Department Team

Department Team



Director

Prof. Dr. Meg Crofoot

Director

I am a behavioral ecologist and evolutionary anthropologist interested in the evolution of social complexity. In my research, I combine observational methods and field-based experiments with emerging remote sensing technology, to reveal how group-living animals overcome conflicts of interest to achieve shared goals. I am particularly interested in how group-level traits emerge and the ways in which they shape the collective ecology of animals’ societies. 


Collective movement Decision-making • Intergroup competition • Animal culture • Tool use • Social Foraging

Research Group Leader

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

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

IMPRS doctoral candidate

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

IMPRS doctoral candidate

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

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

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 • Decision-making • Food For Thought • Capuchins • Spider monkeys

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

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

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 Machine learning Sound processing   • Meerkats  • Hyenas

Zoë Goldsborough

IMPRS doctoral candidate

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

IMPRS doctoral candidate

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 Decision-making • Collective behavior • African wild dogs

Emily Grout

IMPRS doctoral candidate

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

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 

Kosmas Hench

Postdoc

I am an evolutionary geneticist, interested in the interaction of social and genetic inheritance within wild populations. By combining approaches from behavioral ecology and population genetics, I aim to understand the process of gene-culture co-evolution. Particularly, I am interested in feedback dynamics between animal behavior and gene flow during divergence and maintenance of population structure. In the interdisciplinary project ‘Food For Thought’, I am investigating dominance patterns in white-faced capuchin monkeys.


Gene-culture co-evolution Animal movement • Food For Thought • Speciation and divergence • Capuchins

Odd Jacobson

IMPRS doctoral candidate

I am a field biologist, studying demography, information, and movement ecology of white-faced capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica. Using 30-year long-term data, I aim to investigate how migration and resulting shifts in balance of power between groups affect the new groups’ ranging patterns and how immigrating males are spreading knowledge of resources of their former habitats. I explore if after fission events, daughter groups avoid each other when establishing new ranges, and whether these boundaries are relaxed over time as ‘bookkeeping’ is forgotten. 


Lomas Barbudal Monkey Project  Migration • Capuchins

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

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

Pranav Minasandra

IMPRS doctoral candidate

I am a computational biologist, interested in collective animal behaviour and movement patterns. My work is focused on social factors that affect synchronisation of wake-sleep cycles in animals. in cooperation with the Jordan lab, I will combine theoretical and experimental approaches to study these factors in cichlid fish. Using a model-fitting approach, I will address questions about the social dimension of synchronisation. 


Behavioural state dynamics Social entrainment Wake-sleep cycle • Spotted hyenas • Cichlid fish

Claudio Manuel Monteza Moreno

IMPRS doctoral candidate

I am a field biologist interested in behavior, ecology and natural history of forest mammals. I study the dynamics of biodiversity and the effects of disconnected habitats caused by anthropogenic change. By assessing the occupancy of community of forest mammals in the Panama Canal area, I aim to identify the degree of landscape connectivity across plantation mosaics that are disconnecting forests.


Landscape Connectivity Conservation • Coffee • Capuchins

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

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 

Vivek Hari Sridhar

IMPRS doctoral candidate

I am a computational biologist, interested in the interplay between individual and group level properties in animal societies. I investigate decision-making across scales: how individual behaviour translates to decisions at the group level and thus affects collective motion and information propagation. Currently, I analyse trajectories, construct agent-based models, and use Bayesian inference to study coordination of movement via vocal communication in meerkats. 


Communication & Collective Movement • Bayesian inference • Neural networks • Information • Meerkats

Kathrine Stewart

IMPRS doctoral candidate

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 

Dr. Mara Thomas

Postdoc

I am a neuroscientist and bioinformatician interested in developing computational methods to understand how and what animals communicate. Currently, I use unsupervised dimensionality reduction and clustering to reveal patterns in meerkat vocalizations. More generally, I am interested in all types of data-driven research that aim to decipher emotions and intentions of animals and how we can use this knowledge to protect them. 


Communication & Collective Movement Machine learning • Meerkats

Dr. Kate Tiedeman

Postdoc

I am a landscape ecologist interested in understanding how the past and present landscape impacts animal movement and human wildlife conflict. My current research focuses on quantifying nutritional landscapes in tropical forests using remote sensing. I use machine learning with hyperspectral imaging to model tree species distribution and sugar content of Dipteryx fruits. With this, I aim to understand drivers of animal movement and behavior at the community level. 


