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Bielefeld: PhD in natural history of inbreeding in a cooperative mammal PDF Tisk Email
PhD studentship: the natural history of inbreeding in a cooperative mammal
Dr. Joe Hoffman (Bielefeld University, Germany) and Dr Hazel Nichols
(Liverpool John Moores University, UK)
This PhD studentship will investigate the causes and consequences of
inbreeding in the banded mongoose Mungos mungo; a cooperatively breeding
African mammal.
  Recent studies (Nichols et al 2012, Nichols et al 2014)
have shown that inbreeding occurs regularly in this species, with around
9% of pups being the product of father-daughter or brother-sister matings.
This frequency of inbreeding is highly unusual in a wild population,
so this species presents us with a rare opportunity to investigate the
causes and consequences of inbreeding.
The studentship will address the following questions:
1.  What are the drivers of inbreeding? In particular, what are the
    social factors that shape inbreeding behaviour, and whether the
    propensity to inbreed is heritable?
1.   Is inbreeding avoided, and if so, how? Here, you will investigate
     whether banded mongooses may be able to recognise relatives on the
     basis of dispersal, familiarity or phenotype matching (e.g. scent).
1.   What are consequences of inbreeding in a cooperative mammal? Here,
     you will explore the tension between inbreeding depression and kin-
     selected helping behaviour. At its most basic level, inbreeding
     increases relatedness between group members, which may in turn
     increase the benefits of cooperation. Consequently, inbreeding
     could have important impacts on the distribution of helping
     behaviour within social groups.
During your PhD, you will use multigenerational data from a long-term
study of the banded mongoose.  We will exploit a large existing molecular
dataset of around 2000 individuals genotyped at 40 microsatellite loci
together with a large multigenerational pedigree.  This will be used
to establish levels of inbreeding and relatedness, which in turn will
be linked to detailed individual-based behavioural and phenotypic data
collected continuously over almost two decades.  There will also be the
opportunity for fieldwork at the study site in Uganda.
We seek a bright and highly motivated student who holds a good first
degree and an M.Sc. or equivalent in a relevant topic (e.g. animal
behaviour, evolutionary, conservation or quantitative genetics).
The ideal candidate will have strong quantitative skills (including
proficiency in R) and ideally some experience of working with pedigree
data.  The candidate should also be able to work both independently
and as part of a multidisciplinary team.  A high standard of spoken and
written English is required.
The student will be jointly registered at the Department
of Animal Behaviour at Bielefeld University, Germany
(www.uni-bielefeld.de/biologie/vhf/index.html) and the School of Natural
Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moore's University (LJMU), UK
The department of Animal Behaviour in Bielefeld is the oldest of its
kind in Germany and currently hosts six principal investigators, seven
postdocs and twenty PhD students.  It offers a stimulating international
environment and an excellent research infrastructure including a brand new
molecular laboratory.  The working language of the Department is English.
The School of Natural Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University is
a diverse, interdisciplinary School with almost 100 academic staff.
We have excellent facilities, with a large suite of newly refurbished
molecular labs, and a wide range of expertise crossing the fields of
behaviour, genetics, biochemistry and neurobiology.  Both Universities
offer a supportive environment with regular seminars, research group
meetings and academic events.  You will also have the opportunity to
interact with cooperation partner Prof Mike Cant (University of Exeter),
and to attend regular conflict and cooperation group-meetings at the
University of Cambridge.
Bielefeld is a small city with an attractive historical centre and easy
access to the Teutoberger Wald for hiking and other outdoor pursuits.
It offers a very high standard of living and is well connected to most
major European cities. Liverpool is a large, dynamic and cultured city
with a UNESCO world heritage water-front. It is an affordable and pleasant
city to live in and is also close to the attractive beaches and nature
reserves of the Wirral and Sefton Coast.
You will spend approximately half of your time in Bielefeld and half in
Liverpool (although you will have some flexibility here).  A joint PhD
will provide you with an excellent opportunity for international travel
and collaboration, and experience of working in diverse environments in
the UK, Germany and Uganda.
This generous studentship is funded by the German Science Foundation
(DFG) for a period of three years and includes health insurance. The
pay scale is TVL E13 (65%) which is roughly equivalent to a minimum of
1450 per month net depending on tax class, marital status etc. Funding
will also be available for travel between Bielefeld and Liverpool and
for the student to attend conferences. To apply for the position,
please provide:
(i) a letter of motivation including a maximum 2-page statement of your
    research interests, relevant skills and experience;
(ii) a CV including publication list; and
(iii) names and contact details of three referees willing to write
      confidential letters of recommendation.
All materials should be emailed as a single PDF file to: joseph.hoffman@uni-
bielefeld.de with 'PhD application' in the subject line.
The application deadline is August 21st 2015 and interviews will take
place shortly afterwards.  The preferred start date is flexible and
will depend on the timeframe of the most qualified applicant, but
ideally will be in October 2015.  For further information, please see
www.thehoffmanlab.com and http://hazelnichols.weebly.com or contact
Joe Hoffman (
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 ) or Hazel Nichols
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 ) with any informal inquiries.
The University of Bielefeld is an equal opportunity employer.  We
particularly welcome applications from women.  Given equal suitability,
qualifications and professional achievement, women will be given
preference, unless particular circumstances pertaining to a male
applicant apply.
For representative publications, please see:
Nichols et al. (2014) Biology Letters, 10: 20140898
Hoffman et al. (2014) PNAS, 111: 3775-3780
Nichols et al. (2012) Molecular Ecology, 21: 5348-5362.
Joe Hoffman
Department of Animal Behaviour
University of Bielefeld
Postfach 100131
33501 Bielefeld
+49 (0)521 1062711
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