Director

Iain Couzin

icouzin(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Iain Couzin is Director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Department of Collective Behaviour and the Chair of Biodiversity and Collective Behaviour at the University of Konstanz, Germany and  Previously he was a Full Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and prior to that a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, and a Junior Research Fellow in the Sciences at Balliol College, Oxford. His work aims to reveal the fundamental principles that underlie evolved collective behavior, and consequently his research includes the study of a wide range of biological systems, from insect swarms to fish schools and primate groups. In recognition of his research he has been recipient of the Searle Scholar Award in 2008, top 5 most cited papers of the decade in animal behavior research 1999-2010, the Mohammed Dahleh Award in 2009, Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” Award in 2010, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award in 2012, the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London in 2013, a Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thompson Reuters Web of Science) Global Highly Cited Researcher in 2018 and the Lagrange Prize in 2019.

Principal Investigators

Damien Farine

dfarine(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

DRFARINE

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

Alex Jordan

ajordan(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Alex studies the complex social and collective systems of animals great and small – the ways single individuals come together to form much larger groups, and the feedback between the behaviour of groups and that of the individuals that compose them. His research program  encompasses field studies in Africa, Australia, and the Americas, and lab approaches including molecular genetics, neurobiology of social interactions, and socio-cognitive behavioural assays. His group aims to understand both the proximate mechanisms and the ultimate outcomes of social interactions and behavioural plasticty. His research group page is here

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Science Coordinator

Daniel Piechowski

dpiechowski(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Daniel

Daniel is the Science Coordinator of Iain’s Department and of the Migration and Immuno-Ecology Department led by Martin Wikelski. He is working on establishing the department at the University of Konstanz. Daniel holds an MSc (FU Berlin) and PhD (Ulm University) in Biology. During his PhD and postdoc fieldwork in Brazil he realized that his true strength is rather organizing science for others than performing science himself. With this in mind, he became the coordinator of the IMPRS for Organismal Biology and built it from scratch. After four years of coordinating this grad school he was open for a new challenge and started to coordinate the two departments.

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Post-doctoral Fellows

McKenna Kelly

mkelly(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

My research involves integrating neurobiology, development, evolution, and behavior to understand the proximate and ultimate causes behind sociality in birds. During my PhD at Cornell University, I studied the role the nonapeptides (oxytocin, vasopressin, and their non-mammalian homologues) play in regulating parental care and maintaining pair bonds in zebra finches. I also determined that corticosterone plays no role in regulating helping behavior in cooperatively breeding Mexican jays. I have also studied how sociality influences numerical cognition in Mexican jays and Woodhouse’s scrub jays. In the Couzin lab, I am collaborating with the imaging barn group to studying how hormones regulate individual and group flocking decisions in quail. These experiments will employ the state of the art 3D acoustic tracking system developed by the lab to track every individual quail’s movements and vocal communication in a semi-natural environment.

 

 

Blair Costelloe

bcostelloe(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

blairBlair is a behavioral ecologist who studies free-ranging antelope in Kenya. Her postdoctoral research focuses on collective predator detection and information transfer in ungulate groups. For this project, she is collaborating with other lab members to develop advanced imaging technologies for use in field studies. Blair earned her Ph.D. from Princeton University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2014. There she developed a passion for fieldwork while studying the maternal and antipredator behavior of Thomson’s gazelle, a small East African antelope. After completing her Ph.D., she served as a research associate and lecturer for undergraduate courses in Princeton’s EEB department before moving to Germany to join the Couzin lab. She is currently leading the HerdHover project

personal website: blaircostelloe.com

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Adriana Maldonado Chaparro

amaldonado(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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.

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Daiping Wang

dwang(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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

Dan Bath

dbath(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Animals are great problem solvers. Networks of brain cells sort and process lots of noisy information to guide our behaviour. Groups of animals can work together to solve even more complex problems.  But how do we do it? I make precise manipulations and careful measurements of animal behaviour to try to answer this question. You can find out more on my personal blog: www.danbath.ca

Francesca Santostefano

Francesca is interested in how social interactions among animals shape their behaviours and fitness. After completing her university studies in Padua, Italy, she moved to Germany where she earned a PhD between the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, and the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich. Her project focused on the consequences of social interactions on the evolution of individual differences in behaviour in Field crickets, bridging the fields of behavioural ecology and quantitative genetics. She then won a DFG post-doctoral fellowship for a two-years project at the Université du Québec à Montréal, which gave her the chance to move from a lab study to a field study. This project addressed how phenotypes of conspecifics affect an individual’s fitness (social selection), in a wild population of Eastern chipmunks. She is currently enjoying spending the return phase of this fellowship working with Damien’s group.

