Team of the Department

Research group leader

Dr. Ariana Strandburg-Peshkin

Dr. Ariana Strandburg-Peshkin

Group Leader

My group studies the mechanisms and consequences of collective behavior in social animals. We seek to understand how individuals in groups coordinate and communicate with one another to make collective decisions. We combine high-resolution tracking of entire social groups in the wild with boots-on-the-ground field biology, and develop analytical approaches to comprehend the patterns of collective behavior we see in nature. 


Communication & Collective Movement • Coatis • Meerkats  • Hyenas  • Baboons 

Postdocs & PhD students

Dr. Shauhin E. Alavi

Dr. Shauhin E. Alavi

Postdoc

I am an evolutionary anthropologist, interested in how animals interact with their environments, incorporating a balance of theoretical modeling and intensive field work. I generate high resolution maps of the animals’ resource base, remotely sensing 3D structural and food attributes. I develop remote tracking solutions for monitoring rehabilitated great apes. Additionally, I take a comparative look at spatial cognition and decision making in frugivorous mammals in Panama.


Tag development • Food For Thought • New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation 
Baptiste Averly

Baptiste Averly

IMPRS Student

I am a behavioral ecologist broadly interested in the way social animals exchange information in different ecological contexts, and how this in turn affects group-level outcomes. My main goal is to characterize how meerkats use vocal signaling to maintain group-cohesion and achieve coordination during movement. I am using custom-made collars to collect high-resolution movement and acoustic data of whole groups of meerkats at the Kalahari Meerkat Project in South Africa. 


Communication & Collective Movement • Spatial and acoustic data • Meerkats

Dr. Brendan Barrett

Postdoc

I am an evolutionary behavioral ecologist and anthropologist, combining theoretical approaches like mathematical modeling and empirical field work to study extragenetic inheritance. In capuchin monkeys, we aim to understand how cultural transmission and evolution, different types of social learning, life history, territorial inheritance, and dispersal shape animal behavior and sociality. A centerpiece of our research is the extractive foraging and the evolution of tool use. To understand drivers of its advent, we cross-compare tool using and non-tool using capuchin populations and e.g. map behavior on resource availability. 


Bayesian statistics • Theoretical modeling • Social learning • Foraging innovation & Tool use • Capuchins 

Maria Camila Calderon

Maria Camila Calderon

IMPRS Student

I study group foraging in the Neotropical greater spear-nosed bat. In collaboration with Teague O'Mara and the Dechmann lab, I map resource distribution and combine it with high-resolution movement and acoustic data of whole groups of bats. I investigate how group foraging decisions can be facilitated by social information and the social interactions of the groups.


Group foraging • High-resolution spatial and acoustic data • Bats
Dr. Mauricio Cantor

Dr. Mauricio Cantor

Postdoc

I am a postdoctoral marine ecologist, fascinated by emergent strategies in nature. My primary research contributes to the understanding of how animal social systems emerge from simple rules among interacting individuals. Combining theoretical models with empirical data, I study the cooperative foraging between artisanal fishermen and wild dolphins in southern Brazil toward the common goal of catching mullet fish. 


Human-animal cooperation  • Biological networks  • Dolphins  • Whales 

Grace Davis

Grace Davis

PhD Student

I am a behavioral ecologist with a keen interest in group decision-making, movement, social networks, and leadership. I apply social foraging and collective decision-making theory on multiple groups of wild black-handed spider monkeys and white-faced capuchins living on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. To gain a greater understanding of how their physiology influences their foraging, leadership and decision-making processes, I combine GPS data and empirical field research with laboratory analyses of hormones.

Social foraging • Leadership • Food For Thought • Capuchins • Spider monkeys 

Dr. Vlad Demartsev

Dr. Vlad Demartsev

Postdoc

I am a behavioural ecologist interested in communication in social mammals and its self-regulated coordination. In meerkats, I study the interaction aspect of communication such as the timing of the vocalisation and the social dynamics of vocal exchanges. I also explore breathing as a potential indicator of vocalisation intention and as a possible social cue aiding in regulation of signalling turns. 


