RVC Supervisor(s): Dr Andrea Gaede, Professor Richard Bomphrey, Dr Christopher Richards

Department: Comparative Biomedical Sciences

Background, aims and objectives:

Tree frogs are spectacular aerial acrobats, capable of athletic launches and exquisite in-flight manoeuvring.  Because of the vast mechanical and visual complexity of the arboreal environment, tree frogs must possess biomechanical, visual and neurological specialisations to effectively navigate from perch-to-perch.  Despite decades of research on the biomechanics of the launch phase of jumping, the subsequent flight phase is poorly understood.  How do frogs respond to visual stimuli in a complex environment, and how do these stimuli influence biomechanical behaviour?  This project develops frogs as a novel model system to study the relationship between visual information processing, functional morphology, neurophysiology, and locomotor behaviour.  In four main objectives, this project aims to determine how gliding versus non-gliding arboreal frogs process visual information during flight and how they use this information to modulate their flight path.  Firstly, the visual processing behaviour of non-glider versus gliding frogs will be mapped using neurophysiological recording.  Secondly, the body and limb movements will be recorded in free-flight.  Thirdly, the aerodynamic forces on the limbs and body will be calculated.  Finally, free-flight will be simulated by replaying the frog’s visual field (recorded in the previous objectives) to an anesthetised animal to measure how a frog processes visual information during simulated free-flight.  This project will provide the first complete mappings of visual processing in frogs as well as provide a crucial stepping-stone to understanding how animals process visual information during locomotion.


  1. Cheney, J.A., Stevenson, J.P., Durston, N.E., Song, J., Usherwood, J.R., Bomphrey, R.J. and Windsor, S.P., 2020. Bird wings act as a suspension system that rejects gusts. Proceedings of the Royal Society B287(1937), p.20201748.
  2. Smyth, G.*, Baliga, V.B.*, Gaede, A.H.*, Wylie, D.R. and Altshuler, D.L., 2022. Specializations in optic flow encoding in the pretectum of hummingbirds and zebra finches. Current Biology.
  3. McCay, M. G. (2001). Aerodynamic stability and maneuverability of the gliding frog Polypedates dennysi. Journal of Experimental Biology, 204(16), 2817-2826.



  • Must meet our standard PhD entry requirements
  • Do not need to be a veterinarian
  • A willingness to learn to use new tools and software
  • Ability to communicate effectively with mentors
  • Honest, proactive, and interested in their own self-development
  • Flexibility and ability to persevere when things do not go according to plan


  • Any experience using electrophysiological techniques
  • Some experience coding in any programming language

Neural recordings in frogs, filming frogs during behaviour. The PhD student will be trained in all aspects of this work and does not require prior experience.

This is a 3 year fully-funded studentship, covering tuition fees and stipend. This studentship is open to applicants eligible for "Home" fees. International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees. 

The studentship will commence October 2023.

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English language requirements see please see How to Apply.

If you are interested in applying for this position, please follow the link below.  Please use your personal statement to demonstrate any previous skills or experience you have in using quantitative research methods or other skills relevant to this project.

Interviews will be held March 2023 (specific date TBC).  

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to Dr. Andrea Gaede: agaede@rvc.ac.uk 

Deadline: 07/02/2023

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