Simon Gingins

sgingins(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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I’m a biologist from Switzerland, and I work on coral reef fish behaviour. I completed my PhD at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) on the behaviour of the bluestreak cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus  with Prof. Redouan Bshary. I am now at the Max Planck Institute in Konstanz (Germany) doing a project on the collective behaviour of damselfish with Prof. Iain Couzin & Dr. Alex Jordan.

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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.

Jacob Davidson

jdavidson(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Jacob is a theoretical biologist interested in collective movement and decision-making of animal groups. With a background in physics and aerospace engineering, he is now working on data-driven approaches to modeling collective behavior.  His current projects examine evidence accumulation, group decision-making, and differences in individual behaviors.  He is also working on using machine learning with deep networks to model individual and group motion.

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Jens Koblitz

jkoblitz(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Jens is a bioacoustician and focuses on echolocation of whales and bats. His research interests combines the areas of sensory ecophysiology, behavioral ecology, and applied ecology. He uses bioacoustics and acoustic monitoring as tools to investigate species specific adaptations to environmental conditions, behavioral interactions on an inter- and intra-species level and ecological forces, especially anthropogenic impacts, acting on population levels. More information at: www.jenskoblitz.org

 

Jolle Jolles

jjolles(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Photo JolleJolle Jolles is a Dutch Behavioural Ecologist who is fascinated by how animals live in groups. His research focuses on the role of consistent individual behavioural differences (animal personalities) in collective behaviour. Jolle recently completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge with Dr. Andrea Manica where he studied the interplay between personality differences and the social context in Three-spined sticklebacks. In March Jolle joined the Couzin lab at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz. He uses state-of the art individual-based tracking techniques to study how individual differences affect the collective movements, decision-making and group performance of large, dynamic schools of fish, both in the lab and under semi-wild conditions. Read more at jollejolles.com.

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Julia Samson

jsamson(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

When asked what I do for a living, my usual answer is “I clean up jellyfish poop,” which is partially true. But that’s really just a means to a more interesting end: studying (marine) organisms, their behavior, and their interactions with the physical environment.

For the past few years, I have studied the fluid dynamics of pulsing behavior in xeniid corals. These soft corals generate fluid flows that influence local nutrient and gas exchange. For my current research project, I try to figure out whether there is a pattern to the collective pulsing behavior, what influences this behavior, and how differences in the collective pulsing (for example different timings or pulse frequencies) affect local flow fields.

My background is in biology, with a tendency towards biomechanics and mathematical modeling of biological systems. Where possible, I like to integrate different approaches to a biological question by combining experimental work, modeling, and fieldwork. I also strive to look for solutions outside of my field through collaborations with mathematicians and engineers, among others. The more pieces we have, the better we can solve the puzzle!

You can find more about my past and present work on my personal website: www.juliaesamson.com

 

 

Katherine Conen

kconen(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Kati is a systems neuroscientist interested in exploring the mechanisms of flexible decision-making. She completed her PhD work with Camillo Padoa-Schioppa at Washington University of St Louis, where she studied contextual adaptation and correlated neural variability in decision-making circuits in the brain. In the Couzin lab, she will investigate group behavior in schooling fish, applying principles from neural models of decision-making. Using virtual reality and behavioral tracking, she will examine how schooling fish integrate social and non-social information when they navigate in various environments. Her work will bridge the gap between single-organism and group-level behavior.

Liang Li

lli(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Liang LiLiang Li graduated from Peking University, researeching dynamics and control. He is fascinated by collective animal behavior and works towards integrating robotic fish within real groups as well as embedding real fish with virtual conspecifics. Liang has won many prizes for his work including the Champion of the Robot Competition in China and the RoboCup Open. He studied on Central Patten Generator (CPG), the development of a carangiform-like robot fish and energy saving in fish school.  

