Jenna Kohles

IMPRS Doctoral Student
Department of Migration
Research Group Dechmann

Main Focus

I am a behavioral ecologist, interested in the ecology and evolution of social behavior. I study the social strategies animals use to overcome challenges imposed by unpredictable environments, in the wild. In particular, I investigate benefits and costs of social information use and communication in the foraging context, and the relationship between resource distribution and social foraging strategy. I address my research questions with bats because of their impressive ecological and social diversity and energetically demanding lifestyle which places strong selective pressure on adaptive social strategies.

In my Masters I investigated the potential for social information encoded in echolocation calls to facilitate the social foraging strategy of the ephemeral insect swarm specialist, Molossus molossus. Currently for my PhD, I am investigating the social foraging strategies of two more neotropical bat species that also specialize on ephemeral prey, Noctilio albiventris and Noctilio leporinus. I use miniaturized biologging technologies to record foraging movements and vocalizations for whole colonies of these bats and additional field methods to map the dynamic prey landscapes they experience. Using these data I investigate foraging movements in relation to group members and prey distribution to test hypotheses about how distribution of food resources in space and time and qualities of social information drive social foraging strategies.   

Curriculum Vitae

Since Jan 2019: PhD student at the MPIAB and the University of Konstanz in the International Max Planck Research School for Quantitative Behaviour, Ecology, and Evolution from Lab to Field under the supervision of Dina Dechmann

Since Jan 2019: PhD Fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Gamboa, Panama

Oct 2016–Nov 2018: Master student in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Konstanz, Germany; Master thesis at the MPIAB: “The communicative potential of echolocation to coordinate group hunting behavior in the velvety free-tailed bat (Molossus molossus)”

Jan–May 2016 : Research assistant in the lab of Rachel Page studying heterospecific social learning at STRI in Gamboa, Panama

Aug–Nov 2015: Research assistant in the lab of Walt Koenig studying seed dispersal by western scrub jays with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Carmel Valley, CA, USA

Aug 2011–May 2015: Bachelor student in Wildlife Biology at Clemson University, SC, USA; Honors thesis: “The effect of coyote (Canis latrans) scent on foraging behavior of mammalian species native to the southeastern U.S.”

May–Jul 2014: Research assistant in the lab of Dina Dechmann studying behavior of tent-making bats at STRI in Gamboa, Panama

May–Aug 2013: Wildlife technician conducting surveys for endangered bats with Ecological Solutions Environmental Consulting Company, GA, USA


  1. Halat Z, Dechmann DKN, Kranstauber B, Zegarek M, Kohles JE, Muturi M, Calderón-Capote MC, Ruczynski I. 2024. Foraging male parti-coloured bats use local enhancement and group facilitation during spermatogenesis. Animal Behaviour. (In press)
  2. Kohles JE, Page RA, Wikelski M, Dechmann DKN. 2024. Seasonal shifts in tropical insect ephemerality drive bat foraging effort. Current Biology, 34, 1-8. 
  3. Dietzer MT*, Keicher L*, Kohles JE*, Hurme ER, Ruczynski I, Borowik T, Zegarek M, Choinski M, Dechmann DKN. 2024. High temporal resolution data reveal low bat and insect activity over managed meadows in central Europe. Scientific Reports, 14, 1-10. *shared first authorship
  4. Kohles JE and Dechmann DKN. 2023. 'Social foraging and information transfer', in Fenton B & Russo D (eds) A Natural History of Bat Foraging. Elsevier. pp. 123-138.
  5. Choinski M, Zegarek M, Halat Z, Borowik T, Kohles JE, Dietzer M, Eldegard K, McKay AIR, Johns SE, Ruczynski I. 2023. 'Insect detection on high-resolution images using Deep Learning', in Saeed K, Dvorsky J, Nishiuchi N & Fukumoto M (eds) Proceedings of the 22nd International Computer Information Systems and Industrial Management Conference, Tokyo. Springer Nature Switzerland AG, pp. 225-239. 
  6. Kohles JE, O’Mara MT, Dechmann DKN. 2022. A conceptual framework to predict social information use based on food ephemerality and individual resource requirements. Biological Reviews, 97(6), 2039-2056.
  7. Kohles JE, Carter GG, Page RA, Dechmann DKN. 2020. Socially foraging bats discriminate between group members based on search-phase calls. Behavioral Ecology, 31(5), 1103-1112.  Media coverage: Scientific American 60-Second Science Podcast, ETHOlogisch
  8. Kohles JE, Dechmann DKN, Page RA, & O’Mara MT. 2018. Rapid behavioral changes during early development in Peters’ tent-making bat (Uroderma bilobatum). PLoS ONE, 13(10), 1-17.  Media coverage: Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic España
  9. Patriquin KJ, Kohles JE, Page RA, & Ratcliffe, JM. 2018. Bats without borders: Predators learn novel prey cues from other predatory species. Science Advances, 4(3), eaaq0579.  Media coverage: The Washington Post, The Wildlife Society 

Fellowships and Grants

2024            CASCB Travel Grant

2024            DAAD PRIME Postdoctoral Fellowship

2023            National Geographic Society Level I Grant    

2022            Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes PhD Travel Grant

2021            Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour Small Project Grant

2019-22       Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes PhD Fellowship

2018            STRI Short-term Research Fellowship

2017-18       DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Graduate Fellowship

2016-17       Fulbright Research Fellowship

2014            STRI Undergraduate Research Fellowship

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