Dr. Caroline Schuppli

IMPRS Faculty
Max Planck Research Group Leader

Main Focus

I am an Evolutionary Biologist and broadly interested in the evolution and development of cognition. I aim to understand how different aspects of sociability and environmental complexity are interrelated with the evolution of enhanced cognition. Rather than cognitive potential, cognitive abilities are the evolutionary relevant units of cognition. Because in most species with high cognitive abilities those are heavily shaped by developmental factors, I am especially interested in the factors that affect the development of cognitive abilities.

My main research focus lies on the development of cognitive performance, ecological skills, and cultural repertoires in immature wild orangutans. I direct the SUAQ orangutan research project at the Suaq Balimbing monitoring station in South Aceh Indonesia, where orangutan research has been conducted since the 1990ties. My team and I have been following a group of immature orangutans with their mothers and other association partners since 2010. These longitudinal and cross-sectional data allow us to investigate which factors during immaturity affect orangutans’ cognitive performance as well as the size and complexity of their skill repertoires. By comparing multiple populations and species of orangutans I aim draw conclusions on the evolutionary level. By investigating broader patterns across a wider range of species and using different comparative approaches, I aim to also shed light on the connection between cognitive development, life history traits, and cognitive evolution across species.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Since November 2020: Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (MPI AB) in  Konstanz, Germany.
  • Since January 2022: Faculty member of the International Max Planck Research School for Quantitative Behaviour Ecology and Evolution (IMPRS QBEE).
  • Since November 2021: Freigeist fellow funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.
  • Since November 2020: Guest Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA), Leipzig, Germany.
  • Since July 2019: President of the board of the SUAQ foundation in Wädenswil, Switzerland.
  • Since January 2017: Director of the SUAQ Orangutan Research Project in South Aceh, Indonesia.
  • Since January 2019: Adjunct researcher at the Department of Anthropology (AIM) at the University of Zürich, Switzerland.


  • 2019 – 2020: SNF Advanced post mobility fellow at the Leipzig Research Center for early child development at Leipzig University, Germany, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
  • 2016 – 2018: Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Anthropology, University of Zürich, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.


  • 2012 – 2016 PhD in Evolutionary Biology. Department of Anthropology, University of Zürich, Switzerland.
  • 2010 – 2012 Master of Science in Anthropology. Department of Anthropology, University of Zürich, Switzerland. 
  • 2007 – 2010 Bachelor of Science in BiologyUniversity of Zürich, Switzerland.
  • 2002 – 2006 Eidgenössische Matura with type Biology Chemistry, Kantonsschule Pfäffikon-Nuolen, Switzerland.
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