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Mauricio Cantor

mcantor(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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.

Michael Smith

msmith(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Michael Smith is a social insect biologist interested in the patterns and processes of colony growth, development, and reproduction. Michael completed his PhD in 2017 with Tom Seeley, in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University.  There, he studied honey bee colony puberty, and how workers detect that their colony can “afford” to invest in reproductive infrastructure (drone comb). In the Couzin group at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Michael will use automated tracking to investigate how individual honey bee workers detect and respond to the developmental state of their colony.

Máté Nagy

mnagy(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

mate1Máté is is a biological physicist interested in collective animal behaviour and applying/developing state-of-the-art automated measurement techniques and analysis methods.

Previously he was a Royal Society Newton Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford and Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford working with Dr. Dora Biro. He has been a post-doc and he did his PhD in Physics at Eötvös University, Budapest with Professor Tamás Vicsek, studying collective motion and leader-follower relations in pigeon flocks and modelling self-propelled particles.

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Nora Carlson

ncarlson(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

I am a behavioural ecologist who is interested in how different species use acoustic communication during social or collective behaviours. Many animals are incredibly vocal and may rely heavily on acoustic communication to coordinate group behaviours such as mobbing (harassing a predator to drive it from the area) and moving through their environment. My postdoctoral research is focused on how birds use vocal and visual information to coordinate group movement and maintain flock cohesion in a variety of environments. For this project I will be collaborating with other group members to employ a 3D acoustic tracking system to allow us to track both movements and vocal behaviour of all individuals in a flock as they travel through a semi-natural environment. During my PhD at the University of St Andrews, my research has focused on mobbing behaivour in tit species, how different tit species include information about a predator’s level of threat in their mobbing calls, and how this information is used by the wider avian community. More recently, during a postdoc through the university of Porto, Portugal, I conducted experiments to examine some of the underlying drivers for cooperative behaviour in sociable weavers, a small communal breeding passerine found in Southern Africa. More information can be found at my website: https://noravcarlson.weebly.com

Ph.D. Students

Angela Albi

aalbi(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Angela received her MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Trento where for her thesis she studied spatial and temporal coding of odorants in honeybee brains using in vivo calcium imaging analysis. During the course of her PhD, she wishes to examine decision making in noisy environments where cognition is an emergent property of the group. Thus, by combining her existing neuroscience training with the understanding of collective behaviour, she wishes to develop a more holistic understanding of cognition across scales of biological complexity.

Twitter: @albi_angela

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Joe Bak-Coleman

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Joseph is a Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He earned a B.S. in neuroscience and an M.S. in biology from Bowling green State University, while working with Dr. Sheryl Coombs. His previous research focused on understanding how fish integrate sensory information in order to cope with the destabilizing effects of water currents. During this time, he briefly worked with schools of fish, which fascinated him and familiarized him with the Couzin lab. Upon finishing his masters, he was determined to return to collective behavior, leading him to contact Iain and join the lab. He is interested in understanding the sensory and neural basis of collective behavior, and how it changes throughout development.

Ben Koger

bkoger(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Ben is an electrical engineer interested in how complex networks mediate the spread of information through groups. He earned a BSE in electrical engineering with a focus on machine learning from Princeton University where he wrote his thesis on the effect of weighted versus unweighted graphs on information flow.

personal website: benkoger.work

Photography website: http://cargocollective.com/benkoger

 

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Danai Papageorgiou

dpapageorgiou(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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.

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Etienne Lein

elein(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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Etienne is using the Taganyikan Lamprologine cichlids in both lab and field to study the implications of sociality on brain anatomy, neural activation networks, and cognition. His work aims to uncover the substrates of social behaviour and determine the causes of variation in response to social stimuli among individuals and species.

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Jake Graving

jgraving(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de
Jake studies how biological systems acquire and process information for making decisions. His research on desert locusts and other systems tests key assumptions of animal behavior at multiple scales by integrating computer vision, machine learning, and information theory. He is particularly interested in how swarms coordinate their movement and how individual behavior contributes to the dynamics of group-level behavior.

