Principal Investigators

Damien Farine



Damien studies the evolutionary ecology of social and collective behaviour in wild vertebrates. He graduated with degrees in Microelectronic Engineering and Computer Science. His first job was making steel, which was followed by a research position at the CSIRO (Australia) investigating the potential role of bioenergy and biofuels in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Damien joined the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology (EGI) at the University of Oxford as a DPhil student in 2010. His thesis investigated the role of individual decision-making in social structure and collective animal behaviour within and across species. He then spent one and a half years as a postdoctoral researcher working across several projects: one which investigated the spread of innovations and establishment of culture in wild great tits (at the EGI) and a second which examined collective behaviour and group decision-making in wild baboons (at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the University of California Davis). In 2015, Damien started as a Principal Investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz, Germany. In late 2019, Damien was awarded a prestigious ERC Starting Grant to study the Ecology of Collective Behaviour in his vulturine guineafowl system.

Twitter: @DamienFarine

Post-doctoral Fellows

Adriana Maldonado Chaparro


AdrianaProfilePhoto (5)Adriana Maldonado is a Biologist from Colombia working in the Farine lab at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz, Germany. Adriana is interested in phenotypic plasticity and how variation in social behavior can drive changes in the emergent properties involving population dynamics and ecological interactions. She has worked on behavior and population ecology of capybaras with conservation objectives (MSc, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia) and investigated the sources of individual heterogeneity, such as phenotypic plasticity, and its effects on the long-term population dynamics on yellow-bellied marmots (PhD, University of California Los Angeles, USA).  Her field of work includes ecological modeling, particularly, applying modeling tools to understanding the interplay between population and behavioral ecology and their ecological and evolutionary consequences. Adriana uses long-term tracking together with manipulative experiments to study how the social environment influences decision-making and collective behavior. She specifically focuses on the ontogeny of pair-bond formation, how the social environment during this time affects extra-pair mating decisions, and how the decisions of individuals scale up to the mating system.


Daiping Wang


Daiping studies the behavioural ecology and genetics of mate choice using captive zebra finch as a model species. After got his master degree at Beijing Normal University which focused on birds’ song in the field, he joined Max Planck Institute for Ornithology for his PhD in 2014. He finished his PhD, titled ‘mate choice and the evolution of female promiscuity in a socially monogamous species’, in 2018. In 2019, Daiping started his postdoc with Bart Kempenaers, Wolfgang Fostmeier and Damien Farine. The main project of his current research is to conduct large-scale mate choice experiments to identify the role of culture transmission and genetic inheritance explaining mate choice in zebra finches. Daiping is based in the Kempenaers department, but works with Damien’s lab to conduct colony-scale tracking of mate choice mechanisms.

Twitter: @DaipingWang

Hanja Brandl

Hanja is a behavioural ecologist exploring the effects of stress on social behaviour, pair-bonding, and group function in zebra finches. She has completed a Joint PhD at University of Hamburg and Macquarie University, where she studied social behavior and information use of free-living zebra finches in the Australian outback. Her research interest is focused on different aspects of social behaviour, such as social information transfer, causes and consequences of maintaining social associations over time, and how environmental factors affect social ties. Hanja is a postdoc in the Center for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour and in the Farine lab. Here she will develop a range of experiments on captive birds combining differences in early-life experiences with short-term experimental manipulations of individuals, linking individual stress physiology to collective animal behaviour in birds.

Stephen Lang


image001Stephen earned degrees in Zoology and Conservation from the University of Exeter, and shortly after graduating became a Research Assistant at the University of Oxford, where he studied social behaviour in wild songbirds. His interests lie in understanding the foraging dynamics of predators, and exploring how predation as a selective pressure drives the collective behaviour of prey. Stephen completed his PhD on predator foraging strategies with the Farine lab in early 2019. He’s innately fascinated by the natural world, and loves the use of new technologies to explain it – particularly the application of modern tracking devices and 3D-mapping in wild systems. His other interests include science outreach and photography.