Communication & Collective Movement • Turn-taking • Meerkats  • Hyrax

Dr. Kiran Dhanjal-Adams

Dr. Kiran Dhanjal-Adams

Postdoc

I am an ecological modeller using machine learning to classify calls in meerkats, hyenas and coatis, to understand how communication influences group dynamics over multiple spatial and temporal scales. Using GPS and audio data from collared wild individuals, allows us to analyse how group movement and cohesion is facilitated by vocal communication. Looking at inter-species variation gives us insight into differences in short versus long distance communication and differences between very cohesive versus fission-fusion species.


Communication & Collective Movement • Machine learning • Bird migration • Connectivity • Meerkats

Dr. Mathieu Duteil

Dr. Mathieu Duteil

Postdoc

I am a research engineer, studying communication and collective behavior across scales. Mainly, I employ machine learning to categorize calls of meerkats, hyenas, and coatis. In an international collaboration we aim to recognize patterns in vocalizations to gain a greater understanding of correlations between group structure and communication. Further, I try to differentiate voice timbres to distinguish individuals. 


Communication & Collective Movement • Sound processing • Machine learning • Meerkats  • Hyenas

Zoë Goldsborough

Zoë Goldsborough

IMPRS Student

I am a behavioral ecologist, studying the cultural transmission of behaviors and how this relates to socio-ecological, environmental, and individual differences. By combining observations with non-invasive experiments and statistical modeling, I aim to learn more about animal culture. I study social learning of stone tool use in island living white-faced capuchin monkeys, with the aim to discover which factors drive the development of this behavior, as island populations seem to be more prone to develop tool use. 


Tool use Cultural transmission • Thanatology • Capuchins
Alison Govaerts

Alison Govaerts

IMPRS Student

I am an ecologist, interested in collective behavior and decision-making in African wild dogs. I investigate their vocal repertoire and how vocal communication influences individual and group behavior. I study how group decisions emerge from individual actions, and how this is influenced by the individual’s characteristics and social bonds and the environment. Combining high resolution tracking data with recordings of vocalizations and direct observations, I will investigate how they make decisions, maintain group cohesion and coordinate themselves.


Communication & Collective Movement • Decision-making • Collective behavior • African wild dogs
Emily Grout

Emily Grout

IMPRS Student

I am a behavioural ecologist, interested in communication in social mammals. Collaring white-nosed coatis living in Panama, I collect audio, high-resolution accelerometer and GPS data to assemble a call repertoire in combination with observed behaviours. I study the resulting effects of vocalisations on group cohesion, dynamics and movement, and the influence of environmental variation on mechanisms used in communication.


Communication & Collective Movement • Food For Thought • Coatis 

Dr. Roi Harel

Dr. Roi Harel

Postdoc

I am a behavioral ecologist, primarily aimed at understanding the factors governing decision making, leadership and fine-scale behavior of animals in ecologically and socially relevant contexts. I develop state-of-the-art tracking technologies with the minimal equipment to gain maximal reliable information about behavior. I combine field-based observational and experimental approaches with supervised machine-learning to understand how groups solve conflicts of interests relating to food rewards, staying cohesive as a group and reach consensus decisions concerning where to go. 


Leadership • Tag development • Baboons 

Dr. Urs Kalbitzer

Dr. Urs Kalbitzer

Research Scientist

I am a behavioral ecologist interested in the evolution of primate social behavior, animal responses to environmental changes, and the enhancement and validation of quantitative methods applied in behavioral ecology. In white-faced capuchin monkeys and red colobus monkeys, two species differing a lot in their ecology, I compare female social relationships and the resulting fitness consequences. I study potential mechanisms underlying this fitness-sociality link by analyzing behavior, physiological parameters, and ecological variability like resource distribution. 


Female social connectedness • Quantitative method validation • Capuchins • Colobus monkeys 

Carter Loftus

Carter Loftus

PhD Student

I am a behavioral ecologist interested in how group-living animals navigate a complex social environment and how relationships influence everyday decisions at the individual, the collective and the population level. I study the social impacts on decision-making in wild olive baboons, using GPS, inertial sensors, and video recordings, in conjunction with direct observations. 3D laser scans help me produce a physical reconstruction of sleep sites. I combine these with thermal imagery recordings to unveil agitation at night and to explore the influence of the social environment on sleep in baboon groups.  


