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PhD opportunity: Using agent-based models to understand the cultural evo

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Subject: PhD opportunity: Using agent-based models to understand the cultural evolution of whale song
From: Luke Rendell <>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2013 14:43:31 +0000

A 3yr PhD studentship (fully funded for UK/EU students, overseas fee waivers 
possible for exceptional non-EU candidates) is available at the Sea Mammal 
Research Unit (SMRU), University of St Andrews, starting April 2014. The 
studentship is part of a collaborative and highly interdisciplinary research 
project funded by the Leverhulme Trust involving the Interdisciplinary Centre 
for Computer Music Research (ICCMR) at Plymouth University and the Cetacean 
Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory (CEAL) at the University of Queensland, 

The aim of the PhD project will be to study the cultural evolution of humpback 
whale song using agent-based models developed in conjunction with another PhD 
student being recruited at ICCMR. The two students will work closely to visit 
the University of Queensland and collate a database of song recordings, which 
will be used to test how well models are able to reproduce observed changes in 
song across years. The studentship advertised here will then involve describing 
the variation in both high-level song grammar and the acoustic structure of the 
song units within and between individuals and year. Both students will work 
together to develop biologically plausible simulation models that the SMRU 
student will use to understand how factors such as learning rules, zones of 
influence, and population density affect how songs evolve, and identify those 
conditions under which the song evolution best approximates that observed in 
nature in both evolutionary and revolutionary modes. Another primary aim is to 
incorporate replicator dynamics into the simulation models to test functional 
hypotheses for the evolution of culturally-transmitted song in humpbacks. 
Should these goals be met, secondary objectives will include the application of 
the modelling framework to a broader range of culturally-evolving animal vocal 

The project has a large quantitative and computational component, and will 
require a broad-minded approach to interdisciplinary research. Evidence of 
experience in Matlab is therefore essential, and R desirable. Experience of 
acoustic analysis and/or computational modelling are desirable, as is evidence 
of effective communication skills suitable for or direct experience of 
interdisciplinary research. Candidates must be available to start in April 2014.
The student will work under the supervision of Dr Luke Rendell 
 Interested candidates should apply by January 31st 
2014 only by using the online procedures here:

Best regards,


Dr. Luke Rendell
MASTS Lecturer (
Tel: (44)(0)1334 463499
School of Biology, University of St. Andrews
Sir Harold Mitchell Building,
St. Andrews, Fife
KY16 9TH

The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland (SC013532)

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