What makes groups successful?

Supervisor: Michael Griesser, Department of Biology & Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behavior, University of Konstanz

December 15, 2021

The Griesser lab is looking for a doctoral candidate to investigate the consequences of the interplay between individual and group social phenotype in a wild bird species.

Individual fitness is the currency of Darwinian evolution, and largely depends on an individual’s social phenotype (e.g., cooperativeness, aggressivity, stress sensitivity). However, in animals living in enduring social groups, an individual’s fitness is also affected by the group’s social phenotype. Although the latter component is rarely considered, it is potentially quite important: successful groups should be better at coordinating their behaviours, e.g., during foraging or predator encounters.

Fig. 1. Variation of social tolerance within Siberian jay groups. i) A group foraging on two pieces of pig fat. Only the non-breeder in the middle is tolerated by the male breeder (right) to forage together. 
Fig 2. Male is chasing the non-breeder that is not tolerated in the food off the branch. Image credit: Michael Griesser

This doctoral project will investigate these links in wild population of Siberian jays (Perisoreus infaustus) in Swedish Lapland, monitored since 1989. Our study population is located in both pristine and managed forests. This bird species lives in stable, enduring groups composed of a breeding pair and up to 4 non-breeders, and we follow individuals in up to 90 groups throughout their life to collect life-history data and standardized behavioural data. Non-breeders differ largely in how well they are integrated into the group (see Fig. 1-2). The doctoral project will combine field experiments with existing long-term data to investigate the interplay between individual and group social phenotype, and its consequences. A short description of our past research can be found here: Youtube Channel

You will join our interdisciplinary team at the Excellence Cluster for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour at the University of Konstanz, and become a member of the IMPRS.

Fig. 3. Getting about in the field in early winter. Image credit: Alba Izaskun.
 

Requirements:

  • MSc in behavioural ecology, ecology, evolutionary biology, or similar;
  • Field experience of behavioural observations and experimental work;
  • Bird handling experience (including mist netting);
  • Highly motivated and sociable personality;
  • Project management skills;
  • Ability to work both independently and in a team;
  • Driver’s license (manual transmission);
  • Basic knowledge of X-country or downhill skiing, see Fig 3.;
  • If possible, knowledge of automatized analyses of videos.

Starting date:  April 2022 (latest 1st July 2022)

The University of Konstanz is an equal opportunity employer that is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, or disability. It seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourage women to apply (see equal opportunity).

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