We’re looking for keen applicants to apply for PhD scholarships to join as at the Australian National University. Come and discover the amazing wealth of interesting species we have in Australia! Next deadline is April 15.
The FARINE LAB is seeking exceptional candidates to apply for domestic and international scholarships at the Australian National University. Below are project themes that are available. Note that this list is purely a guide of the types of themes we are working on in the lab, and emphasis will be on applicants looking to work on Australian systems. See this page for more information on the benefits (stipend, health cover, relocation costs, duration) and how to apply to the ANU, and contact Dr. Damien to discuss projects. contact me: Contact email:Damien.Farine@anu.edu.au Contact phone:+61 2 6125 2866 OR firstname.lastname@example.org
Australian field-based projects
The ecology and evolution of multilevel societies in birds:
Multilevel societies have been independently known to exist in both mammals and birds for decades, but the similarity between multilevel societies in mammals and birds was only recently revealed (Papageorgiou & Farine, 2021). In Australia, multilevel societies appear to be widespread among birds (Camerlenghi et al. 2022). A major question is why multilevel societies have emerged repeatedly across such a broad taxonomic range of species, from fairy-wrens to babblers. Several areas close to the Australian National University host a range of sympatric species that form multilevel societies, providing a unique opportunity for projects aiming to understand its emergence and maintenance across a range of species and/or ecological conditions.
Dispersal and migration in medium-sized birds:
Studies of fine-scale movements over large geographical areas, including dispersal and local migration, has been limited to either sparse point data (e.g. ringing/banding recaptures) or working with larger species (e.g. GPS tracking). The miniaturisation of GPS tags, down to just a few grams, opens the door to obtaining detailed movement data for medium-sized birds (<100 g). Australia hosts a large range of species, including both sedentary (e.g. wattlebirds, larger honeyeaters) and migratory (e.g. friarbird) species. This project will deploy tags on a suite of sympatric species to determine whether smaller species employ similar dispersal and large-scale movement strategies as larger species, or whether there are allometric rules to the strategies that animals employ.
Theory and captive projects
Optimal foraging and collective movement (theory):
A central challenge to living in a group is to reconcile conflicts of interest. However, few studies have linked the ecological conditions that group members experience to the extent of conflict within a group. We recently proposed that optimal foraging theory can help with overcoming this gap (Davis, Crofoot & Farine, 2022). This project will extend the marginal value theorem to animal collectives to investigate how changes in ecological conditions translate to differences in the preferences among group members, and the overall conflict within groups. It will also determine whether repeated decisions cause an escalation or reduction in the conflict among group members, and how this is affected by individual differences in preferential access to resources.
Links between social structure and collective movement (captivity):
It has long been acknowledged that social structure can have an impact on collective behaviour. For example, individuals are more likely to follow closer social partners. What remains largely unknown is how rapidly these leader-follower relationships develop, and their consequence on social cohesion of groups. This has major ramifications, given that many species exhibit fission-fusion dynamics. We recently demonstrated that social stability can have consequences for the expression of collective actions in animal societies (Maldonado-Chaparro et al. 2018). This project will use a similar approach, including high-resolution tracking of flocks of birds, to experimentally investigate the consequences of social instability on individual movement decisions in animal collectives. (Note that there are also opportunities to develop new projects using captive facilities at the Australian National University).
International field-based Projects
Movement facilitates access to resources, but is also costly. How is the cost of movement managed in the daily energy balance of animals? We recently demonstrated that combining high-resolution GPS tracking with models of physiology can generate new insights on large-scale movements, with individuals exhibiting movement strategies that can mitigate the cost of transport (Klarevas-Irby, Wikelski & Farine, 2021). However, the cost of transport is only one part of the energetic costs of movement, as moving also introduces opportunity costs (e.g. foregoing foraging). By combining movement data with other onboard sensors, this project will map the behaviour of individual vulturine guineafowl across time to build activity budgets, and use these to identify where energetic constraints exist across different ecological conditions (e.g. droughts).
How do individuals decide on where to move when dispersing? This is a fascinating question, as the decision of which direction to leave the natal range can have profound consequences for individuals. For example, landscape features can reduce the number of potential end-points available, so two siblings that leave in the same direction could end up competing for breeding resources. Alternately, this dispersal pattern could also create an opportunity for cooperation between close kin (e.g. cooperative breeding).. We have been marking and re-sighting hundreds of juvenile vulturine guineafowl, as well as tracking a subset of dispersing individuals with high-resolution GPS trackers. This project will use these data — and collect new data — to determine the drivers of individual decisions to move in particular directions (e.g. their prior experience) and the population-level consequences (e.g. genetic relatedness) of non-random patterns of dispersal movements.
Predator strategies and prey collective responses:
Predators and prey are locked into a behavioural arms race, with predators aiming to maximise their hunting success while prey must minimise the impact of anti-predator strategies on their fitness. Yet, data on the natural dynamics of predator and prey behaviours are scarce. In collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya and The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, this project will use data from two GPS-tagged martial eagles that regularly hunt our prey population of vulturine guineafowl to determine how individual martial eagles allocate their time to different parts of the prey population and the carry-over effects of attacks on vulturine guineafowl behaviour.