PhD position in behavioural ecology related to noise impacts

Fully Funded Ph.D. Position in whale behavioural ecology

We are looking for a skilled and enthusiastic PhD student to join the groups of Dr. Sarah Fortune, the Canadian Wildlife Federation Chair in Large Whale Conservation at Dalhousie University, Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) and Dr.Véronique Lesage, Research Scientist at Maurice Lamontagne Institute at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Mont-Joli, Quebec, Canada).

The project aims to examine diving behaviour and foraging activity of St. Lawrence Estuary beluga in the context of noise exposure using digital-tag behavioural and acoustic data. This project and the 4-year PhD position is funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Dr. Véronique Lesage is the project lead, and will co-supervise the successful candidate during their program. The student will be offered with various opportunities to work in the field with small and large marine mammals in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Applicants should possess an internationally-recognised Master’s degree from an accredited institution with peer-review publication experience. Candidates should be self-motivated, and able to work within a team framework. They should have an interest in applied ecology, and a strong background in behavioural ecology, statistics and computer science.

Start date: September 2023
PhD stipend: $37,000 / year (less tuition and fees)

To apply: email your CV and a motivation letter to Veronique Lesage (

Graduate Student Opportunity in Marine Mammal Ecophysiology

I am seeking applicants for a PhD or MS position in Mammalian Ecophysiology to join my Comparative Animal Ecophysiology lab in FALL 2021 at Baylor University.

For more details about our research and Baylor’s graduate program, please visit: and

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to develop their own dissertation project that fits into the research scope of the lab. Through our lab, we offer experience and training in field and laboratory research, grant writing, statistical data analyses, and science communication. We value a team-based approach, where supervisors and lab members work effectively and collaboratively together on projects. We value diversity in our lab and welcome applicants from all backgrounds to join us. Our lab will provide a challenging but rewarding PhD experience, and we are therefore seeking enthusiastic and capable students with strong interests in animal ecophysiology.

The successful applicant will have their tuition covered and be provided with a living stipend and an 80% health insurance subsidy.

The applicant will have the following minimum qualifications:
– Bachelor’s degree in biology, with emphasis in ecology, physiology, behavior, and/or functional morphology
– Independent research experience
– Responsible, hard worker, self-motivated, and enthusiastic

The applicant will ideally have these preferred qualifications:
– MS degree and/or relevant lab or field experience
– Strong background in coding (R, Matlab, Python) and/or experience with spatial analyses
– Interest or background in statistical modelling

The graduate program application deadline is January 5, 2021; however, you MUST reach out to me well in advance if you are interested in applying. To express your interest in this position, please email with your CV or resume and a cover letter detailing your relevant qualifications and experience, research topics/ projects that you are interested in, and how you see yourself fitting into our lab.

Sarah Kienle, PhD
Assistant Professor
Baylor University

Two potential PhD Studentship Opportunities: (1) Grey seal behaviour, (2) Application of biotelemetry to quantify behaviour.

Two potential PhD Studentship Opportunities: (1) Grey seal behaviour, (2) Application of biotelemetry to quantify behaviour.

Below are details of two potential PhD opportunities being advertised at Durham University (UK). Both are competitive studentships, and all initial enquiries should be made to Dr Sean Twiss (

PROJECT 1: Behavioural and physiological responses to changing environments in wild grey seals (Halichoerus grypus)

Supervisory team:
Dr. Sean Twiss (Durham Univ.):
Dr. Patrick Pomeroy (SMRU, University of St. Andrews)
Dr Amanda Bishop (Alaska SeaLife Center)

Background: Organisms have evolved mechanisms to cope with natural stressors, but rapid environmental change is subjecting species to new threats or more unpredictable and extreme natural stressors. Conventional studies focus on species or ecosystem level responses to change, such as range or phenological shifts, but these are products of variation in individual responses. Within populations, individuals can show differing coping-styles; proactive individuals express little flexibility and are less responsive to environmental stimuli, whereas reactive individuals are more flexible and responsive. Understanding how individuals differ in their ability to cope with stressors, and the consequences if they fail to do so, is critical for quantifying species’ resilience to current and future threats of climate change and anthropogenic disturbance.

