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Name of scholarship/program

Heterospecific information use in a coral reef community

Important description
All decision-making, from the minimisation of predation and starvation risks to choices about financial investments and involvement in warfare, relies on the gathering and processing of information. That information can come from private interactions with the environment or cues and signals from others. We know a great deal about how animals integrate private information and social information from conspecifics. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that information from heterospecifics plays a key role in decision-making and that information flow between species is likely to be important in the formation and structure of communities. However, we currently understand very little about how animals balance and prioritise streams of information from different species.

This PhD will investigate heterospecific information use in communities of coral living reef fish. A series of tank-based behavioural experiments (in a brand new £1.5 million aquatic facility) will explore how individuals from one species weight private information against that from both conspecifics and other community members. Spectral sensitivity measurements from the relevant species, colour vision modelling and retinal transcriptomics data will be combined to relate the prioritization of different categories of information to the visual ecology of the community.

This project will be conducted jointly with the Ecology of Vision Group (PI: Nick Roberts) and the Bioacoustics and Behavioural Ecology Group (PI: Andy Radford) in the School of Biological Sciences. The student will learn an interdisciplinary range of skills, from advanced visual technology design to behavioral experimentation, and make a significant contribution to a high-profile area in the field of visual and behavioural ecology.

Eligibility and other criteria
This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding. Applications for this project are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding may only be available to a limited set of nationalities and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Application deadline
*20 December, 2012

Additional information, and important URL
Funding for the research is in place; applicants would compete for University of Bristol scholarships, which provide fees and maintenance costs. To be competitive, applicants must have a first class undergraduate degree (or equivalent from overseas) and ideally a Masters. Previous demonstrable research experience with behaviour, vision and/or fish would be a strong advantage.

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