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Fully Funded Swansea University PhD Scholarship: Where the Vultures Soar: Using High-Frequency Movement Data to Understand Species Distributions

Swansea University - Biological Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Swansea
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £18,622 - This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend at UKRI rate (currently £18,622 for 2023/24). Additional research expenses will also be available.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 11th December 2023
Closes: 26th January 2024

Funding providers: Swansea University's Faculty of Science and Engineering

Subject areas: Movement ecology, animal ecology

Project start date: 

  • 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)
  • 1 January 2025 (Enrolment open from mid-December)

Project description: 

The Swansea Lab for Animal Movement is a thriving group of students and academics using high-frequency data to understand the behaviour and movements of animals all over the world. The group is inherently interdisciplinary and includes students with backgrounds in biosciences, biomathematics, and engineering. The students would join this group and have the opportunity to get hands-on with the technology, become skilled in analysing tagging data (including acceleration, magnetometry and high-frequency GPS data) and learn computational skills for predicting how animals adapt their movements in changing environments.  

This project focuses on the movements of large soaring birds and will combine high-frequency data on the movements of Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) with large-scale data on species distributions to understand what drives movement patterns across scales. The ability to track animal movement with sub-second resolution has led to an explosion of research into how individuals move and interact. However, fine-scale data have rarely been used to provide insight into macroecological processes, including where species occur now and how this might shift with global change. Soaring birds are an ideal group with which to merge these perspectives, because the ability to fly, and the energy it requires, are tightly coupled to the physical environment. The availability of rising air and the wind conditions should therefore affect movement decisions at fine-scales, competitive interactions and ultimately, species distributions. Results from this work are expected to provide insight into how the movements of soaring birds will be affected by global change.  

High-frequency movement data are already being collected onboard Andean condors in Argentinian Patagonia and further loggers will be deployed within this project, providing detailed information on flight paths over multiple years. The student will be based in Swansea but will also work with project partner Dr Sergio Lambertucci in Argentina and have the opportunity to collaborate with partners in the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour (Germany). 

Eligibility

Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level in Biosciences or a related subject (animal ecology, computational ecology, biophysics, biomathematics) with an emphasis on dealing with big data and ecological statistics, or a master’s degree with a minimum overall grade at ‘Merit’ (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University). Please note that you may need to provide evidence of your English Language proficiency. 

Candidates should ideally have:

  • a good working knowledge of R, or equivalent programming software;
  • strong time and data management and interpersonal skills;
  • evidence of good verbal and written communication skills. 

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is – at this time – open solely to applicants who are eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK (United Kingdom) rate, as defined by UKCISA regulations

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