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  • PhD studentship: Effects of tracking device attachment techniques on movements, behaviour, survival, reproduction in ducks

    Guest Mitch Weegman
    • Employer: University of Saskatchewan
      Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
      Country: Canada
      Last Date to Apply: 12/19/2022
      Open Until Filled: No

    Description: A Ph.D. studentship is available with Dr. Mitch Weegman in the Department of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan (https://www.ducks.ca/our-work/science/saskatchewan-endowed-chair/). The student will use state-of-the-art tracking devices deployed on mid-continent mallards to compare movements, behaviour, survival and reproductive success of birds using harness, anchor/suture and implant attachment techniques, and geolocators.  

    This project is an international partnership among the Canadian Wildlife Service, Delta Waterfowl Foundation, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and University of Saskatchewan. Our project goals are to (1) Deploy Global Positioning System-acceleration (GPS-ACC) tracking devices on 25 wild mallards per attachment technique, and geolocators on 150 wild mallards as a control group, per year for two years (totaling 200 GPS-ACC tracking devices and 300 geolocators), (2) Compare movements, behaviour, survival and reproductive success of tagged birds within and among treatments relative to a control group, (3) Assess retention of anchor/suture design in wild birds, and (4) Develop a reproducible framework to evaluate effect sizes of movement, behaviour, survival and reproductive success with varying frequency of GPS and ACC data, as well as sample size for each attachment technique.

    Our team deployed GPS-ACC devices and geolocators on mid-continent mallards in Aug-Sept 2022, as year 1. We anticipate collation of millions of data points providing examples of individual decision-making. While GPS-ACC tracking devices have become common tools across animal ecology, and to some extent negative effects of devices on survival and reproductive success have been shown in a variety of animals, there have not been recent evaluations to contextualize data gained and inform operational monitoring programs/conservation planning. The student will have opportunities for field work in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota and South Dakota, and engage in novel ecological modelling and collaboration among other projects using GPS-ACC devices to study the full annual cycle in migratory birds.

    Prerequisites: Ideal candidates will have an undergraduate and master’s degree in statistics, ecology or a closely related field, and interpersonal skills to lead discussions among collaborators. Preference will be given to those with a strong quantitative background (e.g., experience with Program R, Bayesian methods), knowledge of migratory bird ecology and management, and field skills (e.g., capturing and handling birds). Students must have a valid driver’s license. The successful applicant will be expected to publish manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and present papers at scientific meetings.

    Salary and benefits: $30,000 Canadian per year plus compensation for tuition and fees.

    Start date: 15 May 2023

    Last date to apply: 19 Dec 2022 or until a suitable candidate is selected

    To be considered for this position, please send the following (preferably as a single PDF) to Dr. Mitch Weegman (mitch.weegman@usask.ca):

    (1) Letter of interest summarizing your experience, (2) Curriculum vitae or resume, (3) University transcripts (unofficial are OK), (4) Contact information for three references.

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