Project Summary – Atlantic salmon are an iconic species that are ecologically and economically of great importance. This project will study the collective behaviour of migrating Atlantic salmon using a combination of field studies, mathematical modelling and data analysis. The project will evaluate whether collective behaviour has positive consequences on the fecundity and survival of Atlantic salmon and enables them to more effectively navigate their environment. Whether this creates tipping points in population abundance will be assessed by examining the potential for feedbacks among population size, group sizes and group function. The ultimate goal is to develop a mechanistic framework to predict the impact of altered habitats on the migration and population dynamics of Atlantic salmon in Scotland.
Core questions of the project will be:
How does group size affect navigational accuracy? Field work will be performed using an array of acoustic receivers to allow imaging of the migration of varying numbers of returning Atlantic salmon and investigation of how group decision-making impacts migration routes. How does group size influence ability to navigate novel challenges? The student will examine whether social behaviour alters the ability of salmon to cross human introduced barriers such as fish ladders or fishing traps. Will fishing strategies target certain types of individual and lead to evolutionary responses that may impact the migration? Computer simulations will utilize known patterns of fish movement in groups to examine how salmon respond to barriers and deployed passive fishing gears, and whether this will result in novel selection pressure on the species. How does collective movement influence population dynamics of Atlantic salmon? Informed by the results of the behavioural studies the final stage of the project will develop spatial metapopulation models that incorporate a feedback between population size and the ability of groups to navigate.
Project Team and where student will be based – The student will be co-supervised by Colin Torney (School of Mathematics and Statistics), Shaun Killen (Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health, and Comparative Medicine [IBAHCM]), and Colin Adams (IBAHCM). When not performing fieldwork, the student will be based either in the Mathematics building or Graham Kerr building, depending on the type of analysis being carried out at a given time.
Person Specification - This studentship is open to candidates of any nationality – UK, EU or International. Applicants should demonstrate the following:
- 1st/2.1 undergraduate or masters degree in subject with strong quantitative component
- Strong quantitative skills including experience of mathematical modelling and programming (python/matlab/c++)
- Experience of field work and/or animal behaviour studies desirable
- Ability to work independently and as part of an interdisciplinary research team
Application Process - In the first instance prospective applicants should contact Colin Torney, firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your eligibility.
Applicants may submit applications up until the application deadline of 12 noon, Friday 13 January 2017.