Postdoc Positions Available

FishTracking (Colin Twomey)



with Iain Couzin, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (posted May 2019)

Location: Konstanz, Germany

Duration: 1 year, available immediately (with possibility of renewal)

We seek a motivated postdoctoral/PhD candidates to work in several projects

1. Analysis of ultra-high resolution 3D tracking data to understand bird social behavior


The candidate will be part of an interdisciplinary, international team to study collective sensing and decision-making in birds. The candidate will have access to a newly-developed, fully automatic, 3D tracking technology developed for birds and deployed in a large (15 x 7 x 4m) state-of-the art indoor aviary at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz/Radolfzell. In addition to 3D tracking this aviary is instrumented for automatic call localisation, allowing the study of multimodal (visual and acoustic) communication. Research questions of interest include innovation, cognition, social learning, individual and collective sensing / decision-making.

2. Development of computational tools to study collective animal behavior


We are particularly interested in machine learning (e.g. deep-learning) methodology for behavioral analysis, and especially the translation of sensory cues/signals into behavioral decisions. A recent example of the type of technology we have already developed, see: Graving et al., “Fast and robust animal pose estimation“.

3. Utilization of immersive Virtual Reality to understand individual and collective decision-making


In this project the candidate will employ a new immersive Virtual Reality system for freely moving animals to investigate the sensory basis of schooling in fish in the Couzin Lab. This project will integrate VR and conventional experimentation to map how properties such as rate, and timing, of turning and/or acceleration/deceleration, as well as the position on the retina prior to, or during, behavioral change impacts movement decisions of focal real fish. Of particular interest will be how individuals integrate information, such as changes in motion of others (e.g. turning, startle behavior), in space (different regions of the visual field) and time (the time between the observed changes). These data will be used to determine the algorithms employed by zebrafish when making movement decisions. We will work with colleagues in the Computer Science department to seek machine learning methodology that allows the unsupervised identification of the visual features that are maximally-informative regarding individual decisions in a collective context

4. Connecting Individual Differences to the Functional Complexity of Animal Groups (open ended Postdoc position)

This project will explore how inter-individual differences in behavior and physiology (such as differences in individual sensitivity, uncertainty, influence of and by others in the group, sensory capabilities, decision-making algorithms etc.) impact the sensing, decision-making and search dynamics of the groups. We will seek to understand how differences affect whether a decision is made, which alternative or sequence of alternatives is chosen, the speed and accuracy of the decision or search, and the responsiveness of the decision and search to changes in the environment. We are open to employing different experimental systems in this study, including (but not exclusively) fish and birds. 
We aim to examine individual differences for the following kinds of dynamics, which are fundamental to collective animal behavior:
  1. Spreading dynamics describe how easily a response by an individual to a stimulus, such as a threat, target, or source of data, spreads through a networked group of individuals. Spreading dynamics underlie the dynamics of collective decision-making and search.
  2. Decision-making and search dynamics describe how individuals and the group as a whole make choices among alternatives: for example, choosing which alternative is true, which action to take, which direction or motion pattern to follow, or when something in the environment or in the state of the system has changed. Decision-making under limited information and uncertainty is fundamental to search tasks in which individuals must choose among options in order to find a target or peak in an uncertain distributed field.
  3. Multiple task management describes how tasks such as search and threat avoidance are carried out simultaneously given costs, benefits, and limited resources that derive from complex, real-world environments. Spreading and decision-making dynamics are fundamental to multiple task management.
We know little about the relationship between social network structure and contagion, and have no information at all about multiple layers of communication (such as mediated by different sensory modalities) and how individuals integrate these layers of sensory input when making decisions. We will address these issues using methodologies in which we can quantify inter-individual differences in sensing and response to stimuli as well as by physically and pharmacologically manipulating sensory modalities allowing us to precisely test specific hypotheses regarding social contagion in natural animal groups. This will allow us to reveal how the structure of communication networks impacts collective sensing, search, foraging and avoidance of risk. The successful candidates will, have access to world-class research facilities including considerable in-house expertise in machine learning, automated tracking, sensory reconstruction, virtual reality and and behavioural analysis technologies.
5. Skilled Research Technician
(full-time, up to E 13 TV-L) Job code: 2019/128 – for details, including how to apply, see
The “Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour” at the University of Konstanz, together with the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, is seeking a highly skilled research technician for a temporary position until end of December 2025 (with a possibility of a further 7 years if the cluster is successful in the second round of funding). The start date is as soon as possible. In principle, this position can be divided into two half-time positions.
The role involves working closely with the scientists at the “Centre” to support outstanding research in our unique “Imaging Barn”: a 15 x 7 x 4m tracking environment in which we have developed a globally-unique capacity to track animals (insects, birds and mammals) in 3D with extremely high temporal and spatial resolution. Specifically, the role will be to learn, run, and organize the 3D tracking technology (VICON motion capture system (Nexus and Tracker software) and 3D acoustic tracking software) in the “Imaging Barn” facility at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior. The position will be based in the “Imaging Barn” facility, which is in the nearby Radolfzell location (approximately 30 mins drive from Konstanz). However, there is a plan to extend this to the larger “Imaging Hangar” facility, which will be running from early 2021 as part of a major infrastructure project (the 30 Million Euro “Visual Computing of Collectives (VCC)” building focused on collective behaviour research on the University campus).
Your Responsibilities
  • Implementing python code into the VICON software to address researchers’ need
  • Organising and managing the experiment timetable coordinating with researchers who are using the facilities
  • Calibrating the camera system prior to experiments
  • Maintaining the VICON; microphone array, and associated systems
  • Consulting with researchers’ experimental design in regard to the VICON system’s strengths and limitations
  • Assisting with extracting, processing and storing experimental data and assistance with setting up experiments with a diverse range of organisms   
Your Competencies
  • University degree in biology, physics, computer science, or a related scientific field
  • Interest in collective animal behaviour
  • Good English in word and writing
  • Organisational and management skills
  • Some knowledge, or interest in learning, programming languages (python, C++, MatLab, etc.)
  • Willingness to work with and handle a variety of animal species including insects, birds and bats (no previous experience required)
  • Willingness to work with your hands (i.e. building experimental equipment, etc.)
  • Willingness to work with a diverse and international community of people
  • Flexibility and problem-solving skills
  • Enthusiastic and positive outlook    
We Offer
  • Good development opportunities, extensive training and an attractive remuneration package.


