Determining how animals capture prey and avoid predators in complex natural environments is a central problem in the study of ecology and behavior (Gil and Hein 2017). A key requirement of these behaviors is that they be robust; the exact sequence of decisions required to escape a predator or capture prey will differ from one setting to another, yet an animal must generate a behavioral sequence uniquely suited to the situation at hand. How can behaviors that are learned or evolved in one context generalize to the enormous set of possible situations an animal might encounter (Hein et al.2018)? This project addresses this question using a combination of mathematical modeling and high-resolution, closed loop laboratory experiments using the prey attack and predator evasion behaviors of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) as a model. In particular, the project will explore how animals balance multiple competing objectives, and coordinate control across behavioral dimensions (e.g. speed, turning) to maintain performance across varying environmental conditions. This work has the potential to shed new light on the mechanisms that control these ecologically crucial behaviors (Gil et al. 2018).
The position will involve working with project PIs to design experiments, conducting experiments, analyzing data, and working with PIs to write manuscripts to be submitted as peer-reviewed publications. The project is part of a larger collaboration between ecologists at NOAA and the University of California, Santa Cruz, and neuroscientists at the University of Florida.
To carry out this work, we seek a postdoctoral fellow with experience in one or more of the following areas: behavioral experiments, neuroethology, computer vision, behavioral data analysis, ecological interactions. The ideal fellow would have an established publication record in animal behavior, ecology, evolution, or neuroscience. Experience programming in Matlab, R, Python, or C++ is also desirable.
Hein, AM, MA Gil, CR Twomey, ID Couzin, SA Levin. 2018. Conserved behavioral circuits govern high-speed decision making in wild fish shoals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA115:12224-12228.
Gil, M A and A M Hein. 2017. Social interactions among grazing reef fish drive material flux in a coral reef ecosystem. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 114:4703-4708.
Gil, M A, A M Hein, O Spiegel, M Baskett, and A Sih. 2018. Social information can link individual behavior to ecological dynamics. Trends Ecol. Evol.
Ecology; Behavior; Ethology; Predator Prey Interactions; Neuroscience; Computer vision; Mathematical modeling; Computation; Control theory