Twitter: @jgraving

Github: github.com/jgraving

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Matt Grobis

grobisMatt is a fourth-year PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton. He studies how the perception of risk affects information transfer through fish schools. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Matt researched the relative importance of different antipredator benefits of shoaling in threespine stickleback. He then spent a year in Seewiesen, Germany studying sleep and social foraging in great tits at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, funded by a Fulbright grant. On the side, Matt keeps a blog on biology, academia, and metal music: mattgrobis.blogspot.com.

Olivia Guayasamin

oguayasamin(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

olivia_original-59eff1da34f82ce612a5eeef86a20f6fOlivia is a PhD candidate at Princeton University. She is a member of both the Collective Behavior Lab, where she is advised by Dr. Iain Couzin, and the Social Learning Lab, which is directed by Dr. Daniel Rubenstein.
In her work, she applies an interdisciplinary approach to researching questions that focus on how environmental manipulations, such as social setting or the difficulty of a foraging task, affect animal movement and decision making behaviors during naturalistic search. To address these questions, she uses human visual search as a toy-model system, employing eye-tracking technology to record the location of gaze and attention during visual search tasks across a variety of social and environmental conditions. Her main goal is to produce a body of work that will be broadly informative to studies of animal movement and decision making. However, she is also interested in applying her work to the field of medical imaging, with the specific intention of determining whether or not social information in the form of shared-gaze could reduce the rate of false negative diagnoses and be a useful intervention for radiologists. Her personal website can be found here.

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Guy Amichay

gamichay(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Guy is interested in how information is processed in biological systems. In particular, how information flows through biological collectives, such as fish schools. He hopes to combine experiments (using VR) and theory to tackle these questions. Guy received his BSc from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a MSc from Tel Aviv University, working on locust collective motion in changing landscapes.

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Helder Hugo

hdossantos(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Helder Hugo is a behavioural ecologist interested in how animal groups form, function and evolve. Currently, his PhD research focuses on the mechanisms of coordinated collective motion and decision-making in animal societies.

In addition to his work at the Dept. of Collective Behaviour in Germany, Helder develops fieldwork in the Brazilian Cerrado in collaboration with the Dept. of Entomology at the Federal University of Viçosa. His approach combines both laboratory and field experiments with advanced computer vision techniques to quantify collective behaviours in Neotropical termite species.

His background includes a BSc & Licenciatura in Biological Sciences (2009), an MSc in Entomology (2016), besides theoretical and practical experience in (i) systematics and ecology of spiders, (ii) integrated pest management, (iii) applied biological control, and (iv) behavioural ecology of termites.

  helderhugo.com     *twitter @helder_hugo     *instagram helder.hugo.santos

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Hemal Naik

hnaik(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Hemal wants to explore new ways of studying animal behavior and understanding of the natural world using advance computer vision techniques. At Couzin lab, he is working on problems of 3D tracking and posture estimation for birds. The results would be used to understand social interaction among birds in a group. First part of his PhD was about developing computer vision methods for Industrial AR applications with Prof. Nassir Navab at Techincal University of Munich and EXTEND3D GmbH. In future he aims to use his skills for conservation related projects. Hemal loves birdwatching, writing and wandering in the Himalayas.

“We know no king but the king of documentaries whose name is Sir David Attenborough”.

 

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R. Ian Etheredge

ian.etheredge(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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Ian is a computational ethologist interested in understanding the relationship between perception, behaviour and social organisation. During his PhD, he is exploring the role of these dynamics in mate choice, extended cognition and group competition. He asks how animals actively shape their perception of the environment, the perception of themselves by others and the effect of the social context on these processes.

 

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James Klarevas-Irby

jklarevas(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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.

Juliana Araujo

jaraujo(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Juliana earned her bachelor’s in Biological Science at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. She did research in behavior of monkeys, bird ecology, and neuroscience of birds. Her Master’s at the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience – University of Lethbridge, focused on identifying regions with and density of oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in the central nervous system of Richardson’s ground squirrels, focusing on sex behavioral differences.

For her Ph.D, she wants to understand how the brain evolved to generate complex social behaviors that affect interactions within big groups. She aims to see how the hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, affect specific regions in the brain that are controlling complex social interactions in animal groups.

