lundi 8 janvier 2018

PhD position on insect cognition

PhD position available
Investment in cognitive traits, such as learning and memory, is expected to yield fitness benefits through better decision-making, producing behavior that is fine-tuned to the local environment. Yet the fact that animals vary in their cognitive abilities, both between and within species, suggests that such investment comes at a significant cost. We currently understand little about what these costs are, because it is difficult to manipulate cognitive abilities, and thus any relationship with other traits is by nature correlational. In this project, we will capitalize upon recent developments in insect cognitive neuroscience to overcome this problem, using a uniquely tractable experimental system (the bumblebee Bombus terrestris). We will focus upon (1) metabolic costs of investment in cognition (2) potential evolutionary trade-offs with immune function (3) impacts on life-history variables. In the latter stages of the project, there will be the opportunity for the student to develop further research questions according to their interests, which may include (but are not limited to) the use of transcriptomics to understand the genomic basis for cognitive investment.
The successful applicant will be based at Royal Holloway University of London in the research group of Dr. Elli Leadbeater (, and will be co-supervised by Dr. Steve Portugal at Royal Holloway and Samraat Pawar at our DTP partnership institution, Imperial College. The project will capitalize upon excellent ERC-funded social insect research facilities at Royal Holloway, including indoor and outdoor apiaries, bee rearing rooms and a dedicated cognition laboratory. The student will join a large group of researchers interested in social insect behaviour within our department, which provides an exceptionally stimuluating and collaborative environment for the proposed research. Experimental work will involve laboratory-based studies during both the summer and the winter months, with the potential for campus-based fieldwork during the summer months according to the student’s interests. Pre-application informal enquiries are strongly encouraged. Please direct these to Elli Leadbeater (