The interaction between social behaviour and physical structures in coral reef fishes

Abstract 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 at the Max Planck Institute Department of Collective Behaviour. 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 basic 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 (IMPRS) for Organismal Biology, with extended periods of field work at the Alligator Head Foundation in Jamaica.

Keywords coral reef fish, social behaviour, ecological engineering, physical structure, SCUBA, machine-learning, animal tracking, social network analysis

Main supervisor Alex Jordan, MPI for Ornithology

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