This project aims to investigate variation in behavioural and physiological stress reactivity within and between individuals, and across populations, using extensive archived data on known individual adult female grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) during the breeding season, a time of intense energetic demands and limitations. Our previous studies have highlighted the considerable additional stress placed on breeding grey seals by extreme weather patterns, and this study will examine changing behavioural patterns in concert with indicators of physiological changes in breeding and non-breeding wild grey seals. The study will assess whether behavioural indicators of environmental stress map onto physiological indicators, and establish levels of inter-individual variation, and within individual consistency in such responses.

Methods: The study will utilise an extensive existing catalogue of data on known individual breeding grey seals from a range of contrasting breeding colonies. The successful candidate will extract new data from archived video footage of these same seals to provide key behavioural and physiological metrics. These metrics will be analysed with respect to prevailing environmental factors, including social context (e.g. conspecific density) and weather conditions. Data analysis will involve mixed effects modelling procedures using ‘R’. There may also be scope for some additional field-based data collection, but this will depend upon opportunity.
Candidate requirements: Potential candidates should be able to demonstrate the ability to conduct prolonged periods of behavioural observations, while remaining focused, dedicated and enthusiastic. Ability to work independently and as part of a team is essential. In addition, candidates will require strong analytical skills, including experience of modern ecological and statistical modelling techniques. Experience with R and analysis of behavioural data is advantageous, but not essential. There is the possibility of additional data collection through field campaign(s), but candidates will need to show a willingness and ability to travel and conduct prolong field observations alone. A UK driving licence (or equivalent) would be essential for field campaigns.
Training: The student will gain extensive inter-disciplinary training in behavioural observation, video analysis, and data analysis in R employing mixed-effects models. The student will also develop critical thinking, writing, presentational and teamwork skills as part of dynamic, interdisciplinary, and supportive research groups.

Applications for this project are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Applicants must be applying to start a full-time PhD in the Faculty in October 2020. They must have fulfilled the University’s requirements regarding English language ability and must not require a presessional course as a condition of their place.

Funding and how to apply
This project is in competition with others for funding (via the Durham Doctoral Studentship scheme). Success will therefore depend on the quality of applications received, relative to those for competing projects. If you are interested in applying, in the first instance contact Dr Sean Twiss, ( with a CV and covering letter, detailing your reasons for applying for the project. Only the best applicants will be asked to submit a full application. UK and Non-UK students areadvised that to be considered for the Durham Doctoral Fellowship, the minimum requirements include an excellent undergraduate degree with either postgraduate or work experience in a relevant discipline and scientific publication(s) in peer reviewed journals.

Application deadline: Friday 10th Jan. 2020 at 5 pm (GMT)

PROJECT 2: Quantifying the relative importance of extrinsic and intrinsic drivers of individual behaviour and habitat use of hefted sheep on a biodiverse but fragile upland ecosystem.

Although this project does not involve seals, it does require a range of research skills that marine mammalogists often possess; experience of the deployment of biotelemetry devices and analysis of biotelemetry data to examine behaviour patterns in free ranging mammals.

Supervisory team:
Dr. Sean D. Twiss (, Department of Biosciences, Durham University
Dr. Robert Baxter, Department of Biosciences, Durham University
Martin Furness, Senior Reserve Manager, Natural England
Dr Mike Morecroft, Natural England and University of Oxford
Dr Gavin Stewart, Newcastle University
Dr Fiona Lovatt, School of Veterinary Science, University of Nottingham.

