samedi 14 mai 2011

MSc research at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town

*Project: Dominance, sexual selection and conflict resolution in a cooperative species, the sociable weaver*

We invite applications for the above full-time study opportunity at the FitzPatrick Institute, a world-renowned, national Centre of Excellence (CoE) in ornithological research with a strong emphasis on postgraduate studies.

The MSc student will integrate an international group of researchers investigating cooperation in sociable weavers /Philetairus socius/ near Kimberley, South Africa.

Sociable weaver individuals cooperate to build a massive communal nest structure and to raise young. How is this cooperation achieved and how do individuals decide whether to cooperate or to defect? One explanation for cooperation is kin selection, but this unlikely explains the maintenance of ‘public goods’ that concern a whole group rather than just kin.

This study will investigate the role of dominance and sexual selection in cooperation and conflict resolution in the sociable weaver. We will examine two behaviours: cooperative nest building and cooperative breeding. The study will involve extensive behavioural observations to establish dominance hierarchies and whether there is social segregation or competition for access to specific communal tasks (such as helping at the nest or nest-building activities). In addition, we will investigate the role of melanin-based plumage signals in both males and females.

The successful applicant will have a BSc Honours or equivalent, relevant ornithological field experience and a demonstrated ability to work independently.The student should have a strong interest in pursuing theoretical questions in behavioural ecology and motivation for conducting demanding fieldwork. Experience in handling birds and behavioural observations are important advantages.
Funding is secured for an annual R75 000 CoE bursary for two years and for project running costs.
To apply, please send a CV (including your academic record & names and contact details of three referees) and a short motivation for why you wish to undertake this research to Hilary Buchanan at . For more information on the FitzPatrick Institute visit

For more information on the project, please contact: Dr Rita Covas ( ) or Dr René van Dijk (

*/Closing date: 1 July 2011/*

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