A 3yr PhD studentship (fully funded for UK/EU students, overseas fee waivers possible for exceptional non-EU candidates) is available at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), University of St Andrews, starting April 2014.
The studentship is part of a collaborative and highly interdisciplinary research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust involving the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research (ICCMR) at Plymouth University and the Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory (CEAL) at the University of Queensland, Australia. The aim of the PhD project will be to study the cultural evolution of humpback whale song using agent-based models developed in conjunction with another PhD student being recruited at ICCMR. The two students will work closely to visit the University of Queensland and collate a database of song recordings, which will be used to test how well models are able to reproduce observed changes in song across years.
The studentship advertised here will then involve describing the variation in both high-level song grammar and the acoustic structure of the song units within and between individuals and year. Both students will work together to develop biologically plausible simulation models that the SMRU student will use to understand how factors such as learning rules, zones of influence, and population density affect how songs evolve, and identify those conditions under which the song evolution best approximates that observed in nature in both evolutionary and revolutionary modes. Another primary aim is to incorporate replicator dynamics into the simulation models to test functional hypotheses for the evolution of culturally-transmitted song in humpbacks. Should these goals be met, secondary objectives will include the application of the modelling framework to a broader range of culturally-evolving animal vocal patterns. The project has a large quantitative and computational component, and will require a broad-minded approach to interdisciplinary research. Evidence of experience in Matlab is therefore essential, and R desirable. Experience of acoustic analysis and/or computational modelling are desirable, as is evidence of effective communication skills suitable for or direct experience of interdisciplinary research.
Candidates must be available to start in April 2014. The student will work under the supervision of Dr Luke Rendell (firstname.lastname@example.org). Interested candidates should apply by January 31st 2014 only by using the online procedures here: http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/research/phd-study/ .