Jenna Kohles

IMPRS doctoral candidate
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 Organismal Biology 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


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

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

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



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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