Team of the LuiKotale Bonobo Project

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


Nadia Balduccio

IMPRS Doctoral Student
IMPRS Student Representative

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. Mattia Bessone


I am an ecologist interested in understanding the factors influencing the viability of wildlife populations. I aim to integrate human hunters as a factor, evaluating their role in driving prey behaviour and population dynamics. In the Province of Mai-Ndombe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, I assess prey availability and behaviour using a combination of direct observations, camera-traps, passive acoustic monitoring, and telemetry, while collaborating with local people to assess their hunting effort and success. My goal is to assess the sustainability of the system, linking the area’s population dynamics with traditional practices and socio-economic aspects.

Monitoring methods Predator-prey Wildlife use Conservation

Francesca Decina

Doctoral Student

I am interested in mechanisms driving sexual selection, the strategies of individuals to overcome constrains deriving from intra-sexual mate competition and mate choice. In my PhD I will investigate the strategies of male bonobos to enhanced mating and reproductive success and the response of females towards different male mating strategies. I am also interested in the nature of social relationships between males and females, and how demography and kinship affect life history profiles and fitness of individual males.

Mating strategies Reproductive success Social relationships

Dr. Gottfried Hohmann

Research Scientist

My current research focuses on life history strategies and ontogenic processes. I am interested in the mechanism driving age-related changes in somatic growth, reproductive maturation, migration, and social behavior. How does parental effort affect individual life history profiles of mother and offspring, and to what extent are individual life histories influenced by demographic traits?

DevelopmentReproductive StrategiesDemography Social Relationships

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

Sonya Pashchevskaya

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

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 

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