Frederic Nowak

fnowak(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Frederic NowakFrederic is an evolutionary biologist with a background in behavioural ecology, computational biology and game theory. He is interested in how groups coordinate in order to explore and exploit their environment, and how the environment structures their behaviour.
Frederic received a MSc in Developmental, Neural and Behavioural Biology from the University of Göttingen studying an evolutionary model of individuals foraging in a complex environment.

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Peng He

phe(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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.

Vivek Hari Sridhar

vsridhar(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Vivek is an Evolutionary Biologist interested in the interplay between individual and group level properties in animal societies. More specifically, how selection operating on decision rules adopted by individuals affects collective motion, environmental sensing, information propagation and decision making in animal societies and how these group level properties in turn affect individual fitness. He wishes to explore these ideas from both a mechanistic and functional perspective using both theory and experiments. Otherwise, Vivek enjoys sports and being outdoors in general.

Twitter: @vivekhsridhar

Website: vivekhsridhar.com

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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.

Tristan Walter

Tristan WalterIn 2015, Tristan graduated the University of Bielefeld with a Masters degree in Intelligent Systems. Coming from a computer science background, he is interested in researching the properties of animal collectives. Using his background in virtual reality, computer graphics and computer vision he will focus on interdisciplinary approaches for researching a groups ability of collectively computing complex results.

Website: http://moochm.de

E-Mail: twalter@orn.mpg.de

Twitter: @beingtristan

Zhanwei Gao

zgao(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Zhanwei is a PhD student in Beijing Normal University. He earned his BSc in Information Engineering from Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology in 2013, and his MSc in Systems Science from Beijing Normal University in 2016. In 2018 Zhanwei was awarded a 2-year scholarship from the China Scholarship Council for his PhD research. From October 2018, he joined the Couzin lab as a joint PhD student at the Department of Collective Behaviour in the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. His interests lie in understanding and revealing the underlying simple interantions in collective animal behaviour from the perspective of complex systems. In the coming two years, he will investigate group behaviour in fish schooling, combining modelling with experiments and/or analysis of relevant experimental data, to gain a deeper insight into the mechanisms that govern collective motion and the propagation of information in animal swarms.

 

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.

Felicitas Oehler

Felicitas is studying social and collective anti-predation behaviour of Plain zebras and Grevy’s zebras in Kenya using automated tracking methods within the drone footage.

Fritz Francisco

Fritz studies social interactions in Tanganyikan cichlids, using automated tracking and behavioural decomposition to quantify the differences among species.

Jakob Guebel

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Jakob uses digital reconstruction techniques to quantify connectivity on spider webs and will be employing these techniques to understand social group structure and collective movement in the field.

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.

Paul Nuehrenberg

 

Paul studies the collective foraging behaviour of groups of Lamprologus callipterus known as ‘rolling’, using empirical and modeling approaches.

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Sylvia Fernanda Garza

sgarza(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Hola!! I am Biology Master’s student working on spider social behavior. Currently, I am working on Nephila spiders’ mating interactions, specifically, the males’ strategy to approach a female, as well as how these interactions change when males have competition.

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. 

Technicians

Alexander Bruttel

abruttel(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

IMG_6569Geb. 5.06.1988 : Born 5th of June 1988

Technischer Assistent/ Tierpfleger : Technical Assistant / Animal Keeper at Max-Planck Institute for Ornithology

Max- Planck Institut für Ornithologie 

• 2006 TFA Universität Konstanz: 2006 Animal Research Lab at University of Constance

• 2011 MPI für Ornithologie Radolfzell Abteilung Wikelski: 2011 Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology / Dept. Wikelski

• 2015 MPI für Ornithologie Abteilung Couzin: 2015 Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology  / Dept. Couzin

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Christine Bauer

cbauer(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Christine received her Diploma in Biology from the University of Mainz in 2011 and has joined the Couzin lab in 2016 as a technical assistant. Here she is mostly responsible for the smooth organization of lab procedures, especially for zebrafish breeding to keep the VR experiments up and running

 

 

 

Jayme Weglarski

Jayme earned her BSc in Biology at Bowling Green State University with a specialization in marine and aquatic biology. She joined the team as a technician in 2016 to help with animal husbandry and assist researchers with setting up and running experiments. She wishes to use her communication and organizational skills to improve operations in the lab while diversifying her education in science.

