Exploring the impact and adaptation to social and environmental stress in the king penguin
King penguins are unique by their biology: they reproduce in an aggressive social environment and extreme environmental conditions, and parents alternate long fasting periods on land with intense foraging periods at sea. Furthermore, both sexes display conspicuous ornaments used in sexual and social contexts. We have previously demonstrated that king penguins are sensitive to their neighbours: breeders get stressed when reproducing in socially dense environments and they rely on the size of their auricular patch to establish social dominance. In this project, we aim to explore further inter-individual physiological and behavioural variation in responses to social stress, and in particular to test whether some individuals are better adapted to cope with social stress, what make them better adapted to stress and whether individuals can signal their social competences. Research will be carried on the Sub-Antarctic Island Crozet, and the applicant should have a keen interest in doing experimental work in free living birds and to embrace an integrative approach, addressing changes in states ranging from the cell to the whole organism level. This project will rely both on newly data collected by the candidate in the field over up to 2 expeditions in sub-Antarctica and on archived data, thereby allowing the candidate to start the PhD project without delay and guarantying results on the project.
For this PhD project we are seeking somebody who is independent, mobile, creative, highly motivated, and has interest in animal physiology and behavioural and evolutionary ecology. Our ideal candidate has previous experience working in the field (preferentially with birds), likes working in a team, has excellent written and oral communication skills in English, and is not afraid of statistics and lab work. Experience with programing in R (or other languages such as SQML or Matlab) and with lab work is not essential but is a welcome addition; the willingness to learn such techniques is, however, crucial.
The successful applicant will be mainly based in the Department of Ecology, Physiology & Ethology (DEPE) at the University of Strasbourg, France, under the joined supervision of Dr Jean-Patrice Robin (Strasbourg) and Dr Pierre Bize (University of Aberdeen, UK). The DEPE is a lively Department where the student will benefit from interaction with a thriving community of postgraduate students, postdocs and researchers in animal physiology, marine biology and behavioural ecology. Furthermore, the student will integrate an international team working on the French Polar Program ‘ECOENERGY’, and will thus benefit from the interaction and support of research partners, namely Vincent Viblanc and Yves Handrich (Strasbourg, France), Quentin Schull (MARBEC, France), Antoine Stier (Turku Univ., Finland), Steve Dobson (Auburn Univ, U.S.A.) and Rudy Boonstra (Toronto Univ., Canada). The student will be encouraged to visit the partners to conduct specific analysis. The student will participate in the PhD program of the Doctoral School ED414 of the University of Strasbourg (http://ed.vie-sante.unistra.fr/) providing additional learning of transferable skills.
Strasbourg is one of Europe’s most attractive cities. It has a rich historical and architectural heritage, with Strasbourg’s historical city centre being listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its human size, its pedestrian city centre and 500 km of cycling paths make it a very pleasant city to wander around. Vibrant and affordable, Strasbourg is a true student city providing a great learning and living environment (Check out the New York Time’s video: 36 Hours in Strasbourg).
Applications must include 1) a cover letter outlining why you want to work on this project, 2) a detailed curriculum vitae, 3) the contact details of two academic referees, and 4) a 1‐page summary of your MSc project or undergraduate work. Please send the above as a single pdf file to both firstname.lastname@example.org AND email@example.com
Application deadline is 17/06/2018 23:00 – Europe/Brussels; interviews will take on July 13th; starting date is Sept 17th. The PhD project is fully funded for 3 years by the IDEX program from the University of Strasbourg; monthly salary of €1769
For more information, feel free to contact Jean-Patrice Robin or Pierre Bize.
Schull Q, Dobson FS, Stier A, Robin J-P, Bize P, Viblanc VA. 2016. Beak color dynamically signals changes in fasting status and parasite loads in king penguins. Behavioral Ecology 27:1684-1693
Schull Q, Robin J-P, Dobson FS, Saadaoui H, Viblanc VA, Bize P. 2018. Experimental stress during molt suggests the evolution of condition-dependent and condition-independent ornaments in the king penguin. Ecology and Evolution 8(2):1084-1095.
Stier A, Romestaing C, Schull Q, Lefol E, Robin J-P, Roussel D, Bize P. 2017. How to measure mitochondrial function in birds using red blood cells: a case study in the king penguin and perspectives in ecology and evolution. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 8:1172–1182
Viblanc VA, Gineste B, Stier A, Robin J-P, Groscolas R. 2014. Stress hormones in relation to breeding status and territory location in colonial king penguin: a role for social density? Oecologia:1-10.
Viblanc VA, Dobson FS, Stier A, Schull Q, Saraux C, Gineste B, Pardonnet S, Kauffmann M, Robin J-P, Bize P. 2016. Mutually honest? Physiological ‘qualities’ signalled by colour ornaments in monomorphic king penguins. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 118:200-214.