Twitter: @StephenLang_


Mauricio Cantor


Mauricio Cantor is a Brazilian biologist who is interested in behavioural ecology and the ecology of interactions both among species and individuals. His research focusses on the emergence of patterns and strategies in non-human animal societies, mainly using whales and dolphins as models due to their behavioural plasticity and social system complexity—as well as exciting fieldwork challenges. Mauricio recently joined the Farine lab at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology to develop his postdoctoral research on the evolution of interspecific cooperation, specifically the cooperation between top predators to access a common resource. In using state-of-the-art computational tools and mathematical models to confront unprecedented empirical data on the unique cooperative foraging between wild dolphins and artisanal fishermen from southern Brazil, Mauricio will quantitatively evaluate the direct benefits accrued from both predators aiming to unravel the mechanisms generating such unique cooperation between human and wildlife. Mauricio is also involved in some spin-off research projects, most of which adopting network thinking to explore processes at the population (e.g. social behaviour among terrestrial and aquatic vertebrates) and community levels (e.g. ecological interactions and interspecific behaviour). More on his website.

Ph.D. Students

Danai Papageorgiou


Danai earned her undergraduate Biology degree and her MSc from the University of Patras where she worked in the fields of urban avian diversity, bird migration and stopover ecology. In the meanwhile, she assisted as an intern in Germany, Denmark and Greece on several different projects including decision making in nectar feeding bats, passerine migration and breeding ecology, wildlife monitoring and conservation. During her PhD, she focuses on her main interest which is social structure and collective behaviour in animals. In particular she studies leadership and collective decision-making in captive helmeted and wild vulturine guineafowls, which form remarkably cohesive groups. Interflock interactions, dominance and collective movement attract Danai’s attention. She is also fascinated by field work and non-invasive experiments combined with the application of novel technology to track and analyse animal behaviour.


James Klarevas-Irby


James Klarevas-Irby earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Louisiana State University. He then joined the Master’s program in Biology at the University of Konstanz, where he spent 2 years working on the zebra finch project in the Farine lab and completed his thesis on how irrational decision-making can affect population persistence by creating hidden ecological traps. His primary interests involve understanding how animals acquire information and make decisions. He currently works as a PhD student, with Dr. Damien Farine and Prof. Martin Wikelski at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, studying how group-living birds disperse through novel environments and navigate in a social landscape.

Peng He


Peng obtained his degree BSc in Biological Sciences from Northwest A&F University (China) in 2014, and his MSc in Ecology from Fudan University (China) in 2017. For his Masters’ thesis, he studied stopover ecology of migratory shorebirds. In 2017, Peng was awarded a 4-year scholarship from the China Scholarship Council for his PhD. His main research interest is to investigate the effects of habitat structure on the social organizations, and its consequences for population-level processes (both ecological and evolutionary), in group-living animals. Peng is keen on developing theoretical models inspired by natural systems to address his research questions.

Salamatu Abdu

Salamatu grew up in Northern Nigeria. After completing high school, she obtained a BSc degree in Zoology at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. During her third year she completed a six-month internship in a parasitology and protozoology laboratory at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine, conducting research on the prevalence of parasites in wild birds in Zaria Kaduna State. She then joined the Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology, where she completed a masters on the effects of shade availability on water hole use by desert birds. Salamatu is now a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior working on the vulturine guineafowl project with Dr. Damien Farine. She is applying her interest in parasitology to determine how parasites affect individual contributions to collective decisions.

Tobit Dehnen

Tobit Dehnen earned his integrated Master’s degree from the University of Sheffield. For his Master’s project, he worked on home-range ecology in long-tailed tits with Prof. Ben Hatchwell. During his degree he also worked as an intern, studying cultural inheritance, sexual selection and immunity with Dr. Lucy Aplin, Dr. Martin Garlovsky and Prof. Mike Siva-Jothy, respectively. Tobit is now a PhD student at the University of Exeter—co-supervised by Dr. Damien Farine and Dr. Neeltje Boogert—studying the social behaviour of vulturine guineafowl. Specifically, Tobit is investigating how parents can impact offspring dominance rank, and which proximate mechanisms regulate such parental effects.

Masters Students

Brendah Nyaguthii

Brendah Nyaguthii has recently completed her bachelor of science in Wildlife Management degree from the University of Eldoret. She has a keen interest in wildlife, which began way back in her childhood, and is particularly interested in ornithological knowledge. She conducted her bachelor’s degree project on the nest site preference of the Great White Pelican in Lake Elementaita , Kenya, and was the team leader of the bird watching initiative at the University of Eldoret Wildlife club. She was then an intern at the national museums of Kenya at the ornithology department where she learnt more on how to handle birds. Currently, Brendah is completing her MSc thesis and is the field manager on the vulturine guineafowl project at Mpala Research Centre. She’s very enthusiastic and willing to learn more about the ecology of the species. Her strong zeal towards ornithology is evident and she’s a great addition to the Mpala vulturine guineafowl project research team.

