Project proposal details

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Project title
Sex biases in natural history collections - museum versus wild sex ratios
Contact name
Natalie Cooper
Project based at
Natural History Museum
Project description

Natural history collections have lots of biases, but one we've been investigating in detail recently is sex bias. We've already found that 40% of birds and 48% of mammal specimens are female when looking at over 2 million records from natural history collections. These biases seem to be related to "showy" traits and sexual dimorphism, but also differences in how different species are collected. This study raised more questions than answers, so there are a series of cool projects that can be done with this kind of data. I'm happy to discuss other ideas too.

Wild versus museum sex ratios. Perhaps we shouldn't expect 50:50 sex ratios in museums if they aren't 50:50 in the wild? The last comprehensive study to collate wild sex ratios for birds was in 2014 (Szekely et al 2014). There hasn't been one in mammals for decades. This project would involve data collection from the literature, then using R to compare ratios in wild and museum populations.

Our group are broadly interested in sex, gender and diversity, including representation in museum exhibits, so there would also be opportunities to get involved with this work and discussions arising if this is of interest.
Additional requirements
Must be happy to use R!
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

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Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.

Project length limitations
3.5 months, 5 months
Suitable for
Ecology Evolution and Conservation, Taxonomy and Biodiversity [NHM MSc], Biosystematics [NHM MRes]