Collective migration in a long-distance social migrant

We are looking for a candidate to explore how individual and group properties affect the migratory performance of a long-distance social migrant. When researching the movements and decisions of groups of migrating animals, the interactions between individuals are often as important as the characteristics of the individuals themselves. Thus, to understand the mechanisms and consequences of these seasonal movements fully, we must explore animal trajectories within their social context. Theory describes various mechanisms by which social behaviour can facilitate a group’s navigational or flight performance: groups can simply improve their navigational accuracy by pooling individual estimates, or by following leaders with specific morphological, behavioural, or physiological features. To explore the nature and impact of social interactions during migration, we will combine experimental behavioural research with ecological in situ observations. This project will use a soaring/gliding long-distance migrant to disentangle the effects of morphology, behaviour, and sociality on the migratory movements of individuals and groups.

Project details Research will involve experimental releases of manipulated groups of white storks. The experimental groups will be first kept in captivity until all naturally migrating storks have left the region, and then monitored throughout their migration by following them on the ground, and by tracking the movements of each flock member with high-resolution GPS-ACC devices at fine spatial and temporal scales. There is the possibility to perform experimental work in captivity to explore differences in individual behavioural phenotypes.

Qualifications The project will involve independent field work, experimental work, animal tracking, and quantitative data analysis. The ideal candidate should be experienced in at least one of these areas, be prepared to conduct research independently, and have an interest in learning and applying new skills. Applicants should hold a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in ecology, animal behaviour, zoology, or a related subject. The position is fully funded for 3 years, and open to students of any nationality. The working language of the institute is English (German language skills) are not a requirement. Starting time is flexible and will be between March and September of 2019. The student will be a member of the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Organismal Biology, a cooperative doctoral program between the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Konstanz. The successful candidate will be based at the Max Planck Institute Department of Migration and Immuno-Ecology.

Location Radolfzell/Konstanz, Germany

Application Process Please apply via the IMPRS application system. Deadline is 15 January 2019. Please include a CV, 1-2 page statement of your research interests, and contact details for at least two references.

Keywords white storks, collective migration, animal tracking, group coordination, flight energetics

Main supervisor Andrea Flack, MPI for Ornithology

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