Mina Ogino

Mina graduated from International Christian University (Japan). For her undergraduate thesis, she worked with Professor Jeff Podos at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she studied (1) the relationships between dominance hierarchy, physical characteristics, and song variables, and (2) whether song variables are used as an honest signals to predict the winners of agonistic interactions in swamp sparrows. She is interested in how animals respond to changes in the surrounding environment by altering their behavior, especially in the context of the ontogeny of social networks and group-level traits.

Field Technicians

John Ewoi

John_picJohn Ewoi has been working at the Mpala Research Centre for over 10 years and has collaborated on numerous projects. Examples include sampling mosquitos for research into malaria, photographing the distinct flank stripes on Grevy zebra to identify individuals, and trapping spider mice in cliffy habitats. His main area of research assisting, however, has been focussed on the Grant’s gazelles for the last 7 years. This involved collecting behavioural data in the field, ear-tagging gazelles, tracking collared gazelles using telemetry and doing lab-based faecal parasite counts. Presently, he has joined the Vulturine Guineafowl Project research group, where his vast experience in the bush has been truly indispensable. The GPS-data is what excites John the most as it will give a unique insight into where these birds roam when no one is watching…


Wismer Cherono

Wismer graduated with a bachelor degree in Wildlife and Enterprise Management from Egerton University. She then spent time at Crater Lake Sanctuary where she started learning about bird identification. For her undergraduate thesis, she studied the social behavior of llamas at Egerton University. She has since gained much more experience with working on birds as an intern at the National Museums of Kenya Ornithology Section. She has also worked on a project funded by African Bird Club looking at the land cover change and local perception of threatened grassland birds. She is currently working as an intern in the vulturine guineafowl project, where she is keen to learn all aspects regarding the project, particularly how the guineafowls interact on a daily basis.

Research Assistants

Anna Chagas

Anna is a biologist that did her bachelor in Biological Science at the University Federal of Goias (Brazil) with a focus on the conservation of South American birds. Her main goal was to produce models of spatial prioritization areas that also considered the uncertainties derived from the movement of birds due to climate change. Later on, she continued her studies at the University of Kiel (Germany), where she earned her masters degree in Biological Oceanography. During this time she used a combination of different approaches such as stable isotopes and tracking data from GPS loggers to investigate the foraging behavior of Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta) breeding in the German Wadden Sea region.  She is currently doing a Masters at the University of Konstanz and working as an student assistant in Dr. Maldonado’s experiment with zebra finches in the Farine Lab. 

Alumni/Former Members

Charlotte Christensen


Charlotte graduated with a Bachelor in Psychology & Zoology from the University of Bristol. Subsequently, she was a research assistant on the Dwarf Mongoose Project (DMP) in Limpopo, South Africa. This experience reinforced her passion for the field of behavioural ecology and experimental studies in wild animal populations. She completed a MSc by Research on the scent-marking and territorial behaviour of the dwarf mongoose Helogale parvula, with specific focus on short- and longer-term responses to rival intrusions. She spent 6 further months as PM at the DMP before moving from the smallest African carnivore to the largest species of guineafowl: the vulturine guineafowl Acryllium vulturinum. Her role as a field assistant for the Farine Lab at the Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia, Kenya, primarily involved the preliminary data-collection of inter- and intra-group interactions and movement, through field observations and tracking GPS-tagged individuals within the groups. Charlotte is now a PhD student, and budding baboonologist, at the University of Swansea.

Dominic Chesire

IMG_0143_cropDominic Kiprono Chesire was born and raised in Sesya, Baringo county Kenya. He started schooling in 90s at Kipkaech primary, then Joint Mogotio High school for secondary Education in 2003. In 2009, Dominic was lucky to get fees to see him through a Diploma course at Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute (Naivasha). In 2011, he joined the ornithology section at the National Museums of Kenya (department of Zoology). He has since gained a lot of knowledge on bird trapping and banding, identification, collection skills (bird taxidermy, specimen maintenance, accession and cataloging) and field data collection. In addition, this has has enabled him to travel and work in 90% of existing habitats in Kenya. Dominic worked on data collection with the vulturine guineafowl project at Mpala, Kenya. He now works full-time for the National Museums of Kenya.

