Higher Degree by Research Application Portal

TitleThe impact of anthropogenic stressors on the development of young in the urban-living Western Australian magpie
SupervisorA/Pro Mandy Ridley
Dr Benjamin Ashton
KeywordsCognition, behavioural ecology, anthropogenic stressors, urban wildlife
Research areaBiological Sciences
Project description

Anthropogenic stressors have known impacts on wildlife, that can be both lethal and sub-lethal. To date, most research has quantified the impact of one anthropogenic stressor at a time. In reality however, multiple anthropogenic stressors may be impacting a population simultaneously, and we need to be able to quantify these potentially multiplicative effects in order to truly determine the influence of anthropogenic stressors on wildlife and develop reliable population viability estimations. Our previous research has quantified a large impact of one anthropogenic stressor, urban noise, on magpies. We now plan to build on this research to understand the impact of multiple anthropogenic stressors on developing magpie young, including physiological effects and impacts on behaviour and cognitive ability. We intend to look at common, widely occurring anthropogenic stressors, including artificial light at night, noise pollution and heat stress.

To do this research, the applicant will be expected to do fieldwork on wild magpies living in urban areas of Perth. The magpies are individually identifiable by colour rings, and are habituated to observers. We have a ten year life history database for our magpie population (18 magpie groups ranging in size from 3 to 12 birds per group), and thus background details of each individual is known. The applicant would be trained on how to conduct cognitive tests and behavioural observations on wild animals, and do playback tests. This research would primarily involve fieldwork with wild animals, and only a small component of lab work. 

Opportunity statusOpen
Open date05 Dec 2023
Close date01 Nov 2024
Funding source

Applicants are encouraged to apply for government funded RTP scholarships in the domestic or international round - rounds are open each year. Applicants may also apply for specialist scholarships to support this research, such as CSC scholarships for Forrest Research Scholarships.

SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences

Amanda Ridley amanda.ridley@uwa.edu.au

Specific project requirement

Applicant must have a driver's license to be able to travel to fieldwork sites

Course typeDoctorates
Duration4 years


Biological Sciences

Specifically: animal cognition, behavioural ecology and conservation biology 

Applicants can apply for RTP funded scholarships in the domestic or international round that is announced each year 

Applicants can express their interest in this project by emailing A/Prof Amanda Ridley direct. 

Students intending to undertake a dissertation or thesis as part of a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) course at The University of Western Australia, are required to have acquired adequate research preparation, prior to being admitted into a course.

The University's Adequate Research Preparation Policy (UP11/25) details this requirement.

The policy broadly states:

  • An applicant is normally considered to have fulfilled the requirements for admission to a HDR course if they can demonstrate that they have undertaken supervised individual research in which they have designed and conducted a scholarly investigation in the context of an existing body of knowledge.
  • In exceptional circumstances, consideration may be given to applicants whose qualifications do not meet the definitions of adequate research preparation outlined in the policy (clause 4.1), where the school/supervisor believes that the applicant is likely to succeed in the course. In these circumstances, admission may be granted to a Masters Degree by Research in the first instance.