Remote sensing Temporal variation in resource distribution • Crop productivity • Human wildlife conflict • Dipteryx

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

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

Guest Scientist
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

Dr. Andrew Gersick

Guest Scientist
Princeton University

Robert Lessnau

Affiliated Scientist

I am a zoologist, focused on primatology and especially interested in the conservation of wildlife. My current field work focuses on safe capture of various species of primates for study and the associated logistics (chemical immobilization, restraint, data collection, safe release and radio telemetry). My underlying goal is to address the welfare and ethical implications surrounding animal capture while developing standards that provide guidelines / protocols that will aid the scientific community on better practices for animal restraint. 


Animal welfare Conservation • Prosimians • Neotropical primates

Dr. Hemal Naik

Guest Scientist

I am a computer vision specialist, developing augmented and virtual reality solutions. I aim to bridge the gap between computer science and animal behavior research. I designed techniques for tracking 3D animal movement and posture in the imaging hangar ‘The Barn’. Currently with the excellence cluster, I am designing a software framework to make the 3D tracking facility easily accessible, so that researches from multiple disciplines (biologists, psychologists) can test their ideas efficiently. 


Virtual Reality  Collective behavior • Wildlife conservation  • Birdwatching

Lucia Torrez

PhD Student
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama

I am a behavioral ecologist interested in interactions between animal groups, resource competition, and space-use. I combine direct observation and remote sensing data (such as GPS and radio telemetry) to investigate how risk of intergroup interactions and resource distribution influence foraging strategies and home range use in wild white-faced capuchin monkeys living in Panamá. 


Intergroup interactions Resource distribution • Space use • Food for Thought • Capuchins

Linnea Worsøe Havmøller

Guest Scientist
PhD Student
Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen

I am an ecologist interested in movement ecology, conservation strategies, and juvenile dispersal of mammals. In the Indonesian dhole or Asiatic wild dog, I study movement ecology and activity patterns with GPS tracking and camera trapping, and I identify potential corridors between protected areas on Java. Additionally, I study their diet to recognise important prey species and detect if and how often livestock is eaten, particularly intending to improve conservation strategies. 


Movement ecology Conservation • Food for Thought  • Dholes

Dr. Rasmus Worsøe Havmøller

Guest Scientist
Postdoc

I am a mammologist with a background in genetics, camera trapping and animal tracking, with broad interests in ecology and conservation that use multidisciplinary approaches to answer questions using the latest technological advances. I use high-resolution GPS data to assess competitive interactions in neotropical frugivores in collaboration with Meg Crofoot, while also working on developing a kinetic tracking tag in collaboration with Martin Wikelski’s team. My future research goal is to study dispersal of juvenile mammals. 


Food for Thought Tag development • Animal movement • Juvenile dispersal • Conservation

Science supporting staff

Dr. Alison Ashbury

Science Writer
+49 7531 9450569

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.

Please contact me if you need help with designing, writing, or editing:
• papers
• grant proposals
• other scientific content

Katrin Dieter

Assistant to the Director
+49 7531 9450574
+49 176 44465683

Please contact me for:
• Ordering equipment
• Receiving guests (accommodation etc.)
• Organizing workshops / symposia / events
• Field work (travel permit, organization)
• Contracts for collaboration
• Leave (vacation / sick)
• Help with Translations
• MPI mail address / account / keys
• Working with Master / Bachelor students (thesis / HiWi) 

Dr. Angelina Ruiz-Lambides

Science Coordinator
+49 7531 9450567

I am an evolutionary anthropologist, particularly interested in the reproduction ecology of macaques. Working as an International Science Coordinator, I support research activities at international field sites.

Please contact me for:
• Field equipment
• Import / export of sensitive equipment (drones etc.)
• Travel authorizations
• Conducting animal experiments (remotely / locally), ethical committees
• Documentation / archiving experimental data
• Setting up collaboration agreements (coauthorship, data rights / storage)  

Bianca Schell

Web Editor
+49 7531 9450562

I design the webpage for the department for the Ecology of Animal Societies and write about ongoing research projects. 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.

Please contact me for:
• Changes in a project page
• Publishing a project on the MPI homepage
• Changes in your bio / profile
• Videos / Press coverage of your work

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