My general research interests are in social evolution and behavioural ecology. More specifically my foci are on the effects of habitat variables on the social structure of organisms, along with consequences of dispersal and patterns of kinship. Within this framework, I am particularly interested in the characteristics of dominance relationships and interactions, including effects on reproductive physiology and senescence.
My PhD research focuses on feeding competition among wild female bonobos (Pan paniscus) in LuiKotale, Democratic Republic of Congo. Among the primary aims of this work is to test predictions stemming from the socio-ecological model in understanding the mechanisms underlying differences in social structure between bonobo and chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). These two closely related species share several characteristics including female-biased dispersal, fission-fusion dynamics and morphology. Yet there seems to be pronounced differences in e.g. female gregariousness and sociality, where the bonobo females are considered more gregarious while in the chimpanzee it is the males that are the more social sex.
I am investigating potential seasonality- and rank-dependent variation in energy balance by combining behavioural data and endocrine correlates, namely C-peptide and cortisol levels, from non-invasively collected urine samples. Besides shedding light on the costs and benefits of sociality in wild female bonobos, the findings may hopefully yield additional insight into the evolution of human societies.
This project has been made possible by the collaboration of Georg-August-University Göttingen and Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology with the funding provided by DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft/German Research Foundation).