predictive models of individual movements and population and species redistributions under different scenarios of environmental change and management decisions. These aims will be further facilitated by the availability of a rich set of biological knowledge on the demography, life history and ecology of the species obtained by the long-term study sites. Furthermore, the student will profit from novel statistical and mathematical methods which we have developed to handle such complex, big data and novel quantitative models of animal movement, and to include currencies such as movement costs. Most importantly, the project is based on the understanding that there is not one single solution, in a given landscape, that solves the complex cost-benefit problem facing a herbivore for choosing where to be, what to do, how long to stay, and where to move next. Thus we look forward to work with an enthusiastic, creative, dedicated student to solve this “Movement Rubik’s Cube”.

The project will be supervised by Anne Loison at Université Grenoble Alpes/Université Savoie Mont-Blanc, and by Luca Borger at the Department of Biosciences, College of Science, at Swansea University. In addition, this project will be plugged into existing collaborations with Rowan Brown and Rory Wilson (Swansea University), Jonathan Potts (Sheffield University), and the Mov-It ANR-funded project consortium (Mathieu Garel- French Game and Wildlife management Office; Jean-Michel Gaillard- Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, Lyon University; Mark Hewison- National Institute for Agronomy Research, Toulouse).

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview session in Grenoble in early October 2018 if necessary.

Eligibility

The candidate should hold a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline (behaviour ecology, quantitative ecology, modelling, mathematics) or be expected to achieve this qualification by October 2018, or have a university degree equivalent to a European Master's (5- year duration). Highly developed modelling expertise, and knowledge of movement ecology, will be required. For candidates whose first language is not English, we require IELTS 6.5 (with 6.0 in each component) or equivalent. Please visit our website for a list of acceptable English language tests: (www.swansea.ac.uk/admissions/englishlanguagerequirements).

We prefer candidates to have already met the English Language requirements at the point of application, although this is not a requirement. Competence in French is highly desirable, and would be a substantial advantage for day to day activities.

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

Benefits

This three-year College of Science, Swansea University/Université Grenoble Alpes scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £14,777 at Swansea University. The successful candidate will also receive a gross salary of between €1,768.55 and €2,100 per month (dependent on complementary activity) at Université Grenoble Alps.

Application

Please visit our website for more information.

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