Gerald Carter

Gerry Carter is studying the cognitive and behavioral ecology of cooperative relationships. He is a Humboldt Fellow and was previously a Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and a Ford Predoctoral Fellow at the University of Maryland. Gerry is working to develop food-sharing vampire bats as a tractable experimental model for studying how individuals choose and regulate cooperative relationships. He is currently analyzing data from a 22-month experiment with vampire bats that (1) measured how food sharing developed between previous strangers housed together in captivity, (2) manipulated new and old relationships by changing partner behavior, and (3) tracked roosting and foraging association in the same bats released back into the wild. Gerry is now an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University – see

Gustavo Alarcón Nieto

ProfilePhotoGustavo is a Colombian biologist who spent the early years of his career studying the birds in the Amazon forests, where he was involved in biological survey and conservation projects, exploring isolated areas with significant gaps of information. More recently, he has worked as a tutor of Biology and Evolution at the University of California in Los Angeles. Gustavo’s main interests are Conservation, Ornithology and Evolution, as well as the use of scientific knowledge to design environmental policies. Among other interests, Gustavo is an enthusiastic birdwatcher, and wildlife and portrait photographer. Gustavo was central to the development of techniques for tracking birds during his Masters in Biology at the University of Konstanz. He now works as a technician in the Aplin lab.

Jana Hörsch

jana8Jana is a undergraduate at the University of Konstanz. She started studying Biological Science in 2013. Because she discovered her fascination for ethology, conducted her Bachelor thesis in the Farine Lab. She studied the role of individuals in collective problem solving in zebra finch flocks. Her research included investigating leadership in zebra finches flocks and finding out whether leadership is important for producing informations within the flock. Jana is now doing her Master’s thesis in the Aplin lab, testing whether cockatoos can individually recognise humans.

Lea Prox

LeaLea graduated in Biology at the University of Konstanz. For her Bachelors thesis, she studied the social structure of Chilean dolphins (in collaboration with Yaqu Pacha Chile), where she had been involved in the field work for several years. She then spent two years as a Master’s student in the Farine Lab. For her thesis, she created a framework to conceptualize different dimensions of sociality in vertebrates. She is generally interested in social structure and organization of animals, and how they fit into a bigger picture. Lea is now pursuing this interest as a PhD student at the University of Göttingen and the German Primate Center (DPZ).

Sylvester Karimi

KODAK Digital Still CameraSylvester Karimi, locally known as Stalone, has worked with the Ornithology section in the Zoology department of the National Museum of Kenya for the last 16 years. Here he has assisted on avian flu surveillance, annual water fowl census and migration ringing in Tsavo National Park. Lending his expertise to short-term projects has taken him around the country: GPS collaring endemic Aberdare cisticolas in the Aberdare ranges, telemetry tracking the endangered Taita thrush in the Taita hills, ringing Papyrus gonolek by Lake Victoria and surveying Kori bustards in Marsabit. His ornithological work has also taken him on international expeditions along Israeli migration routes, Hungary with the Earthwatch and Taiwan for behavioural observation work, to name but a few! He has been dividing his time between Nairobi and Mpala Research Centre for the last four years. Although it was the grey-capped social weavers that brought him here, he then spent 18 months as a full-time member of the Vulturine Guineafowl Project.

Yohan Sassi

Yohan earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology of organisms and ecosystems from the University of Bordeaux, France. In this time, he worked on the impact of visitors on a group of lemurs in Asson’s zoo, France, and on the impact of poaching on the frequentation of the Langoué Baï by the large fauna in the Ivindo National park, Gabon. He is now completing his Masters’ degree in Behavioral ecology and wildlife management at the University of Burgundy. As part of his studies, he has worked on a project at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, England, investigating the role of habitat on the hunting success of wild cheetahs. He is particularly fascinated by collective behaviours in animal societies and the social relations underpinnings them. To gain experience in this area, he recently joined the Farine lab where he will be investigating the influence of social relationships on collective movement, using data from high-resolution tracking of zebra finches.