Many animals need to return to rewarding environments, whether they are at home, in good foraging areas, or looking for mates. The goal of this project is to compare how animals with very different brains (bees and hummingbirds) solve a navigational problem that is very similar to relocating rewarding flowers. All of these evolutionary distant species forage for nectar in flowers strewn throughout their natural habitat. They seem to use similar types of information to reward flowers, despite having very different visual systems and, more importantly, brains with vastly different structure and neural capacity. We’d test a hypothesis (proposed by Macquarie partner Barron) that, despite the fact that the task is the same, the animals’ very different neural capabilities mean that how they return to rewarding flowers is very different. Nectarivores (including bees and hummingbirds) foraged among flowers with rule-based movements, according to both optimal foraging models and observational data from the 1970s and 1980s. But with increasing data, it became clear that the behaviour of hummingbirds is complex, flexible, and involved learning and memory. Healy and her collaborators have been conducting field experiments with free-living hummingbirds for the past three decades, demonstrating that these birds can learn and remember far more than was previously thought possible given their brain size. To see if differences in brain structure, connectivity, and information flow allow these birds to have foraging capacities that are qualitatively and quantitatively different from those of bees. The student will compare hummingbirds and bees on the same tasks using a deceptively simple strategy. These two taxa have never been directly compared in any of the previous analyses of their capacities. Importantly, the project will bring together two principal investigators (PIs) who have extensive experience testing each of the two taxa. This is important because it would be simple to demonstrate differences in performance between hummingbirds and bees by asking both species to solve problems that are better suited to one species than the other. For example, Healy’s team discovered that rufous hummingbirds prefer to use spatial cues to locate flowers rather than color cues, so tests that use color as a key cue must eliminate all spatial cues. This combination of PIs is in an ideal position to supervise a PhD student’s examination of the neural capacities in wild, free-moving bees and hummingbirds, thanks to their extensive knowledge of problem-solving in hummingbirds (matched by Barron’s expertise with bees), as well as a wealth of methods that have revealed novel cognitive capacities in hummingbirds. Using tasks like traplining (where animals learn a sequence of rewarding locations using an optimal route) or episodic-like memory, the student would specifically seek the limit of bees’ capacity in spatial cognition (memories for what-where-when). They will determine whether bees and hummingbirds use a cognitive map or simpler vector-based heuristics (like the nearest neighbor) to move around the flowers by using appropriate manipulations, such as placing a barrier. We can determine whether there is a switch point between foraging strategies and whether bees switch sooner than hummingbirds by increasing the number of flowers along the route or in the patch, for example.
About the Scholarship:
Macquarie University, located in the heart of Sydney, is home to 3,000 staff and over 44,000 students from 140 countries. Macquarie has spent over AUD 1 billion to build a 126-hectare world-class green campus with cutting-edge digital facilities and comprehensive student support services. It is the only Australian university with an on-campus private hospital and a metro station. The campus is surrounded by 126 acres of parkland. Our students benefit from world-class facilities, including a new library, a private hospital, first-class sports fields, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and a gym, thanks to more than A$1 billion in recent years. All students can stay on and off campus, with fully catered and self-catered, single and shared rooms available. Macquarie University has one of Australia’s most generous scholarship programs, providing many opportunities for international students to study here each year. The Europe – Macquarie University scholarship is a significant new addition to our list of scholarships. Early Acceptance Scholarship of $10,000.. Macquarie University offers over 200 degrees in business, technology, engineering, humanities, arts, media and communications, and medicine and health sciences. Students can also combine their interests and diversify their career opportunities by choosing from Australia’s largest selection of one-year master’s degrees or a wide range of double degrees. In the 2020 QS World University Rankings by Subject, Macquarie has seven subjects ranked in the top 100 globally. Macquarie is located in Sydney’s fastest growing business area, with over 300 businesses on or near campus. Staff and researchers at the university have access to excellent research from some of the world’s leading organizations, and several degrees are developed and approved by professional associations in collaboration with industry partners. Because of Macquarie’s realistic curriculum and strong industry partnerships, the university is ranked first in Australia for Graduate Employment Rate (QS Graduate Employability Rankings, 2020).
Scholarship Sponsor(s): Macquarie University
Scholarship Country: Australia
Scholarship Worth: £15,609
Study Level: Postgraduate
Nationality: International Students
- A scholarship equivalent to a full-fees award and stipends for up to 3.5 years are included in the funding. The candidate is expected to spend half of his or her scholarship term at the University of St Andrews and the other half at Macquarie University:
- The scholarship will include a total fees award and a stipend paid at the current UK Research Council rate (£15,609 per year in 2021–2022) for the period spent at the University of St Andrews.
- The scholarship will include a stipend (tax-free and indexed annually) paid pro-rata for the time spent at Macquarie University. On the Australian Government’s website, you can find the rates. For the duration of joint enrolment, a tuition fee scholarship will be granted.
- Macquarie University will also cover the cost of one return economy flight between Scotland and Australia, up to a maximum of AUD 2,500, which will be arranged by the Graduate Research Academy.
Eligibility for Scholarship.
- Applications from all over the world are accepted.
- The scholarship will be given in the subject of “Evolution of cognition: Birds and Bees.”
- Applicants must meet all of the following requirements in order to be considered:
- This scholarship is available to eligible candidates who want to start a PhD program right away.
- Candidates will begin by enrolling in both institutions.
The Macquarie University, Australia 2022 PhD Scholarships in Evolution of Cognition is open to all International Students
Send an email to the supervisors at [email protected] expressing your interest. The following documents should be included with expressions of interest:
- CV that includes publication information
- Transcripts from the most recent and relevant degrees
- Information on thesis components (thesis grade, word count, and weight/length in relation to the overall degree)
- Statement of suitability as a project candidate (max 500 words)
- After submitting a successful EOI for the scholarship, candidates may be invited to apply to both universities for admission to the program and the scholarship.
The application deadline for Macquarie University, Australia 2022 PhD Scholarships in Evolution of Cognition is April 14, 2022.