poniedziałek, 3 czerwca 2019

Ecophysiology of learning - Dwa stypendia doktoranckie

I seek 2 motivated Ph.D. students to join the project: ”Ecophysiology of learning: The effects of short- and long-term changes in ambient temperature on learning performance in a model songbird”, funded by the Polish National Science Centre (NCN) OPUS grant.

Project: Given current increase in climate unpredictability and short-term variability, it is particularly important to understand the consequences of environmental variation for cognitive performance. On the one hand, highly variable environmental conditions could induce physiological costs that may set limits to cognitive functions. On the other hand, environmental fluctuations could promote cognitive mechanisms responsible for more versatile behaviors. Those two options could be reconciled if physiological costs are reduced by pre-natal programming and/or developmental plasticity. Yet so far, the research in the field of environmental dependency of learning performance and potential for its modulation at early life stages is scarce. The main aim of the current project is to study the effect of temperature fluctuations in different time scales on learning efficiency in a model songbird, the zebra finch. Specifically, we will verify the following hypotheses: (i) Highly variable ambient temperature during development affects efficiency of the learning processes. (ii) Maternal effects modify the consequences of variable ambient temperature experienced during development on the efficiency of learning processes. (iii) Mismatch between environmental variability experienced during development and during adulthood affects learning processes at adulthood. 

Description of work: The research team will consist of PI (Joanna Rutkowska: http://iron2.eko.uj.edu.pl/rutkowska/index_e.htm), technical assistant and two PhD students. The study will be carried out at the Institute of Environmental Sciences of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, on a captive population of zebra finches established in 2000. It will involve breeding the birds, cross-fostering eggs, performing basic morphological measurements, and physiological tests such as analyses of blood parameters and hormone levels. Both PhD students will be trained to perform the practical part of the project, guided in skills needed for a successful scientific career, and encouraged to develop his/her own ideas. 

Position 1) The PhD student will record and analyse singing performance of fathers/tutors and all of their male offspring. To assess learning accuracy, the student will then assess repertoire size and extract repetitions of each syllable. Dr. Carlos A. Botero (https://biology.wustl.edu/people/carlos-botero) is a collaborator on this project and he will provide training of song analyses. 

Position 2) The PhD student will carry out tests on learning performance in relation to food acquisition in juveniles and adults: (i) problem-solving tasks providing an integrative measure of perception, reasoning and decision making; and in adults only: (ii) learning associations, (iii) spatial learning and (iv) social learning. 

Botero, C.A. et al.  2015. Evolutionary tipping points in the capacity to adapt to environmental change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:184-189. 
Maille, A. and Schradin, C. 2017. Ecophysiology of cognition: How do environmentally induced changes in physiology affect cognitive performance? Biological Reviews 92:1101-1112. 
Monaghan, P. 2008. Early growth conditions, phenotypic development and environmental change. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: 363:1635-1645.

Requirements: MSc in Biology or Animal Psychology and fluency in English. Experience in analyses of sonograms or any behavioural procedures planned in the current project, and previous research experience will be an additional asset.

Financing: The project is financed by the National Science Centre, which ensures a PhD student with a monthly tax-free research stipend of 4500 PLN for three years and a possibility of a short foreign internship. This stipend may be combined with the standard Ph.D. program scholarship if the student is accepted to the doctoral school in one of the following programs:

Application: The candidates are asked to e-mail Dr. Joanna Rutkowska (joanna.rutkowska_@_uj.edu.pl) attaching PDF files with 1) a cover letter explaining their background and interest in the project; 2) a CV. Contact details of two academics who can provide a confidential reference, should be in the body of the email. The review of applications is ongoing; please apply by 11th June 2019 to ensure full consideration in the June recruitment to the Doctoral School. The selected candidate or candidates will be assisted with a formal application to the Doctoral School. If the positions are not filled, there will be a possibility of an Autumn recruitment.

Starting date:
1st October  2019: for candidates who successfully recruit to the Doctoral School
1st January 2020: for candidates who do not wish to join the Doctoral School.

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