MSc. Alina Schaffer
Position: PhD student
E-mail: alina.schaffer@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]uni-leipzig.de
Research Group Primate Behavioural Ecology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primate Behavior and Evolution
Deutscher Platz 6
University of Leipzig Faculty of Life Science
Institute of Biology
Behavioral Ecology Research Group
In the last century, a large number of studies have experimentally investigated cognitive skills across animals, providing us with a vast dataset on the distribution of specific cognitive skills across taxa. By comparing cognitive skills across species, researchers may evidence variation in problem-solving abilities and better understand the proximate processes leading to the emergence of complex cognition. Moreover, a comparative approach allows researchers to understand the evolutionary challenges linked to the emergence of specific skills, shedding light into the evolutionary origins of human cognition. This approach uniquely allows addressing questions about the uniqueness of human cognition and its evolutionary endowment, and it is therefore crucial for researchers spanning from comparative and developmental psychology to evolutionary biology and psychology.
In my project, I will work on ungulates, which are an ideal model to test, as they show an impressive variety of socio-ecological characteristics like dietary breadth, predation level, group size, fission-fusion sociality or domestication level. By testing different species, I will assess which socio-ecological characteristics are linked to enhanced performance in different cognitive tasks, while controlling for intra-specific variation (in terms of sex, age, rank, sociality, personality). By directly comparing their performance with the same battery of ecologically valid cognitive tasks, I will be able to understand which evolutionary forces likely led to the emergence of these skills.
|Since 10/2020||PhD student at the University of Leipzig and Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig (MPI EVA)
Dissertation title: “Can socio-ecological factors and personality explain inter- and intra-specific variation in ungulate cognition?”
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Anja Widdig (University of Leipzig)
Funded by the Cusanuswerk
|10/2015-02/2018||Master of Science in Molecular Ecology
Thesis title: „Predator-induced morphological defenses in male Daphnia“
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch (University of Bayreuth), Dr. Max Rabus (University of Bayreuth)
|10/2011-01/2016||Bachelor of Science in Biology
Thesis title: “Is the archerfish predictive start fed with information from all spectral channels?”
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Stefan Schuster (University of Bayreuth), Dr. Wolfram Schulze (University of Bayreuth)
|03/2019-03/2020||Research assistant (as Pre-doc award)
Project “Gaze following in ungulates: domesticated and non-domesticated species follow the gaze of both humans and conspecifics in an experimental context” under the supervision of Dr. Federica Amici (MPI EVA, University of Leipzig)
Project “Innovation and social facilitation tests in ungulates” under the supervision of Dr. Federica Amici (MPI EVA, University of Leipzig)
Project “Neophobia in ungulates – a comparative approach“ under the supervision of Dr. Federica Amici (MPI EVA, University of Leipzig)
|11/2015 + 02/2016||Student assistant
University of Bayreuth, Department of plant ecology
|03/2019-03/2020||Pre-Doc Award (Funding for preparing a PhD project) by the Research Academy of the University of Leipzig|
Schaffer, A., Caicoya, A. L., Colell, M., Holland, R., von Fersen, L., Widdig, A., & Amici, F. (2021). Neophobia in 10 ungulate specie - a comparative approach. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 75: 102.
Schaffer, A., Caicoya, A. L., Colell, M., Holland, R., Ensenyat, C., & Amici, F. (2020). Gaze following in ungulates: Domesticated and non-domesticated species follow the gaze of both human and conspecifics in an experimental context. Frontiers in Psychology, 11: 604904.
Alina Schaffer, Alvaro L. Caicoya, Montserrat Colell, Ruben Holland, Lorenzo von Fersen, Anja Widdig, Federica Amici. “Neophobia in ungulates – a comparative approach”.