Collective Behavior for Conservation: Multi-scale Imaging of Endangered African Megafauna

Supervisor: Iain Couzin, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and Cluster of Excellence, University of Konstanz

January 24, 2022

Currently we lack a data-driven approach for protecting many biodiversity hotspots. This is because doing so requires simultaneous acquisition of movement data of multiple (often interacting) species as well as features of the landscape, such as topography, and often highly dynamic time-varying features such as productivity. We thus urgently need to develop tools that allow multi-scale imaging and analysis of vulnerable ecosystems. We plan to focus on work at the Mpala Research Station in Kenya and use drone-based imaging, and other tracking technologies (e.g. ATLAS, to quantify the movements and behaviors of a diverse range of key players in ecosystem dynamics, over an unprecedented range of scales. These will include endangered megafauna, including Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) and the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana). This is in order to understand how multiple species, with their different physiologies and ecological needs, make movement decisions in increasingly unpredictable and variable landscapes. We will also investigate the effects of rapid human encroachment, as well as several planned construction projects within the timescale of our project. How does wildlife respond to such a perturbation and does this force them into unsuitable, or risky, habitat? Does this impact some species more than others?

We have several positions for this project, including in technical development (particularly image processing software) and field-based imaging. This project will be highly collaborative and interdisciplinary; therefore, we are keen to consider applicants with experience or interest in computer vision, movement ecology, collective behavior, imaging technologies, animal tracking and movement analysis, and/or remote sensing, or other related areas.

Our working language is English and consequently applicants must be fluent in this language; no knowledge of German is required. All of our appointments are for one year initially, with the possibility of renewal up to 4 years for doctoral positions based on satisfactory performance. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience, and benefits are included. 

The University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Society are equal opportunity employers that are committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, or disability. They seek to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourage women to apply  (Equal opportunity). Persons with disabilities are explicitly encouraged to apply.

They will be given preference if appropriately qualified (contact +49 7531 88 4016).

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