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MScRes Project (self-funded): The function of long-distance calls in Zanzibar red colobus

Hiring Organization:
Bangor University

Date Posted:
2019-12-01

Position Description:
This is an advert for a self-funded MScRes project at Bangor University, UK (tuition fees and field costs must be covered by applicant; but assistance/guidance in applying for external funding for field work would be provided for the successful applicant)

Project description

The long-distance vocalisations made by many primates can have multiple, non-mutually exclusive functions related, for example, to resource defence, mate defence, signalling social status, and maintaining contact with other individuals. The primary function of such calls may vary from species to species and by context. For example, in primates where groups temporarily separate into subgroups, long distance calls may help with maintaining contact with, or finding, others, e.g. by attracting them to food sources. Comparative studies have also suggested that, in many species, sexual selection has had a role in shaping the evolution of these calls in the context of mate attraction and defence, or mating rival deterrence.

This project will examine the functions of long-distance calls in the Zanzibar red colobus, an endemic and endangered primate, which is non-territorial but engages in frequent intergroup confrontations. The ?warble squeal bout? of the Zanzibar red colobus is a long, loud and acoustically very sophisticated complex vocal sequence, which is very distinct among the colobines and rare among cercopithecoid primates in general. These calls are mostly given by males and seem to be commonly used when two groups interact either at a distance or in close proximity. No study to date, however, has elucidated the functions of these calls to explain variation in their rate of use between groups and individuals.

You will collect data on the rate of long-distance call by males in different groups and across different contexts to test several hypotheses regarding the function of these vocalisations. You will also record calls using sound recording equipment and carry out acoustic analyses to establish whether these calls are individually distinct and context-dependent. Playback experiments might also be employed to examine in detail the function of these calls.

As part of the Zanzibar Red Colobus Project you will conduct fieldwork at Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park (approx. 3 months). You will be trained in the use of sound-recording equipment to obtain high-quality recordings for structural analysis of calls and in behavioural sampling methods to collect behavioural data related to vocalisations. Back in the UK you would be based at Bangor University?s School of Natural Sciences. As part of your broader training, you will attend a variety of workshops on advanced research skills and professional development offered by Bangor University?s Doctoral School, as well as the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and the School of Natural Sciences.

Between them, your two supervisors combine a wealth of experience in field studies on primate behavioural ecology and communication. Dr Alexander Georgiev (School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University) directs the Zanzibar Red Colobus Project and his research focuses on primate reproductive ecology, behaviour and ecophysiology. Dr Pawel Fedurek?s (Division of Psychology, University of Stirling) has conducted a number of studies on chimpanzee vocal communication and, more broadly, is interested in the evolution of complex vocal signalling including human language.

Qualifications/Experience:
Applicants should hold (or be near the completion of) a First or an Upper Second Class UK honours degree (or equivalent for overseas applicants) in biology/zoology/psychology or related disciplines and have a good background in behavioural ecology (e.g., through coursework). Fieldwork experience in tropical countries could be advantageous but is not a requirement.

Please send initial informal queries and questions by email to Alex Georgiev (a.georgiev@bangor.ac.uk). In your initial email please attach a CV. Once you decide to apply for this position we would also like to see a 1,000-word research proposal. Given the need to obtain research permits well in advance and plan your fieldwork in July ? September 2019 (i.e., before the formal start of the semester), the sooner you get in touch the better.

We will begin reviewing applications (cover letter, CV and research proposal) in early February. Interviews with short-listed candidates may be held (in person or via Skype).

Salary/funding:
For 2020/21 academic year home/EU students pay tuition & bench fees of £5,644. From these £1,250 are allocated as bench fees to cover research costs (international flight, research permit fees, visa fee, personal equipment, field assistant salary, etc.). Given the costs of fieldwork in Zanzibar, you would also need to be able to cover additional expenses (accommodation and subsistence for up to 3 months in the field, vaccinations, etc.) from other sources. Travel insurance is provided via the University.

Overseas applicant will also be considered but tuition fees are higher. For up-to-date information on tuition fees and funding of postgraduate study at Bangor please see:

https://www.bangor.ac.uk/courses/postgrad/study-with-us/postgraduate-student-finance/en

Term of Appointment:
MScRes degree is 1 year

Application Deadline:
Review of applications begins early Feb

Contact Information:
Alexander Georgiev
Deiniol Road, School of Biological Sciences
Bangor LL57 2UW
United Kingdom

Website:
https://www.zanzibarredcolobusproject.org

E-mail Address:
a.georgiev@bangor.ac.uk

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