We are seeking a highly motivated PhD candidate with an interest in avian physiology, bio-acoustics and behavioural ecology. This PhD project is part of a larger project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation to Mylene Mariette on prenatal acoustic communication and thermoregulation in birds.
We have discovered that incubating zebra finch parents warn their embryos about hot weather by uttering “heat-calls”, and that this acoustic signal adaptively prepares offspring for hot environments (e.g. Mariette & Buchanan 2016 Science; Udino et al. 2021 Proc Roy Soc). The aim of this PhD project is to explore how heat-call prevalence relates to thermoregulation strategies and reproduction.
This PhD position is fully-funded, for 4 years, at the Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD) in Seville, Spain. The application deadline for pre-assessment is 25 Oct 2022, followed by an official application procedure through the Ministry web portal. Direct applications to the Ministry will be possible until the call closes (date TBA; more information below). The PhD start date will be mid-2023. Current Master students finishing in the first half of 2023 are eligible to apply.
The PhD Project: Climate change is threatening biodiversity, but whether species may have the capacity to develop strategies to partly mitigate its impact is broadly unknown. Thermoregulation capacity in the heat is likely key, and yet much of the variation between species and individuals remains to be explained. We have recently found that zebra finches’ heat calls are produced through a special form of panting, called “vocal panting” (Pessato et al 2020 Sci Rep), which brings thermoregulatory benefits to the emitter. The PhD project will aim to understand the broad fitness consequences of vocal panting, and how it affects thermoregulation capacity and heat tolerance, behaviour, and reproductive output. The student responsibilities will include carrying out respirometry measurements, as well as behavioural observations, breeding monitoring, playback experiments, and analyses of vocalisations, in wild and captive birds, in Europe and Australia. Although the PhD project has clear aims to meet the grant objectives, the student will have the opportunity to develop some parts of the project over others, according to his/her own interests.
For further description on the research group & recent relevant publications, please see:
The Research Environment: The PhD student will be based at the Doñana Biological Station EBD-CSIC (http://www.ebd.csic.es/inicio) in Seville. This beautiful and lively city is in southern Spain, right next to Doñana National Park. The EBD hosts over 40 researchers working in conservation, ecology and evolution, as well as many post-docs, PhD students and undergraduate students. EBD also has strong research connections with the University of Seville and Pablo de Olavide University Sevilla. The EBD has excellent facilities and research support, as well as weekly seminars and activities, fostering a lively research culture.
Eligibility and Selection criteria: The project would suit a highly motivated, reliable and capable student with strong interests in avian physiology, bioacoustics, and heat adaptation. Essential requirements include: a BSc/Licenciatura and an ongoing or completed Masters (or equivalent); good analytical and computer skills; high competence in written and spoken English, including for scientific communication; adaptability and an ability to work independently and as part of a team. After training, the student needs to be able to take on the collection and analyses of metabolic and acoustic data independently. Applicants with experience in these fields will be favoured. Knowledge of Spanish is not essential but will be an advantage, particularly to handle administrative tasks, which will be in Spanish (as well as the scholarship call itself). The ability to work remotely will also be a plus, in addition to an interest in potentially working abroad. Background knowledge in experimental design, or previous field or laboratory experience, is desirable but not necessary. Applicants will also need to meet the eligibility criteria described in the call (see next section).
Application process: The scholarship call by the “Ministerio de Ciencias e Inovación” has not been published yet, but it is expected to open late October, for ~3 weeks. Please check frequently https://www.csic.es/es/formacion-y-empleo/formacion-de-personal-investigador, and also the information from the Ministry ( https://www.aei.gob.es/convocatorias/buscador-convocatorias/ayudas-contratos-predoctorales-formacion-doctores-2021 ). In the meantime, prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to send their full application by 25/10/2022 to Mylene Mariette for assessment, and interviews late October. Direct applicants after that date are also encouraged to get in touch. Applications should include in a single PDF file: i) a statement of their interest in the project, ii) a detailed CV and iii) contact information for two referees. Once the administrative application opens, the candidate will need to lodge their application following the call guidelines.
For further information or to apply, please contact Mylene Mariette (email@example.com).
REF: Mariette M.M. & Buchanan K.L. (2016). Prenatal acoustic communication programs offspring for high ambient temperatures in a songbird. Science. 353: 812-814; Udino et al (2021). Prenatal acoustic programming of mitochondrial function for high temperatures in an arid-adapted bird. Proc Roy Soc B 288, 20211893; Pessato A., McKechnie A. E., Buchanan K. L., & Mariette, M. M. (2020). Vocal panting: a novel thermoregulatory mechanism for enhancing heat tolerance in a desert-adapted bird. Scientific Reports, 10(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-75909-6.