Hosting structure : Department of Aquaculture & fish Biology, Hólar University – Iceland

Dates : from January 2022 to June 2022, but discussable

Context of the study:
Comparative studies might give an insight on how cognition has evolved across taxa. The evolution of spatial cognition is of particular interest because all animals depend on navigational skills to find food or mates, retrieve the nest and escape predators. Hence, spatial cognitive abilities have an impact on individuals’ fitness and are consequently subject to natural selection. In that sense, spatial cognitive abilities in each population should be locally adapted to its particular ecological conditions. The Icelandic Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus, AC) is found as several sympatric morphs thriving in very different types of habitats, from anadromous to benthic and pelagic lake-resident morphs, and ranging along an evolutionary gradient of divergence. We hypothesize cognitive abilities to be shaped according to both evolutionary history and current ecological factors. The project is lead by Prof. David Benhaïm (lead PI, Hólar Univ., Iceland) in collaboration across Hólar Univ. (Prof. Bjarni K. Kristjánsson, Dr. Camille Leblanc), University of Caen, France (Dr. Christelle Jozet), IFREMER, France (Dr. Marie- Laure Bégout, Dr. Benjamin Geffroy), INRA, France (Dr. Xavier Cousin) and University of Iceland (Prof. Zophonías O. Jansson).

Student project:
The student will specifically be involved in identifying cognitive ability differences between morphs and environments, by monitoring learning abilities in offspring of wild- caught AC morphs along a degree of divergence and raised under complex vs. plain conditions. To do so, the student will be working in close collaboration with a PhD student to train AC individuals to solve spatial cognitive tasks in a maze, and then highlight behavioral differences using an automated behavioral tracking software s/he will be introduced to.

The candidates must be enrolled in a degree in the fields of ethology, evolutionary or behavioral ecology, or relevant equivalent fields. The ideal candidate has a strong interest in pluridisciplinary research with an emphasis on cognition. S/he enjoys working in a dynamic group but should be able to work independently as well. Statistical skills will be a plus. A valid driving license is a requirement.

Organizational details:
Working language is English. The student will be provided with a discount on University accommodation as a lab member, and commuting between the lab and the accommodation place will be at the lab’s charge. The student will also have free access to the University gym, pool, hot pot and cold pot.
Aside, Iceland is eligible for Erasmus+ grants.

Applicants should send an application letter, with a statement of research interests and relevant experience and curriculum vitae as a single pdf to both Pr. David Benhaïm, and Dr. Marion Dellinger, For further information contact Pr. David Benhaïm (Dept. of Aquaculture and Fish Biology, Hólar University,

Applications open until October 15th, 2021.

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