Prof. Dr. Barbara Fruth

Group Leader
Department for the Ecology of Animal Societies
Research Group Fruth
+49 7531-94505-20
Konstanz - Bücklestrasse

Main Focus

I am a behavioural ecologist and evolutionary anthropologist. Since 1990, I am studying wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bonobos evolved striking peculiarities contrary to biological paradigms, as well as to its sister species, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). They have a social organisation, with cooperation and bonding among females despite female exogamy; a remarkable mating behaviour, with a broad spectrum of sexual interactions including social sex; moderate aggression, with a resulting female dominated social structure; extensive food sharing of animals and plants; and a wondrous lack of material culture.

I am interested in bonobo social behaviour, their ecological constraints and their role within the ecosystem. I am specifically interested in their life history with focus on their health status as a direct measure of fitness. In this context, I am investigating the transition from plants and other items ingested as food to those used for medicinal purpose. 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.

Another focus is conservation. The LuiKotale Bonobo project is very remote, and adjacent to Salonga National Park, a World Heritage Site of Nature. In close collaboration with the local population, I develop strategies conserving habitat and species suitable as model for large scale protection.

Curriculum Vitae

Recent Positions & Professional Experiences

since 2021 

Group Leader, Max-Planck-Institute of Animal Behavior (MPIAB), Konstanz, D

2020 

Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology and Primate Conservation, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Faculty of Science, School of Biological and Environmental Sciences UK

2016-2020

Reader/Associate Professor for Primate Behaviour and Conservation; Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK

Project Director, LuiKotale Bonobo Project (LKBP) of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp, Belgium / Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC/KMDA) 

Associate researcher, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPIEVAN) Leipzig, Germany / Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture (since January 2018); Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology (till December 2017) & Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) Munich, Germany / Department Biology II

2014-2016

Senior Lecturer (Privatdozentin = PD) & Principal Investigator, Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) Munich, Germany / Department Biology II

Project Director, LuiKotale Bonobo Project (LKBP) of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp, Belgium / Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC/KMDA) 

Associate researcher, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPIEVAN) Leipzig, Germany / Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology

2014

Co-Curator, Rainforest-Exhibition "Regenwald" (Rainforest) in the Museum "Lokschuppen Rosenheim", Germany

2010-2013

Senior Research Scientist, long-term research projects & Co-Director of the LKBP at MPIEVAN / Department of Primatology

2004-2010

Research group leader, project „The Cuvette Centrale”as a reservoir of medicinal plants" and Co-Director of the LKBP; MPIEVAN / Dept.Prim.

2001-2004

Research Scientist and group leader, as above; Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology (MPIV), Seewiesen, Germany.

Education

2013

Habilitation1

LMU Munich (Mentor: Prof. Dr. Gisela Grupe & Prof. Dr. Benedikt Grothe); “Challenging traditional concepts: Bonobo (Pan paniscus) behaviour and the quest for their habitat conservation by sustainable use of plants”.

1996-2001

1995-1997

Post-Doc

MPIV Seewiesen (Mentor: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wickler)

1990-1995

Dr. rer. nat. (Ph.D.)

LMU, Munich (Mentor: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Neuweiler) & Max-Planck Research Unit for Human Ethology and Max-Planck Human Ethology Filmarchive, Erling, Germany (Mentor: Prof. Dr. Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt); “Nests and Nest Groups in Wild Bonobos (Pan paniscus): Ecological and Behavioural Correlates.”

1988-1990

Diploma2 (M.Sc.)

LMU, Munich (Mentors: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Neuweiler; external: Prof. Dr. Christian Vogel & Dr. Christophe Boesch): "Nests, Nutcracking Sites and Population Density of Chimpanzees: Studies on Regional Differences in the South Western Part of Ivory Coast (Rép. de Côte d'Ivoire).”

1983-1988

Studies in Biology

Majors: ecology, human and animal ethology; Minors: botany, palaeontology.

Research & Fieldwork

2001 to date

Co-director, LuiKotale Bonobo Project: Continuation of the management and scientific supervision of long-term projects on bonobo socio-ecology, human eco-ethology, ethno-botany, floral diversity, and medicinal plants. Focus on prevalence and control of diseases including self-medication of wild bonobos in DRC. Founding, management and scientific supervision of projects with focus on environmental education and conservation. Research & Conservation Collaborations with Zoological Gardens in Europe

2001-2010

Founding, management and scientific supervision of the project „The Cuvette Centrale as a reservoir of medicinal plants", with focus on the biodiversity in the central Congo basin, its anthropogenic use and potential for sustainable use. 
Founding and co-direction of the research project on bonobo socio-ecology (Pan paniscus) at LuiKotale, DRC

1997-2000

Experimental investigations of bonobo dominance behaviour across different German zoos. Conceptual design and tutorial for diploma and master theses; teaching. Funding: LMU Munich & Max-Planck-Society (MPG)

1995-1997

Continuation of long-term project on bonobo socio-ecology in DRC. Research and teaching in Oxford (OH) USA, Seewiesen and Munich. Funding: Miami University Oxford (OH) & MPG

1990-1995

Founding and co-direction of research project on bonobo socio-ecology (Pan paniscus) at Lomako, DRC (then, Zaïre); Work was honoured in 1997 with the research award: “Therese-von-Bayern Preis”. Conceptual design and tutorial for diploma and master theses. Funding: MPG

1988-1990

Research in the frame of the project "Tradition in West African Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)" at Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) (directors: Dr. Ch. & H. Boesch, Univ. of Zurich). Funding: German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) & Leakey Foundation

 

1 The "right to lecture" (venia legendi) in German-speaking universities is traditionally restricted to those, who, in addition to possessing a PhD, acquire the degree of "Habilitation". The award is not itself a tenure decision (and thus, carries the title "Privatdozent" (=PD)). However, the habilitation has traditionally been a prerequisite for tenure.

2 Prior to the Bologna-reform, a Diplomarbeit at German Universities was an empirical research project typically conducted over a 1–2 yr period, without taught components, resulting in a dissertation of typically twice the size of a master's thesis at a UK university, leading to the degree of "Diplom-Biologe" / "Diplom-Biologin"

Go to Editor View