Background: The unenclosed upland areas of the UK are internationally important for wildlife and of high nature conservation value. However, these fragile habitats are subject to various threats including the impacts of climate change, atmospheric pollution deposition, acid rain and grazing pressures. A primary tool for sustainable management of these landscapes is implementing grazing regimes that allow maintenance or recovery of habitats and which support ecosystem services. However, remarkably little is known about the behaviour of the major grazer of UK uplands, domestic hill sheep, and their impact on vegetation mosaics. This project aims to investigate the determinants of group and individual level foraging choices within upland vegetation mosaics and how these vary in relation to sheep age, size, experience (hefting) and extrinsic factors including the spatial distribution of vegetation types, weather and micro-topography. This study will provide valuable information on how these different factors interact and allow a consideration of practical management techniques that can be used to influence the spatial distribution and feeding choices of sheep.
Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve hosts unique Arctic-Alpine plant assemblages with many species existing in climatically marginal locations. This project will involve extensive fieldwork at Widdybank Fell, part of the NNR that contains some of the most biodiverse habitat, and for which pre-existing fine-scale habitat maps exist. Sheep behaviour will be monitored at the level of the individual using a combination of in situ visual observation, supplemented by video recordings, and by using animal borne telemetry; GPS data-loggers will be deployed to provide fine scale movement and location data, with accelerometers to allow for automatic classification of behaviours with respect to time and location. The research will require the development of analytical protocols to classify raw accelerometry data into behavioural categories, including foraging. Behavioural data will be used within a GIS to examine intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of individual sheep behaviour and habitat use. Widdybank Fell is a long established research site and benefits from detailed existing data and ongoing studies on micrometeorology, microtopography and microhabitat. The current study will have the potential to integrate behavioural data with these environmental data within a GIS.
The research will involve extensive field based behavioural observations of individually identified sheep. Potential candidates should be able to demonstrate the ability to conduct prolonged fieldwork in potentially harsh conditions, while remaining dedicated and enthusiastic. Ability to work independently and as part of a team is essential. In addition, candidates will require strong analytical skills, including experience of modern ecological and statistical modelling techniques. Experience with R and analysis of telemetry data is advantageous, but not essential. A UK driving licence (or equivalent) is essential. Further details of the project and candidate requirements can be obtained from Dr. Twiss.
The student will gain extensive interdisciplinary training in fieldwork logistics, behavioural observation, deployment of telemetry devices, and develop analytical skills for both behavioural and telemetry data. The student will also develop critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills as part of dynamic and interdisciplinary research groups.

This project is in competition with others for funding, and success will depend on the quality and suitability of applicants, relative to those for competing projects. For further information, or to apply, contact Dr. Sean Twiss at In your email include: 1) two-page covering letter explaining your reasons for applying and why you selected this project, 2) CV with contact information for two references, 3) Full transcripts of previous qualifications. Only the best applicants will be asked to submit an application to the University. The application deadline is 10th January 2020, therefore students should contact Dr. Twiss well in advance for initial consideration. For eligibility requirements, see


Sea Turtle and Marine Mammal Stranding Response Batten Fellowship

The Virginia Aquarium’s Research & Conservation Division is now accepting applications for Sea Turtle and Marine Mammal Stranding Response Batten Fellows. The application deadline is January 20, 2020. Fellows are expected to work 800 hours over approximately five months beginning in May, but actual start and end dates are somewhat flexible. Housing is not provided by the Virginia Aquarium. Fellows are fully responsible for fulfilling all requirements of their home institutions to receive academic credit. This competitive position includes modest compensation to help offset personal and incidental expenses over the course of the appointment period.

Position Overview
Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program (VAQS) Fellows promote the conservation of marine animal species through research, rescue, rehabilitation, and education. Fellows will be trained in all aspects of stranding response. Stranding work is unpredictable, therefore experiences will vary by fellowship session. VAQS staff will provide as many learning opportunities as possible during each session.

– Respond to live and dead marine mammals and sea turtles in the field.
– Participate in all aspects of post-mortem examinations: cutting and sampling, data collection & entry, photographing, report writing, carcass removal, and cleaning.
– Perform daily husbandry tasks, including food preparation, feeding, and cleaning the rehab area, kitchen and associated supplies and equipment.
– Assist staff with new patients, including: daily treatments, restraining animals for exams, collecting vital rates (heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature) and morphometrics, taking photographs, administering medications, and performing wound care.
– Assist with research projects and field activities involving sea turtles and marine mammals.
– Ensure response preparedness by stocking response bags, fueling vehicles, and cleaning/restocking gear and supplies.
– Assist with releases of rehabilitation patients, public outreach events, and volunteer/cooperator training.
– Assist staff with daily administrative tasks, including answering hotline calls, data entry, completing response paperwork, and when trained acting as stranding and live animal lead (under the supervision of a staff member), as well as acting as after-hours hotline point of contact.
– Complete other projects and tasks as assigned by VAQS staff.

Required Qualifications
– Must be at least 18 years old.
– Must be a rising junior, recent graduate, or currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in a science-based (or veterinary) program.
– Must be self-motivated, articulate, mature, reliable, and responsible. Should work well independently as well as with a team.
– Must be physically fit with the ability to lift 50lbs and walk long distances (>5 mi/8 km) on the beach in adverse conditions such as extreme heat and cold, humidity, rain, and/or wind.
– Be able to swim and be comfortable in and around open water and boats.
– Be willing to learn how to drive response vehicles, if accepted (required).