Candidates will work in a dynamic research environment, and will be based in the Department of Collective Behaviour ( see at the University of Konstanz in the historic city of Konstanz in Southern Germany. The University of Konstanz one of the nine “elite universities” in Germany. The University has almost 12,000 students and is situated on a hill overlooking Lake Constance, the Island of Mainau and Mainau Forest. The campus is a short cycle or bus ride from the city centre. Konstanz has a large and well preserved old town (Altstadt), and a vibrant day and nightlife, including many museums, galleries, and parks. Our nearest airport is Zurich approximately 50 mins drive / 1hr5mins direct train. The Max Planck Institutes and the University of Konstanz focus on excellence in research and the successful applicant will benefit from outstanding infrastructure, opportunities for training and a highly collaborative and international research environment.

Our working language is English and consequently applicants must be fluent in this language; no knowledge of German is required. This appointment is for one year initially, with the possibility of renewal based on satisfactory performance. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience, and benefits are included. 

The University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Society are committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in their workforce and therefore we encourage applications from such qualified individuals. Furthermore, we seek to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. We offer extensive support to help researchers balance professional and home life, including assistance with childcare and support of the elderly, and flexibility in how employees arrange working hours. For details see

For further information regarding this position please contact Iain Couzin

This position is available immediately, and will be open until filled. To apply please send an email to Iain Couzin (Director), including a statement of interest (including possible research directions) and CV in PDF format.


We welcome applicants for visiting or resident PhD, postdoctoral or PI positions, as well as sabbatical visitors. There are excellent funding opportunities to conduct research in Germany.

For those interested in postdoctoral positions the following links may be helpful:

Humboldt research fellowships for postdocs. Application: any time.

Marie Curie fellowships. Application deadline: September 14.,topics=callIdentifier/t/H2020-MSCA-IF-2017/1/1/1/default-group&callStatus/t/Forthcoming/1/1/0/default-group&callStatus/t/Open/1/1/0/default-group&callStatus/t/Closed/1/1/0/default-group&+identifier/desc

DFG (Candidates can apply as PI). Application: any time:

Emmy Noether Program for Independent Group Leaders (6 year positions):

Human Frontiers postdoc fellowships. Application deadline: August 24.

Freigeist fellowship VW foundation. Application deadline: October 12.

Branco Weiss fellowship. Application deadline: January 15.

Zukunftskolleg fellowships: Application: after call.

Please contact the relevant host PI (Iain, Damien or Alex) for further information.

Postdoc Position: Collective behavior of epithelial cells and honey bees

2-Year Postdoc Position: Rules governing collective behavior at different scales  – Collective sensing and group behavior in epithelial cells and honey bees

Heidelberg Academy of Sciences project page

We seek candidates for a theoretical/computational postdoctoral research position to work on an interdisciplinary project examining collective sensing in two model systems: Epithelial cells and honey bees. Using a combination of experiments, modeling, and simulation, we will investigate how group composition affects collective sensing and decision making at these different biological scales. The proposed analysis is divided into three parts. The first step involves a robust characterization of how individual cells in a group, or individual bees in a colony, differ from each other. Following this, we examine the mechanisms that drive type/task differentiation in the group. Finally, we seek to use experimental manipulations combined with data analysis and model simulation to ask how group composition and within-group differences affect group function in these systems. Through this comparative analysis we seek both common rules of behavior, as well as contrasting mechanisms which are specific to each system.

The position will be based in the Department of Collective Behavior at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and the Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behavior at the University of Konstanz. For this project, the successful candidate will join an active team of postdoctoral researchers spanning multiple disciplines: Cellular biology (Medhavi Vishwakarma), honey bee biology (Michael L Smith), and mathematical modeling (Jacob D Davidson). Specific expertise in cellular biology or social insect biology is not necessary, but an ability to span between and contribute to both systems is essential.

The postdoc will work both independently and part of an active research team to develop research questions and perform analysis.  A strong computational background is ideal (e.g. data analysis, modeling, simulation).  Experimental data will be provided, so this position does not involve lab or field work. Preliminary results, however, may lead to additional experiments in collaboration with other team members. Innovative and creative thinkers are especially encouraged to apply. The working language is English.


  • Ph.D. (or equivalent) in computer science, physics, engineering, computational biology, or related.
  • A commitment to working in an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment.

Applicants should email the following as a single PDF to:

  • cover letter describing your interest and qualifications for this position (1-page)
  • curriculum vitae (CV)
  • contact information for 3 references

All applications received prior to 15 July 2019 will be given full consideration.


Employment information:

The position is fully funded by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences for two-years. The initial appointment is for one year, with renewal for a second year contingent on satisfactory performance. Start date is negotiable, but ideally no later than 1 January 2020. The postdoc will be employed through the Heidelberg Akademie der Wissenschaft, with a guest hosting agreement through the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior.

Salary will be set based on the fee group 13 TV-L, in accordance with your qualification and the collective agreement for the public service (TVöD-Bund).  Handicapped applicants will be given preferential treatment if they are of the same suitability.


PDF version of this post:  Bees_Cells_PostdocAd_2019