I am a cognitive behavioural
ecologist and my main research goal is to understand the evolutionary
function of diversity of cognition among individual animals and primates in
particular. I am specialized in studying the cognitive strategies that wild
primates use in their daily search for food, by using a combination of detailed
observations of the characteristics of different socio-ecological contexts
(e.g., in the zoo vs. the wild), longitudinal observations of the behaviours of
individual monkeys, apes, and humans in a variety of populations and state of
the art modelling techniques. I am particularly interested in how primates
localise energy-rich food within a highly competitive rainforest environment in
which food production periods are less seasonal and predictable than in temperate
zones. My personal challenge is to reveal the existence of cognitive complex
skills such as episodic-like memory, flexible planning and information transfer
within natural evolutionary relevant conditions in order to increase our
understanding of how large-brained primates are able to buffer periods of
scarcity and were able to evolve large and costly brains. My ultimate aim is to
provide novel insights into the evolutionary function of primate foraging
cognition and its variation and plasticity.
For more information, please visit my website.
2007 PhD, ”Fruits of enlightenment. Fruit localization strategies in wild mangabey monkeys”, School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, Scotland, U.K.
2001 MSc Ecology (including BSc degree), “Travel leadership in wild Thomas langurs (Presbytis thomasi). Who wins the conflict?”, Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam
2019-current Group leader of the Foraging Cognition Group, at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour; 2 days per week.
2016-current Lecturer & Researcher in Evolutionary Psychobiology at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam (2 days per week). Developed a Minor in Evolutionary Psychobiology - unique in the world - and coordinate and teach courses in Evolutionary Psychobiology (12EC), Ethology (6EC) and Evolutionary Anthropology (6EC).
2016-2019 Group leader of the Foraging Cognition Group, at the Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVAN; 3 days per week since 2016).
2008-2015 Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. (Extended yearly, based on performance).
2006-2008 Demonstrating work and development of course practicums for Biology and Psychobiology students at the Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam
Established Research facilities
2015-current Mbendjele Foraging Project - I set up a facility to investigate the behaviour and foraging skills of human foragers, as well as the chemical content of their food sources. Students work in close collaboration with students from the University of Marien Ngouabi in the Republic of Congo (2° 28 N, 17° 26 E; not Democratic Republic of Congo)
2016-current ARTIS zoo - I set up facilities to measure the cognitive performances of captive animals, such as the chimpanzees. Students work in close collaboration with ARTIS employees in mental enrichment studies.
2001-current Three Primate Research sites – I set up prolonged close collaboration with fieldwork sites where students can measure cognitive performances of wild habituated animals, such as chimpanzees and mangabey monkeys. Two sites have access to >20 years of demographic, genetic, ecological and behavioural data (Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire and Kibale National Park, Uganda). The third site, Gishwati Forest Reserve, Rwanda contains an isolated primate community that is ideal for experimental studies.