Preferred Qualifications
– Demonstrate interest in a career in marine or veterinary science.
– Have some experience in stranding response, field research, and/or wild/exotic animal care.
– Have basic math and computer skills using MS spreadsheets, relational databases, and data entry (advanced programs such as SQL, GIS, R, etc. preferred).
– Be comfortable around dead and decomposing animals.
– Be comfortable driving large pick-up trucks and vans.

Position Requirements
– Attend VAQS orientation and City of Virginia Beach Defensive Driving.
– Possess a valid U.S. driver’s license.
– Be available to perform support activities (24-7) as needed during the period of appointment.

Fellowship Learning Objectives
– Develop fundamental hands-on stranding response and rehabilitation skills:
– Perform basic post-mortem examinations on sea turtle and marine mammals.
– Perform basic health assessments of rehabilitation patients, including collecting vital rates, treating wounds, administering medications, and processing blood samples.
– Be able to complete Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN) and Marine Mammal Stranding Level A forms.
– Enter stranding data in Microsoft Access.
– Complete an individual project with a final deliverable (paper/report and oral presentation).

Fellow Schedule
Fellow is expected to be available 4-5 days per week, 8am-4:30pm. Weekend and holiday coverage is expected.

Minimum Commitment Required
800 hours

Fellow Supervisor/Mentor
VAQS Volunteer Manager and project supervisor

Work Location
Virginia Aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center

Application Requirements
A complete application includes:
– Cover letter. There is some flexibility with Fellowship start/end dates; please include any known schedule conflicts in your cover letter. Please indicate the specific Batten Fellowship opportunity to which you are applying.
– Fellowship expectations letter. This should include what you expect to do and get from your experience at VAQS.
– Resume
– College transcript(s)
– Two letters of recommendation; one must be an academic reference.

If applying via email, please send application to and send a copy of the application to Incomplete applications will not be considered.

If applying via mail, please send application to:
Volunteer Services Office – Batten Fellows
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
717 General Booth Boulevard
Virginia Beach, VA 23451

For more information about the application process, please visit:

PHD SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITY (Belugas and Baleen Whales in Canadian Waters)


*Agent-based modeling of recreational boating in the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay River (Quebec, Canada) to mitigate their impacts on belugas and baleen whales*

Goal: This project aims at developing a spatially explicit agent-based model of recreational boating in the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay River (Quebec, Canada) to mitigate impacts such as underwater noise,
collision, and disturbance on the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga and baleen whales populations.

Description: The St. Lawrence Estuary beluga population is currently listed as an endangered species under the Species At Risk Act (Canada) and the Act Respecting Threatened and Vulnerable Species (Quebec). Other
endangered species frequently observed in the St. Lawrence Estuary include the North Atlantic blue and fin whales. Several threats to the recovery of these whale species are coming from the navigation activities occurring in
the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay River such as animal exposure to underwater noise emitted by surrounding boats, disturbance/harassment, and collisions. Such navigation activities as maritime shipping, ferries and whale-watching excursions are well-documented largely due to AIS data. However, recreational boating in the summer habitat of the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga is poorly documented with scarce data available. Moreover,
no methodology has been proposed so far to monitor recreational boating activities and estimate their impacts on whales.

This project will first focus on making a quantitative portrait of recreational boating in the summer habitat of the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga population (thereafter referred to as beluga). This portrait will include a characterization of the fleet, spatial distribution, temporal variability, along with a description of the spatiotemporal dynamics of
boater excursions. This project will also allow to identify the main archetypes of recreational boaters along with their decision-making models that will be implemented in an agent-based model. The agent-based model will be used to assess the cumulative impacts of recreational boating on whales in the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay River and propose mitigation options. The model will also allow to project the impacts of boaters’ eco-friendly behaviors on whales.

