Department Team

Department Team


Prof. Dr. Meg Crofoot

IMPRS Board Member
IMPRS Faculty
Managing 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 Leaders

Prof. Dr. Barbara Fruth

Group Leader
IMPRS Board Member
IMPRS Faculty
+49 7531-94505-20

I am a behavioural ecologist and evolutionary anthropologist, interested in bonobo social behaviour, their ecological constraints, their role within the ecosystem, and their life history. One of my foci is their food repertoire ranging from items ingested for nutritional to those used for medicinal purpose. For this, I follow an interdisciplinary approach integrating herbaria, analyses of plant’s phytochemical and pharmacological properties, and their effect on growth, health and fitness of individual bonobos.

Nutritional Ecology • Conservation • Life history • Community Ecology • Bonobos

Dr. Ariana Strandburg-Peshkin

Group Leader
IMPRS Faculty

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 

Research Scientists

Nadia Balduccio

IMPRS Doctoral Student

I am an ecologist specialized in tropical ecosystems. I investigated a diverse array of wildlife in South America, Africa and Asia, putting conservation at the forefront of my work. In my PhD, I focus on the effect of human (Homo sapiens) hunting on mammal abundance and movement patterns. In the wider study site of the LuiKotale Bonobo Project, DRC, I assess the mammal community across areas that have been protected for different lengths of time.

Conservation • Monitoring • Mammal Community • Hunting

Dr. Brendan Barrett


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 

Dr. Natalia Borrego


I am a postdoctoral behavioral ecologist interested in the selective forces shaping sociality and the proposed evolutionary links between sociality and advanced cognition. I study variability in the social structure and cooperative complexity of African lions across habitats with differing levels of resource richness. I aim to identify conditions under which sociality emerges (and breaks down), as well as conditions favoring cognitive complexity during cooperation.  

African lion Animal cognition • Social complexity • Ethology • Non-stationarity

Maria Camila Calderon

IMPRS Doctoral 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

Chi Hsin Chen

I am a behavioral ecologist with training in comparative psychology and ethology. Broadly, I am interested in social cognition, communication, and decision-making in animal societies. For my PhD, I will be studying how spotted hyenas communicate to obtain relevant information that further shapes their decision-making on group coordination. I am excited to combine acoustic, GPS, and accelerometer data to address questions on the social decision-making process in spotted hyenas.

Dr. Vlad Demartsev


I am a behavioral 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

Louise Ducroix

IMPRS Doctoral Student

Dr. Genevieve E. Finerty


I am an ecologist, broadly, interested in the interface between spatial and behavioural ecology. As well as a focus on fundamental ecology, I am also interested in how theory can be used to inform conservation and management efforts. These days I mostly work with lions, using long-term datasets on movement and observations to explore how the distribution and richness of resources drive social and spatial structure in populations. I enjoy using quantitative approaches (mostly in R) and working collaboratively. 

African lion Animal movement • Dispersal • Fission-fusion • Non-stationarity

Lester Fox Rosales

IMPRS Doctoral Student

Dr. Gabriella Gall


In my current research I try to understand how an individual’s ability to coordinate with others is affected by experiences early in life and whether these differences ultimately affect individual fitness. I address these questions by studying vocal signals used to coordinate group activity in two study systems, the domestic chicken and the common pheasant. This work is in close collaboration with Dr Joah Madden (University of Exeter) and Prof Andrew Radford (University of Bristol). 

Communication & Collective Movement  •  Group coordination  •  Spatial and acoustic data  •  Common pheasant  • Domestic chicken

Zoë Goldsborough

IMPRS Doctoral 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

Emily Grout

IMPRS Doctoral Student
IMPRS Student Representative

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


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 

Odd Jacobson

IMPRS Doctoral Student

I am a wildlife ecologist, specialized in field-based behavioral research. I am broadly interested in animal movement and space-use in group-living animals. By combining longitudinal data with spatial analytical tools, I investigate how demographic change influences home range behavior in groups of white-faced capuchins. My current research focuses on how sleep site locations can be used to leverage historical data from before GPS technology was introduced. Using this knowledge, I plan to address how within-group energetic requirements and novel spatial information introduced from immigrants drive space-use patterns over the long-term. 

Lomas Barbudal Monkey Project  Capuchins   Immigration   Longitudinal data   Home range 

Dr. Urs Kalbitzer

IMPRS Faculty
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 

Etienne Lein

IMPRS Doctoral Student
International Fieldwork Coordinator

Laura Lüthy

IMPRS Doctoral Student

Pranav Minasandra

IMPRS Doctoral Student

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 Student

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


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. Hemal Naik


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

Dr Chase L Núñez, PhD


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 

Sonya Pashchevskaya

IMPRS Doctoral Student

My main interest is social behaviour of bonobos (Pan paniscus): its evolution, structure and functions. I am fascinated by the dynamics of bonobo networks: how their properties change with ecological factors and how individuals’ positions vary in the potential influence on network structure. Using my mathematical background, I apply social network analysis to study global and local patterns of associations and interactions between individuals within a community. For my MSc thesis, I focused on how network characteristics influence disease spread in the bonobos of LuiKotale. 

