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Friday, December 13, 2013

STUDENTSHIP: PhD opportunity: Using agent-based models to understand the cultural evolution of whale song

English: View across St Salvator's Quad, Unive...
English: View across St Salvator's Quad, University of St Andrews. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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. An!
other 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
(ler4@st-andrews.ac.uk). Interested candidates should apply by January
31st 2014 only by using the online procedures here:
http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/research/phd-study/.

Dr. Luke Rendell
MASTS Lecturer (masts.ac.uk)
Tel: (44)(0)1334 463499
E-mail: ler4@st-andrews.ac.uk
WWW: http://bio.st-andrews.ac.uk/staff/ler4.htm
School of Biology, University of St. Andrews
Sir Harold Mitchell Building,
St. Andrews, Fife
KY16 9TH
U.K.

The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland (SC013532)

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