Lab Members

This could be you!

Currently seeking highly motivated students for two funded Phd projects:

1) Feral cat ecology and behavior in the wet tropics.

I am seeking a highly motivated PhD student to study the ecology of feral cats at James Cook University, Townsville. Project/research support will be provided, but students are expected to apply for an APA (Australian Postgraduate Award) or other similar scholarship. The goal of this project is to determine the abundance and distribution of feral cats in the Queensland wet tropics region, and understand the ecological role of feral cats in relation to native prey species and introduced predators (dingoes). The main project will involve extensive camera trapping in the Townsville/Cairns region. Future work may include using GPS collars on feral cats to better understand their behavior and movement ecology. The scale of the project is somewhat large, and students will be encouraged to focus on a particular part of the project as well as develop their own studies within the larger project umbrella. Previous field work experience is required, and advanced analytical skills (computer programing, GIS, advanced stats experience) may be helpful.

2) Using robotic predator models to understand anti-predator behaviors.

In contrast to sheep and goats, cattle have anti-predator defense behaviors that regularly dissuade wild dog attacks. Some adult cattle develop very nasty dispositions towards dogs (i.e. cows try and kill them) and adult cows with neonates often form crèches that cooperatively protect vulnerable calves from predators. This study proposes to investigate these anti-predator behaviors in cattle in a series of field experiments:

  1. Documenting anti-predator behaviors elicited by a robot wild dog in various classes of cattle.
  2. Investigating whether the cows that form crèches are closely related which might explain their ‘maternal’ attitude towards each other’s calves.
  3. Evaluating the impact of weaner management practices and the use working dogs on subsequent anti-predator behavior

These experiments seek to understand how anti-predator behaviors develop, whether they are learned from experienced adult associates and passed on to subsequent generations and whether cattle husbandry practices facilitate predation loss that otherwise could be avoided. These investigations will improve our understanding of the natural defense behaviors in cattle and how husbandry might influence predation risk. Field work will be conducted in Northern Queensland on private properties and cattle research stations. Experience in dry tropics habitats and cattle stations is a plus. Experience with remote controlled cars and a drone flight license would be helpful.

Applications are due 31, September 2017, but students should contact me at: ben.hirsch@jcu.edu.au beforehand to discuss their application.

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