Looking for PhD students!

We’re looking to find PhD students for a variety of insect tracking projects. Funding available!!
Tracking a bumblebee’s learning flight at Exeter university’s field site.
Bee Tracking (using retroreflective tags)
I’m working with a few research groups on this, but the main two groups are Natalie Hempel de Ibarra (Exeter) and Andrew Philippides (Sussex), who we’re applying for funding with.
The parts the Sheffield team would be working on are the development of novel methods:
  • 3d flight path reconstruction
  • finding the bee’s orientation using specially devised tags
  • unique labels

The amount of hardware, coding, maths and fieldwork involved can be adjusted depending on what you would find the most interesting! To give a flavour of the maths: We use doubly stochastic variational inference to find the path of the bee. We use a raspberry pi and a custom 3d printed unit to house the tracking system, and a web interface to control it, in the field. [the initial development of the hardware basis for this is described in my earlier paper, but this paper doesn’t cover the stuff we’re working on now].

I’m also working with other groups who are using this tech for other insects (dragonflies etc).

Bee Tracking (using bluetooth)
I’m also about to put together a funding app with a collaborator in electrical engineering: The plan is to track bees (and other central-place foragers) using a bluetooth chip and tiny battery… again this will need a bit of maths etc, to get it working, happy to explain and discuss more :).

Another insect tracking PhD position
Another related, funded PhD position with Michael Mangan is here – feel free to email me, or Dr. Mangan if you have any questions about the role. Michael Mangan is particularly interested in “In-field tracking of fruitflies” – as this is currently not possible and would support a lot of research
If you’re interested in applying for the funding to work on any of these projects, or want to discuss them further, please email me: m.t.smith@sheffield.ac.uk.
PS Another research area: Air Pollution
The other large project I’m working on is with collaborators at Manchester (Mauricio Alvarez) and Nottingham (Richard Wilkinson, Chris Lanyon), trying to model the source of air pollution (given a set of sensor measurements and information about the wind, diffusion, etc). This is more maths related than the bee-tracking one. Here’s a link to the first paper we published on the topic. There are different paths a PhD could go down:
  • practical: applying this to larger and more complex datasets [e.g. continent scale particulate pollution etc] – in the future this is particularly important when countries start to try to inventory their fossil CO2 emissions.
  • mathematical: constraining the model (solving the problem of non-identifiability), non-linear modelling, etc.
  • multiple outputs and multiple scales (from street scale to continental scale, etc).
  • developing higher resolution maps of cities (e.g. by combining surface roughness maps with our advection diffusion model).