 

Dominique Leo

dleo(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

199A0159October 2005 – October 2015: Biological technical assistant at the University of Konstanz Department Biology (Zoology and Evolutionary Biology,  Department Prof. Dr. Axel Meyer, working for Prof. Dr. Gerrit Begemann, Developmental Biology fom 2007 until 2012, working for Assistant Professor PhD. Joost Woltering, Developmental Biology fom 2014 until 2015 

August 2012 – October 2015: Biological technical assistant at the University of Konstanz Department ‘Animal Research Lab’

December 2007 – June 2010: Biological technical assistant at the University of Konstanz Department Limnological Institute ( Walter – Schlienz Institut) working for Dr. Jasminca Behrmann – Godel, Senior scientist (group leader)

July 2003 – 2005: Education Biological technical assistant at the Jörg-Zürn-Gewerbeschule in Überlingen

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Assistants to the Director

Katja Anderson

kanderson(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Katja is the assistant of Prof. Iain Couzin and contact person for press inquiries.
She holds a degree in Administrative Science with focus on management and European studies.
While living in Edinburgh for 7 years, she was an Animation Producer for childrens series and short films.

 

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Alumni/Former Members

Alex Boehm

Alex studies social ontogeny and hierarchy within networks of the cichlid Neolamprologus multifasciatus

Neeltje Boogert

Neeltje-with-guineafowlNeeltje is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, University of Oxford. She studies developmental drivers of avian social network positions, and is experimentally manipulating early-life conditions to quantify the effects on later social behaviour, both within and across generations, in wild great tits. Neeltje is a Research Associate with the Department of Collective Behaviour, working with Damien Farine on the ontogeny of social behaviour and social learning strategies in zebra finches and guineafowl.

Charlotte Christensen

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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.

Mircea Davidescu

Mircea_Davidescu_original-65497f154a1298a45854d90c816501e1Mircea is a Ph.D student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology interested in collective decision-making of cells and its role in metazoan evolution. He earned a double-bachelor degree in Biochemistry and Computer Science from the University of New Brunswick, Canada in 2012. He has held sponsored research internships on a variety of topics ranging from drug discovery to quantum computing, and has also written a history book in his spare time. He is also interested in bio-inspired algorithms and computer graphics.

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 https://socialbat.org.

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.

Andrew Hartnett

andrewh_original_original-91f8deda53817c7d956820fe622e25b4Andrew is a Physics Ph.D. student studying large fish schools. He is particularly interested in the dynamics of individual interaction rules and understanding the implications of group structure on information processing in multi-agent biological systems.

Jacqueline Dettinger

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Jacqueline’s interests lie in behavioural biology and in particular on the mechanisms of collective behaviour. In the Jordan lab she is looking into the effect of social hierarchy in collective decision processes using Tanganyikan cichlids.

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.

Jian Zhao

jzhao(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

Jian is working with with the Couzin and Jordan labs to develop an automated behavioural assay to assess the hunger level of cichlids. This will be used to maximise feeding efficiency and minimise wastage and nutrient pollution in aquaculture systems.

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Kai Schleifer

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Kai’s interests include everything that moves, crawls and swims. He is using 3D behavioural tracking and digital web reconstruction approaches to understand how social and aggregative spiders communicate and create collective structures.

Karoline Jetter

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Karoline is currently studying biological sciences at the University of Konstanz. She works as a scientific assistant in the Jordan Lab, where she will be engaged in the research on cichlids and Nephila senegalensis. Primarily she is interested in animal behaviour and ecological traits, as well as in neuroscience.

Stephen Lang

slang(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de

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.

Website: www.stephen-lang.co.uk

Twitter: @StephenLang_

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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).

Simon Leblanc

Simon is a Ph.SimonLeblancD. student in the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University coadvised by Iain Couzin and Simon Levin. With a background in engineering, mechanical and mathematical modeling, he studies predator-prey interactions of schooling fish using datasets of real predation events in the wild, the speed and robustness of information transfer within large swarms using evolutionary models and network properties of swarms relying on visual interactions using computational models.

