Research opportunity to study Cardigan Bay dolphins

PhD Opportunity – Fine-scale acoustic and movement behaviour of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Cardigan Bay, Wales

The Living Seas team from the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC) are teaming up with researchers from Bristol University to collaborate on a PhD project focusing on the Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphins.

The bottlenose dolphin is a qualifying feature of three Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) in the UK, two of which are in Cardigan Bay, Wales. SACs are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) designated under the European Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). The bottlenose dolphin is also a European Protected Species under the same Directive and is afforded strict protection in European waters.

The PhD with the University of Bristol, is part of the NERC GW4+ DTP and it will focus on the behavioural ecology of bottlenose dolphins in Welsh waters. The research will represent a collaboration between Dr Sarah Perry from Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC) / Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW), Drs Stephanie King and Simon Allen from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol and is supported by Natural Resources Wales as a CASE partner, with co-supervision from Dr Tom Stringell.

The aim of the project is to significantly advance our knowledge of how individual dolphins use habitats found in Cardigan Bay and Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau SACs in Cardigan Bay, Wales. The project will utilise acoustic monitoring techniques such as towed arrays and fixed-bottom acoustic recorders with detailed systematic behavioural observation to determine the fine-scale characteristics of how individuals within the broader population interact, range, use habitat and how these behaviours fluctuate temporally. For example, this project will quantify individual dolphin habitat preferences and movement patterns using acoustic signatures of dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins are well known for their individualised identity signals, or signature whistles. This project will use acoustic monitoring and the signature identification method to explore habitat use and ranging patterns of specific individuals in Cardigan Bay.

The project will involve using research tools such as towed hydrophone arrays and fixed-bottom acoustic recorders alongside behavioural observations to determine the fine-scale characteristics of how individual dolphins interact, range and use habitat within the Cardigan Bay SACs.

We seek a highly motivated, organised and dedicated student with a background in marine science, conservation and/or behavioural ecology. Applicants must enjoy both fieldwork and computer-based research. Knowledge or experience in bioacoustics and/or small boat handling skills would be advantageous

Further information on the PhD and how to apply to can be found here. All enquiries should be directed to the University of Bristol.

Application deadline: 6th January 2020.

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