Nest building in social insects (ants and/or termites).
This is a fully funded PhD opportunity for UK or EU nationals who have or will achieve a Master’s degree by the 1st October 2019. The successful applicant will join the Centre for Research in Ecology Evolution and Behaviour of the University of Roehampton (London, UK) and will receive a stipend of £16,777 per year, for three years. The tuition fees of £4,260 per year will be covered by the University. Research funds (£14,400) will also be provided to support the direct research costs of the PhD (research travel costs, computer, consumables etc.)
The start date for this position is the 1st October 2019.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: 10th July 2019
PhD Supervisors: Dr Andrea Perna, Dr Lewis Halsey
APPLICATION PROCESS: Expressions of interest, including a CV, should be made to Dr Andrea Perna (firstname.lastname@example.org). Informal enquiries are also welcome.
ELIGIBILITY CONDITIONS AND DUTIES:
We seek candidates with a background in the quantitative sciences (biology, applied mathematics, computer sciences and related scientific areas) and with an interest for the study of social insects. We accept applications from both experimentally oriented and theoretically oriented candidates.
DETAILS OF POTENTIAL RESEARCH:
Nest building by social insects is one of the most classical examples of self-organisation phenomena in living systems, and has contributed to the evolutionary success of ants and termites. Surprisingly, still very little is known about the mechanisms underlying the construction of these structures and about their morphological and functional properties. Our laboratory aims at addressing these questions by using a variety of techniques, from 3D imaging (micro-computed tomography), image analysis, computational modelling (e.g. agent-based modelling).
The PhD candidate will focus on the characterisation of nests of a species of their choice (among a few options of ant and termite species that we have the expertise to analyse. The candidate will characterise nest structure (from direct measurements and analysis of nest scans), and study nest building behaviour from experiments and video-recordings. Depending on the experience and on the interests of the applicant, it will be possible to develop more either the data analysis and modelling component (e.g. agent based models of nest building, differential equation models), or the experimental component (with possibility to carry field-work in Australia and/or in Brazil).
Perna and Theraulaz (2017) When social behaviour is moulded in clay: on growth and form of social insect nests. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220, 83-91.
Khuong et al. (2016) Stigmergic construction and topochemical information shape ant nest architecture. PNAS 113, 1303-1308.
Perna et al. (2008) Topological efficiency in three-dimensional gallery network of termite nests. Physica A 387, 6235-6244.
Figure 1. Left Characterisation of nest building in Lasius niger ants with a laser based scanner. Right Topological mapping of Cubitermes termite nests.