Email: sleblanc@princeton.edu

Website: http://www.princeton.edu/~sleblanc

Matthew Lutz

Matthew is a biologist and architect. His work across disciplines is driven by a desire to understand how simple rules and interactions between individuals give rise to complex pattern and structure at higher levels of organization. He completed his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton in 2016 with Iain Couzin, where the focus of his dissertation was the self-assembled structures built by army ants of the genus Eciton out of their own bodies. He conducted field experiments in Panama to understand the dynamics of these structures and their adaptive benefits at the colony level. Prior to this, he received an MS in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University, where he focused on developing computational methods of generative design inspired by the self-organizing principles of collective animal behaviour. As a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Jordan Lab, Matthew is researching the interactions between building behaviour, web structure and group living in social spiders.

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Mariana Rodriguez

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Mariana is a PhD student in the Hofmann Lab at The University of Texas who is working with the Jordan Lab on the neurobiology of social learning in structured social groups.

Fernando Mateos-Gonzalez

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Fernando is a Spanish biologist with broad interests in behavioural ecology and evolution. He pursued his PhD with Juan Carlos Senar in Barcelona, where he studied social and sexual functions of colour traits. After completing his dissertation, he joined Mats Björklund and Fredrik Sundström in Uppsala, where he worked on the evolution of species interactions under fluctuating environmental conditions. Fernando has been subjected to fluctuating conditions himself by further exploring his research interests in field trips around Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. He is now working in the Jordan lab on the evolution of social influence in the social cichlid Neolamprologus multifasciatus.

Geoffrey Mazué

Geoffrey MAZUEI am an empirical biologist, with a strong interest in social behavior within groups of animals. In particular, I aims to get a better understanding of information transfer and collective decision-making in groups of fish. On a broader context, I am also very interested in individual differences within populations (e.g. personality traits), how social units are structured in nature, predator-prey interaction as well as theory of games and sexual selection. Even though I am keen to work on any model species, I tend to be fascinated by fish behaviour. I earned a Master Degree in Behavioural Ecology from the Université de Bourgogne (Dijon, France).

 Position: research assistant

 Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Geoffrey_Mazue

Tweeter: @GeoffreyMazue

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Catherine Offord

cofford_original-65e52bd9552ee9e1934e13193434d389Catherine holds a BA in Biological Sciences from Oxford University, where she was first introduced to behavioural economics and collective decision making. After a year spent with spiders at the Oxford Silk Group, she moved to the Couzin lab to study collective behaviour in social insects, with a focus on the role of variation within groups. She has an inordinate fondness for ants and is interested in how the composition of colonies affects their sensitivity to the environment.

Oren Forkosh

Oren is a postdoOrenc in the CouzinLab in the Department of Collective Behaviour, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz as well as in the ChenLab in the Department of Stress Neurobiology and Neurogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow with Alon Chen and Elad Schneidman at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel where he also undertook his Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Computer Science with Elad Schneidman on “Modeling Social Interactions in Groups of Animals: A Maximum Entropy Approach”. He obtained an M.Sc. from the Weizmann in Mathematics and Computer Science and his B.Sc. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in Physics and Mathematics. He is working with Iain on developing and utilizing new technologies for the 3D tracking of animals in groups as well as computational tools for investigating social interactions and consistent inter-individual behavioral differences.

Robert Felbier

Robert is modeling social interactions in communal spiders to understand how aggregations of otherwise aggressive individuals can form and be maintained.

Shoyo Sato

Shoyo is a student with Gonzalo Giribet at Harvard, working together with the Jordan Lab to understand the evolution and mechanisms of social and collective behaviour in spiders.

Sofia Rodriguez-Brenes

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Sofia studies animal communication and the evolutionary processes underlying mate choice and social interactions. She recently completed her PhD with Prof Mike Ryan at UT Austin, looking at the interaction between acoustic signalling and chytrid infection in Tungara frogs. As a postdoc in the Jordan lab, she is studying how seismic communication is used by social spiders to coordinate group movements, and how the structure and connectivity of webs influence signal transmission.

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.

Colin Twomey

ColinTwomey_original_original-77b37a53a4d81bb621484d808e8ccf1dColin is interested in group motion and decision-making processes, and the evolution of individual behaviors that generate coordinated behavior at the group level. He studies these subjects using experimental, theoretical, and computational techniques. He is also interested in algorithms inspired by biological processes for solving NP-hard problems.

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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.