1) PhD Scholarship (international/domestic): 3D-imaging of weaver ant silk nests

Funded by Macquarie University to supplement my ARC Future Fellowship – ‘Swarm construction: ant-inspired processes for teams of building robots’


Construction and manufacturing can be dangerous, wasteful industries —prime candidates for automation by teams of mobile robot builders. However, our understanding of how to program robots for teamwork is limited. This project aims to understand how colonies of weaver ants build complex silk nest structures using decentralised, self-organised processes. The first phase will utilise individual tracking techniques to follow worker positions, coupled with frequent 3D-scanning of the emerging nest structure, to characterise the individual-level behaviours and interaction rules used at each stage of construction. This data will be used to assemble a theoretical framework, validated by simulation modelling and robophysical tools, that explicitly links individual-level behaviour to team-based coordination and stage transitions, and finally emergent structural outcomes. This framework will be transformational in our understanding of a range of other complex systems in nature and engineering. Insights from the biology and modelling phases of the project will be combined to deliver the first generation of bio-inspired robots that use teamwork to adaptively 3D-print complex structures without the need for oversight or pre-planning. The investigation spans concepts of behavioural ecology, computational science and robotic engineering, and candidates with experience in one or more of these fields will be desirable.


This scholarship is available to eligible candidates to undertake a direct entry 3-year PhD program.

Scholarship Components

The scholarship is comprised of a Tuition Fee Scholarship and a Living Allowance Stipend. The value and tenure of the scholarship is a “iMQRES” full-time stipend rate of $32,000 per annum (fixed rate) for up to 3 years.

Contact Details

Name: Dr Chris R Reid
Email: chris.reid@mq.edu.au
Phone: 98506270

For more details and how to apply, visit; https://www.mq.edu.au/research/phd-and-research-degrees/scholarships/scholarship-search/data/swarm-construction-ant-inspired-processes-for-teams-of-building-robots-international

2) Postdoctoral Research Associate (1-2 yrs) Position

Funded by ARC Discovery Grant to Prof Bernd Meyer (Monash U, CI), Dr Chris R Reid (Macquarie U, CI), Prof Tim Landgraf (Freie Universität, Berlin) and Prof Iain Couzin (Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz) – ‘Self-organised communication as a foundation of large, complex societies’

The project will empirically analyse the communication network structures in ant colonies. It will measure the interaction networks of individuals in colonies using AI-based visual tracking and it will analyse the topological and temporal properties of these networks. The candidate will work with a world-leading team of experimental biologists and mathematical computational modellers.

The position will be held at Macquarie University, in Sydney, Australia. The position requires a highly motivated candidate with PhD qualifications and field or laboratory experience in animal behaviour, ideally but not necessarily dealing with ants or other social insects. Experience with computer vision is preferred, but not necessary. Candidates in this project will be able to profit from the modelling work being conducted by other specialised team members but will have the opportunity to learn cutting-edge computational modelling techniques, should they wish.

If you are interested in working at the intersection of ecology, behaviour, and complex systems science, in a project that meshes experimental biology and computational science we encourage you to contact us for further discussion.

Dr Chris Reid: chris.reid@mq.edu.au

3) Three PhD opportunities in collective behaviour (slime mould or ants)

International or Domestic (Aus/NZ) candidates will be supported in their applications to apply for competitively awarded Macquarie University Scholarships. All projects will be based at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

Sydney is a global power city rated in the world’s top-ten for economy, research and development, cultural interaction, live-ability, environment, and accessibility. Macquarie University is a major research-based institution situated in the heart of Sydney’s high technology precinct. It is considered one of Australia’s best universities and is rated among the top 2% of universities globally. 

School of Natural Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering, MQ, is a vibrant community of teachers, researchers, professional staff and students working across a wide range of disciplines including animal behaviour, climate change, conservation, ecology, evolution, genetics and genomics, physiology, and environmental science. 

The PhD’s will all be based in the research group run by Dr Chris R. Reid (https://chrisrreid.wordpress.com/) and will be supported by his international collaborators in Europe and the US.

Project areas

Collective decision-making


Basal cognition

Collective tranpsort

Social networks


Nest construction

Swarm robotics


We are looking for a candidate who:

  • holds a (research) master degree or honours degree with distinction* in a relevant field, such as Behavioural Ecology
  • is curiosity driven and passionate about fundamental research in the context of animal behaviour or behavioural ecology, and strongly motivated to obtain a PhD degree
  • is proficient in the English language* 
  • is a team player, willing to work with a diverse group of researchers and technicians, and can also work independently 

*Specific requirements as (see: https://www.mq.edu.au/research/phd-and-research-degrees/how-to-apply)

Ideal candidates will also have some of the following

  • previous experience working with (or a passion for) social insects, either in the field or lab
  • strong quantitative and statistical skills (preferably in R)
  • strong communication skills and a motivation to disseminate results to both scientific peers and a broad audience


Macquarie University offers an MQRES Scholarship, for the duration of the PhD. The scholarship comprises the equivalent of a full-fees award and stipend at the current rate of AU$32,000 per annum.

The selection procedure will proceed in three stages:

  1. First application (early 2023)
  2. Development and submission of full application (early-mid 2023). Assessment by selection committee (mid-2023)
  3. Start of PhD enrolment for successful candidates (mid-late 2023)

Please submit your initial application via email to chris.reid@mq.edu.au early 2023. Provide the following in your application:

  1. Cover letter (1 page max.): a letter introducing yourself, describing your motivation and qualifications to conduct this scientific research, and your expectations of the PhD programme
  2. CV (2 pages max.)
  3. Academic records (transcript of undergraduate degree and a certified copy or scan of your MSc or honours degree certificate. 
  4. Proof of sufficient competence in English e.g. IELTS, TOEFL scores. (unless your degree was in an English speaking country)
  5. Names and contact details of two academic references
  6. Initial research project idea: brief description of the research question(s) that you wish to address with respect to the advertised topic and your approach to address the research question(s) (300 words max.)

Applications that do not satisfy the requested format will not be taken into consideration. 

Macquarie University, is committed to providing a working environment where each individual is valued, respected and supported to progress. Our priority is to ensure culture, policies and processes are truly inclusive and that no-one is disadvantaged on the basis of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, gender, culture, disability, LGBTIQA+ identities, family and caring responsibilities, age, or religion. We encourage everyone who meets the selection criteria and shares Macquarie University’s values of scholarship, empowerment and integrity to apply. Learn more about our progress towards Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: https://staff.mq.edu.au/work/diversity-and-community.


For information you can contact: