jeudi 19 avril 2018

We are looking for a motivated and competent candidate for a PhD thesis

Effects  of  prenatal  stress  on  personality  and  group  level  behaviour  of juvenile mound building mice
Context.  Stress  experienced  by  mothers  during  pregnancy  has  the  potential  to  modulate  the  offspring’s behavioural  and  physiological  development.  The  effects  of  maternal  stress  on  offspring  phenotype  might  not necessarily  be  pathological  but  can  adaptively  adjust  the  offspring  to  challenging  environments.  For  example, pregnant  females  experiencing  social  stress  during  high  population  density  may  produce  offspring  with behavioural  types  being  well  adjusted  to  cope  with  such  high  density  situations.  The  resulting  differences  in offspring behavioural phenotype can have functional consequences at the individual level - but also at the level of the sibling group, for example when littermates interact in a collective task necessary for their survival.
Study species.  In the mound building mouse (Mus spicilegus), juveniles from the same  litter  collectively build a large mound of soil and plant material in autumn. These mounds are essential for winter survival, as the juveniles stay in tunnels and burrows underneath, well protected from humidity and low temperatures. Presumably under high density  situations,  different  sibling  groups  can join together  to  build the  mound collectively  (mixed-litter groups). First studies of our research team show that individual variation in the transport of mound building items are associated with an individual‘s personality type.
Research questions. In the proposed project, (i) the effects of maternal social stress on offspring personality and its consequences on the individual transport performance will be studied. (ii) At the group level, it will be studied how  the  distribution  of  personality  types  within  a  group  of  siblings  affects  the  transport  performance  during mound building. (iii) Do prenatally stressed mixed-litter groups differ in transport performance from mixed-litter groups stemming  from non-stressed mothers?  It might be predicted that offspring from stressed mothers are particularly efficient to perform in mixed-litter groups.  (iv)  Do single-litter or mixed-litter  groups from stressed mothers perform better under challenging environmental conditions (i.e. under an increased predation risk) than single-litter or mixed-litter groups from non-stressed mothers?
Methods. Pregnant females will be stressed by repeated social confrontations. Offspring personality types will be determined  by  repeated standardized  behavioural  tests.  Individual differences in physiological stress responses will be quantified by infrared thermography and via faecal and serum corticosteroid levels.  Individual and group level  transport  performance  of  mound  building  items  will  be  quantified  in  experiments  under  laboratory conditions using RFID-based data loggers.  An increased predation risk will be simulated  by  the  presentation of predator odour. Data analysis will be performed by multifactorial statistical modelling.
Candidate. The successful candidate (with a Master in ethology, behavioural sciences or in a related field) should have experience in animal experimentation, preferably with  mammals,  and should have a good level of English.
Knowledge in applied statistics (with R, SPSS etc.) will be advantageous.
Supervision. Prof. Heiko G. Rödel, Laboratoire d’Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée (LEEC), Université Paris 13,
France. Email: | Phone: +33(0)14940 3218 | website:
Procedure.  Applicants will be pre-selected based on their qualifications.  Please send a short CV  (incl.  marks  of licence/bachelor and master, and names  +  contact data  of 2 referees)  and  a  letter of interest by email to H.G. Rödel before/until the 07 May 2018. Do not hesitate to request further information by email or by phone.
The  chosen  candidate  will  then apply with this  project to  the  Ecole  Doctorale Galilée  (Université  Paris 13)  for funding of a 3-year contract.  Candidates should be willing come in person for the interview by the Ecole Doctorale (in late June). The thesis will start in September 2018.