Sleep site Decision-making • Food For Thought Baboons

Dr. Tracy Montgomery

Dr. Tracy Montgomery

Postdoc

I am a behavioral ecologist studying the mechanisms and evolution of sociality via an integrative approach that links physiological mechanisms, behavioral phenotypes, and ecological forces. In collaboration with Zea Walton and the Ankoatsifaka Sifaka Research Project, we investigate the collective ecology of Verreaux's sifaka and their primary predator, the fosa. We employ state-of-the-art tracking technology in conjunction with traditional field observations and long-term data to examine the intersection of social dynamics, spatial decision-making, and predator-prey interactions. 


Collective behavior Social ecology • Fosa • Sifaka
Dr. Chase L. Nuñez

Dr. Chase L. Nuñez

Postdoc

I am a community ecologist specialized in ecological forecasting. I am interested in understanding how the processes that connect individuals respond to environmental variability so we can better predict how large-scale changes in climate, land-use, and resources will change the composition and function of groups and ecosystems. My research program focuses on the social and ecological determinants of decision-making in dispersing male baboons as they leave their natal group, and eventually join a new one.


Decision-making Ecological forecasting • Baboons 

Kathrine Stewart

Kathrine Stewart

IMPRS Student

I am a behavioral ecologist broadly interested in how animals' nutritional goals influence their movement, sociality and decision-making with respect to the types and quantities of foods they consume. Currently, I study the individual and collective foraging strategies animals adopt to optimize nutrient intake and energetic costs as food availability varies. In bonobos, I focus on how individual nutrient requirements influence group movement and fission-fusion dynamics. 


Decision-making • Collective Behavior • Bonobos 

Alexander Vining

Alexander Vining

PhD Student

I am a behavioral ecologist and data analyst with a focus on the evolution of cognitive maps, the mental representation of space. I am especially interested in how elements of primate ecology, like a fruit-based diet and arboreal habitat, facilitate the evolution of cognitive maps. To answer this, I study the movement of kinkajous, an arboreal mammal that shares an ecological niche with humans’ primate ancestors. I aim to identify whether kinkajous supplement route learning with place learning. 


Cognitive maps  • Food For Thought  • Kinkajous 

Dr. Zea Walton

Dr. Zea Walton

Postdoc

I am a carnivore ecologist broadly interested in animal movement and predator-prey interactions. My research aims to investigate how predators influence the collective behavior and social networks of group living prey species. Together with Tracy Montgomery, I integrate the fosa, Madagascar’s largest native predator, into long-term research on Verreaux’s sifaka, to understand the mechanisms of behavioral coordination, patterns of information flow and decision making of the sifaka in relation to their most important predator. 


Collective behavior Social ecology Predator-prey interactions • Fosa • Sifaka

Associate researchers

Dr. Michelle Brown

University of California, Santa Barbara

I am a primate behavioral ecologist and study feeding competition among individuals, groups, and species in order to understand the short- and long-term fitness effects of varying social strategies. As the Director of the Ngogo Monkey Project, I lead a team that works with many groups of five monkey species in Kibale National Park in Uganda. My research incorporates behavioral observations, endocrinology, plant reproductive phenology, vertebrate censuses, and playback experiments. 


Communication & Feeding competition • Endocrinology • Red-tailed monkeys • Blue monkeys • Grey-cheeked mangabeys • Olive baboons • L'Hoest's monkeys

Linnea Worsøe Havmøller, PhD student

Linnea Worsøe Havmøller, PhD student

Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen

Science supporting staff

Dr. Alison Ashbury

Dr. Alison Ashbury

Science Writer

I am an evolutionary biologist, interested in the study of movement ecology and collective behavior, especially among primates. I earned a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Zurich, where I studied movement and space-use among Bornean orangutans. In my role as Scientific Writer, I collaborate with members of the Dept. for the Ecology of Animal Societies to develop and write papers and other materials relating to their research. 


Bianca Schell

Bianca Schell

Web Editor

I design the webpage for the department of the Ecology of Animal Societies. I gather and publish information about ongoing scientific projects and about researchers working on them. I did my Master’s in Life Science and was recently studying decision-making in locusts in the department of Collective Behavior.

As I love nature and its beauties, I am happy to contribute to spreading knowledge of scientifically relevant work on amazing species, their communication, decision-making, group movement and conservation.

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