Throughout this project, the PhD student will propose and conduct several data campaigns using different qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data on various objects at different scales (e.g. remote sensing,
aerial surveys, GPS tracks, semi-supervised interviews, Q-methodology, questionnaires). First, the student will develop a methodology and deploy it to characterize the fleet of recreational boats along with the
spatiotemporal dynamics of their excursions throughout the summer habitat of beluga whales. Thereafter, the student will propose and implement a method to characterize the behavior and the decision-making process of
recreational boaters at sea in order to define archetypes. For each archetype of recreational boater, the student will thus propose a conceptual model of behaviors and decisions including their interactions with whales. The results of these inquiries will be implemented into a spatially explicit agent-based model. The student will then elaborate a
validation procedure of the agent-based model of boaters? behaviors. Finally, the validated model of recreational boaters will be integrated into a spatiotemporal simulator of boat-whale interactions in the Saguenay
River and the St. Lawrence Estuary. This simulator will be used to assess the relative contribution of each navigation component to the overall impacts on the St. Lawrence whales and to test the effectiveness of various
mitigation scenarios.

The ideal candidate will show dynamism, motivation, determination, intellectual curiosity and creativity, ability to work independently and as part of a team, along with a great sense of initiative. He/She will need to travel regularly to the Saguenay and the St. Lawrence Estuary region for data collection. He/She will be encouraged and supported to travel for scientific communications (conferences, workshops), meetings with partners and stakeholders. He/She will be part of a dynamic multidisciplinary research team and will benefit from support for different parts of his/her
project. The project being funded by the Government of Quebec, the selected candidate will be required to contribute to the production of deliverables for various ministries.

Requirements: The candidate must possess a Master degree in Geography, Environmental Sciences or any discipline relevant to the project. He/She must demonstrate relevant experience in modeling, statistics, and in the
use of qualitative methods (e.g. interviews). The candidate must demonstrate proficiency in scientific communication (oral and written) to experts and laypeople, including writing scientific articles and conducting
literature reviews, both in French and English. The candidate must demonstrate a dedication to excellence supported by academic records making him/her eligible to provincial and national scholarship competitions.

Experience in the following fields will be considered to be assets:
– GIS, spatial analysis, and spatial statistics;
– Agent-based modeling;
– Cognitive psychology and study of human decision-making processes;
– Object-oriented programming;
– Software and programming language: R, QGIS, Java, Python.

Start date: January 2020
Scholarship: 25 000$/yr for 3 years
Location: Ripon (Quebec, Canada)
Director: Prof. Jerome Dupras (UQO-ISFORT)
Co-director: Prof. Clement Chion (UQO-ISFORT)

Collaborators: Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), University of Victoria, Parks Canada, Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Réseau d’observation de mammifères marins.


Email your academic CV (long form), application letter (detailing your skills and assets related to the project requirements), official academic transcripts (Bachelor and Master), and the name and contact
information of 3 academic references to Pr. Clement Chion (, Pr. Jerome Dupras (, and Robert Michaud (;

Deadline: September 15th 2019, or until the position is filled.

PhD position in salmon acoustics (as killer whale prey)

PhD Position examining effects of ocean noise on salmon
The Juanes lab ( is seeking a student to begin a PhD at the University of Victoria (UVic) and in collaboration with Svein Vagle (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Institute Of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, BC) and Sheila Thornton (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Enterprise Science Center, West Vancouver, BC). The student would be part of a DFO team working on threats to southern resident killer whales in BC. Our specific project is focused on the effects of anthropogenic noise in the ocean soundscape on killer whale prey, specifically salmon. Methods will include acoustic analysis of soundscape data, field and laboratory experiments.
Candidates should have completed a Masters degree in biology, physics, oceanography or related discipline and have a solid academic standing, excellent communication skills and a strong quantitative background. Knowledge of underwater acoustics, fish ecology/behavior, and facility with analyzing large datasets will be an asset. Preferred start date is January 2018, but there is some flexibility. The student will enroll in the PhD program in the Biology Department ( or the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences ( at the University of Victoria, Canada. The laboratory portion of the research is likely to be conducted at the DFO West Van Labs and the DFO Cultus Lake lab.
While at UVic the student will be able to collaborate with a large group of scientists focused on the relationships between marine organisms and ship noise as part of a MEOPAR project (, Canadian Healthy Ocean Network projects (, and with scientists at Ocean Networks Canada ( who operate two world-leading ocean observatories in British Columbia.
The position is fully funded for 4 years. Additional sources of funding are available thru the University of Victoria. The Juanes lab comprises a large active group of postdocs, technicians and students interested in various aspects of fisheries ecology and conservation. If you are interested in joining the lab please send a cover letter, statement of research goals and interests (max 2 pages), CV, unofficial transcripts, and the names and contacts of three references to Dr. Francis Juanes at by October 20, 2017.