[MARMAM] PhD opportunity: Humpback whale song

Ellen Garland ecg5 at st-andrews.ac.uk
Mon Nov 27 12:55:47 PST 2023

We are seeking to recruit a PhD student for the following project:

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) song evolution, ontogeny, and vocal learning: quantifying individual-level differences.

Male humpback whales sing a long and elaborate vocal display. Thousands of males can rapidly and synchronously change their population-specific song to a new version in as little as two months, a feat which is unparalleled in any other animal except humans. Despite our advances in understanding the cultural aspects of song, we have little understanding of song development and variability at an individual level and how factors such as age may affect the cultural transmission of the song. Using acoustic and supporting data, this PhD project seeks to study individual-level differences in song and potentially how the age of males may govern changes in the song.

The student will be based at the University of St Andrews under the supervision of Dr Ellen Garland, and co-supervised by Dr Luke Rendell (St Andrews), in collaboration with Dr Emma Carroll (University of Auckland), Dr Soléne Derville (IRD UMR ENTROPIE) and Dr Claire Garrigue (IRD UMR ENTROPIE). Candidates should have a strong background in behavioural ecology or evolutionary biology. Knowledge or experience in bioacoustics is essential, and experience of laboratory genetics is an advantage (but not essential). Candidates with a genetic background are encouraged to apply but should note the strong focus on acoustics, which will require substantial acoustic analysis to be undertaken. However, training in molecular or acoustic techniques will be tailored to the candidate’s experience. There is no fieldwork component associated with this PhD project, but there may be opportunities to join other fieldwork activities in the lab. Previous field experience involving small boats, marine mammals, and remote locations would be advantageous. The candidate should have strong communication (oral and written) and interpersonal skills given the highly collaborative nature of the project. The ability to speak French is also a plus (but not essential).

General requirements include a background in evolutionary and/or behavioural biology, and a minimum 2:1 BSc (Hons) or MSc degree (first class) in a relevant discipline. The funding includes a four-year studentship (fees and stipend) funded at the Home (UK) fee level by the Royal Society and School of Biology. International students may apply but will be responsible for the difference in fees; a fee waiver scholarship may be available for outstanding candidates.

For more information see: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/apply/postgraduate/research/
Applications close on 19 December 2023 and will need to be submitted online through the St Andrews system. Please include a cover letter, CV, 1-page project proposal, academic transcripts, writing sample and English language test (if required).

Please send any enquiries to Dr Ellen Garland at ecg5 at st-andrews.ac.uk<mailto:ecg5 at st-andrews.ac.uk> with the subject line: PhD studentship – individual-song.

Kind regards,
Ellen C. Garland, Ph.D.
Royal Society University Research Fellow
Member RSE Young Academy of Scotland

Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU)
Scottish Oceans Institute
School of Biology
University of St Andrews
Fife, KY16 8LB, UK

Ph: +44 (0)1334-46-3620
Ph: +44 (0)7478-649964
Email: ecg5 at st-andrews.ac.uk<mailto:ecg5 at st-andrews.ac.uk>
WWW: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/biology/people/ecg5
Twitter: @EllenGarland4
The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No SC013532

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