Wednesday, 25 January 2012

PhD Research position in ecology at University of Sussex, UK

Insect societies are social groups composed of many individuals. They provide many opportunities to study the organization of animal groups and more generally to study the organization of complex systems and the resolution of conflicts among group members. I am looking for a student with an excellent track record who wants to carry out basic research using social insects as model systems in social behaviour and evolution within a friendly and exciting research group. The project will be tailored to meet the interests of the student. The research will probably fall into one of the following general areas: 1) The use of alternative sources of information in the organization of ant trail systems; 2) Nestmate recognition in honey bees and stingless bees; 3) Conflict and conflict resolution in insect societies; 4) How does communication among nestmates influence the foraging ecology of social insects? 5) Effects of genetic diversity on the function of insect societies; 6) The role of nectar guides in bee foraging and learning. The research can select from a number of social insect taxa including: 1) At Sussex University, honey bees (Apis mellifera), pharaoh’s ants* (Monomorium pharaonis), common garden ants (Lasius niger), leafcutter ants* (Atta sp., Acromyrmex sp.) (* = in lab); 2) In Brazil: stingless bees (Meliponinae), leafcutter ants (Atta sp., Acromyrmex sp.), Pheidole ants, etc. The most important approach to the research will likely be via experiments with live insects. This can be carried out in the field in both Sussex and the Brazilian field site (up to c. 4 weeks per year) or in the lab at Sussex using our collection of ant nests and bee hives. Additional approaches include: 1) theory (e.g., inclusive fitness theory, optimization) and modelling (with either explicit models involving the solving of equations, or multiple-agent simulation models involving software programs such as NetLogo that can be run on a lap top computer); 2) chemical ecology (with assistance from colleagues at Sussex and/or other universities); 3) molecular ecology and use of molecular markers (with assistance from colleagues from colleagues at Sussex and/or other universities); 4) physiological/sensory ecology.
Supervisor and laboratory: Professor Francis Ratnieks, Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects (LASI)

Informal enquiries:

LASI Web Site:

Funding Notes:
Further projects details available at
Studentships are available to UK nationals and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Formal applications (deadline 14th Feburary 2012) should be made at

While applying please send a full CV, a statement of interest and two references.

Imp- Please mention name of project supervisor in the ‘suggested supervisor’ section.
Project enquiries should be sent to project supervisor ( Application enquiries and enquiries from self-funded applicants should be sent to Dr Deeptima Massey (

LASI Web Site:

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