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Job Description

The M3-BIORES (Measure, Model and Manage Bio-Responses) group in the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering (, Department of Biosystems at KU Leuven is seeking a motivated PhD candidate to join us in a research project that will determine how vocalisations can be used to assess welfare in domestic and captive-wild birds. M3-BIORES is one of the biggest scientific groups working in the field of integration of biological responses in monitoring and management of human and animal systems. . The animal team currently have 13 members comprising postdocs, PhD, Master students, who are supported by dedicated technical and administrative staff ( The Department of Biosystems provides a supportive and collaborative environment to work.
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Project description :
Emotional states are increasingly emphasised in assessments of animal welfare, but how to assess them remain a central ongoing endeavour in animal welfare science. Vocal indicators of positive emotional states in birds is understudied but with the potential to obtain non-invasive and moment to moment information about the welfare of billions of farmed poultry as well as non-domesticated species in the EU and worldwide.

The project aims to identify indicators of positive emotional states in domestic poultry in controlled, laboratory setting that could be used in the classification of emotions in vocalisations of a captive wild species in a zoo environment. An innovative and key part of the project will be developing classification models using a unique multi-species vocalisation dataset.

Duties & responsibilities :
The PhD candidate will tackle the computational aspect of this project, collaborating with the PI and 2 postdocs on the project who are experts in animal behaviour and bioacoustics, and acoustic event detection, machine learning and video processing. The candidate is expected to:
- Be responsible for experimental design, data collection, algorithm development, data analysis relevant to their research.
- Collaborate with the team and external partners (e.g. farmers, zoo) to ensure that research and valorisation goals are met and results are efficiently disseminated to the public and stakeholders through peer reviewed publications, conferences, workshops, and meetings.
- Bring their own ideas to enhance the project and contribute to future research directions of the group (e.g. by assisting in the writing of research proposals)
- Be open to contributing their expertise to other running projects in the team when necessary and appropriate

Skills :
The candidate will develop include, but are not limited to, audio digital signal processing (DSP), feature design and selection, sound event detection (SED), and building (un-)supervised machine learning models. The PhD candidate will also gain practical experience in bioacoustics and animal behaviour by setting up and recording vocalisations in animal enclosures at ZOO Planckendael and interacting with zoo staff for knowledge exchange.

The candidate should be a talented machine learning researcher with expertise in, and flair for, Audio Signal Processing, and who has a keen interest in developing algorithms for animal behaviour analysis with a purpose to improve animal welfare. We value candidates who have:
- MSc degree in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Computational Biology, Data Science or other relevant disciplines.
- A strong background in digital signal processing, data analysis, algorithms development, and/or machine learning.
- Experience with computer programming, e.g. Python / MATLAB with hands-on ML packages (Pytorch, Tensorflow) and audio processing packages (Librosa, Essentia).
- High level of curiosity, personal integrity, and motivation to conduct outstanding research.
- Good organisation and time management abilities to balance research, coursework, and other activities.
- Good communication skills in written and verbal English.
- The ability and inclination to work as part of a multidisciplinary team in a collaborative environment
- Experience with bioacoustics is preferred, but not necessary.
- A work permit for Belgium is desirable.

- A full-time PhD position for 4 years, subject to a positive review following the first 9 months of research.
- State-of-the-art infrastructure at a top-ranking University, a highly competitive salary, outstanding health care benefits, and an attractive annual leave offering.
- Excellent guidance and mentoring by our young, dynamic and multidisciplinary team of fellow PhD students, postdocs and promotors
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

Job Information

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Leuven, Flemish Brabant, Belgium
Closing Date
July 29, 2022