mardi 20 février 2018


Linking individual behaviour to ecosystem properties in microscopic
predator-prey systems
Location: Roehampton University (London, UK)
Duration: Flexible, 2-5 months
Contacts: Andrea Perna (
Dan Perkins (
Trophic  interactions,  such  as  herbivory  and  predation  play  an  important  role  in  determining  the  relative abundance of species within an ecosystem and ultimately the productivity and stability of the ecosystem itself. Small variations in the rate of prey capture and consumption by a predator  can  trigger abrupt -often dramatic-  ecological  transitions.  Can we predict the emerging properties of an ecosystem  and anticipate when transitions will occur from the simple observation of the ‘behaviour’ of individual organisms and their interactions, e.g. from the  chasing  behaviour of predators and the patterns of movement and aggregation of prey? This can be difficult in real-world ecosystems, but it becomes  manageable in artificial ecosystems comprising only a few species in a controlled environment.
Research topic:
You will take part in a research project  funded by the Royal Society and by Roehampton University  aimed at  linking  ecological  patterns  to  the  individual-level  behaviour  of  unicellular  predators  and  preys.  The project consists in characterising the behaviour and predator-prey interactions of microorganisms adapted for  several  generations  at  different  temperature  in  microscopic  artificial  ecosystems  (microcosms).  By using  digital  image  analysis  and  video-tracking  tools  developed  by  the  host  laboratory  you  will  obtain accurate  measures  of  body  size,  speed  and  patterns  of  movement  of  predators  and  of  the  spatial distribution and movement of prey.
Duties of the successful applicant:
•  Participate in running the microcosm experiments
•  Lead on microscope based data collection and imaging
•  Partake in running video-tracking software and data analysis
•  We hope to publish the work in a peer-reviewed journal; the research assistant will be a co-author
Practical details:
You will be based at Roehampton University in London. The duration is flexible, but the total salary budget is limited to ~ £3000 and is paid on an hourly basis at a rate depending on experience.
An  interest  for  the  research  topic,  together  with  good  practical  and  analytical  skills,  is  the  major prerequisite for this internship.