Bonobo Network analysis Social behaviour

Dr. Akanksha Rathore


I am broadly interested in the emergent behaviours and functions in animal groups (and societies). For my PhD, I studied emergent group behaviour of blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) in the context of predation and mate-choice. I like to employ Computer Engineering concepts and aerial imaging techniques to answer questions related to Ecology. In future projects, I would like to gain a multi-perspective understanding of group-living animals and their ecosystems by employing interdisciplinary approaches. At the MPIAB, I will be studying mate-choice dynamics in blackbuck leks. 

Collective behaviour • Machine learning • Aerial imagery • Neural networks • Field ecology

Dr. Vivek Hari Sridhar

IMPRS Alumni

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 Student

I am a behavioral ecologist broadly interested in how group-living animals make decisions. Currently, I study foraging decisions by wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) to better understand how individuals optimize their nutrient intake and energetic costs as food availability varies, and how these individual foraging decisions influence group fission-fusion dynamics. I am also investigating how social and environmental factors influence groups’ decisions about when and how to interact with one another. 

Decision-making • Foraging Behavior • Bonobos 

Dr. Kate Tiedeman


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

Doctoral 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


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

Undergraduate & Master students

Beguide Bobo Naom Daov

MSc Student

I am a Master-Student at the University of Bourgogne (France). In the frame of the CASCB supported focus on the “Ecological and social triggers of human (predator) and animal (prey) movement patterns in Central DRC, I joined the LuiKotale Bonobo Project (LKBP) in 2023.  I captured, collared and radio-tracked three species of duiker (Cephalophus spp.). With support of an ERASMUS+ mobility scholarship, I am now in the group led by Barbara Fruth to investigate data of spatial use, home range and activity of the three duiker species.

Affiliated and Guest Scientists

Dr. Mattia Bessone


I am a postdoctoral ecologist in the team of Prof. Dr. Barbara Fruth, interested in understanding the factors influencing the viability of wildlife populations, with a focus on Central Africa and the Congo Basin. In my current project, financed by the University of Konstanz via the Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour, I aim to integrate human hunters as a factor, evaluating their role in driving prey behaviour and population dynamics, but also to highlight the importance of wildlife for the livelihood of local people. My ambition is to assess the sustainability of wildlife hunting by understanding ongoing predator-prey dynamics, including traditional practices and socio-economic aspects. In close collaboration with the LuiKotale Bonobo Project, I conduct my research in the Province of Mai-Ndombe, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where I work in collaboration with six villages, representing approximatively 400 households.

Monitoring methods Predator-prey Wildlife use Conservation

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

Dr. Melodie Kreyer


My research interest is disease transmission in wild primates and I am involved in field studies on bonobos (Pan paniscus) and mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). Africa experiences profound environmental changes posing challenges to wild animals in general and wild primates in particular. Most species of nonhuman primates are exposed to habitat changes due to human encroachment. Apart from habitat loss, the vicinity to human settlements increases the risk for transmission of human pathogens. Using physiological markers that are indicative of changing health status, I am interested in how the deterioration of health affects social behavioral, feeding, activity patterns, and reproduction.

Bonobo Health Self-medication Sickness behavior

Robert Lessnau

Affiliated Scientist
Audubon Nature Institute

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

Lucia Torrez

Doctoral 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

Doctoral 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

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. Johanna Eckert

International Fieldwork Coordinator

Etienne Lein

IMPRS Doctoral Student
International Fieldwork Coordinator


Dr. Shauhin E. Alavi


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

Doctoral 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. Mauricio Cantor


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 

Dr. Kiran Dhanjal-Adams


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. Kosmas Hench


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

Anna Isele, M.A.

Assistant to the Director

Carter Loftus

Doctoral 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. Edward McLester


My research interests are focusing on African primate behavioural ecology. I am particularly interested in cercopithecine monkeys, which are typically under-studied compared to the great apes but can provide equally important insights into primate community ecology. I am currently working on field projects investigating cercopithecine and colobine abundance and behaviour at the LuiKotale and Ekongo (DRC) field sites. 

Primate Community • Cercopithecines • Colobines

Dr. Angelina Ruiz-Lambides

Science Coordinator

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)  

Dr. Mara Thomas


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
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