Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
Director, Kokolopori Bonobo Research Project, DRC
Affiliated with Bonobo Conservation Initiative
Reproductive strategies are believed to be one of the major forces that shape the variability we observe in social organization among mammals. My research focuses on mechanisms of male mate competition in bonobos and its implications for the social relationships among males and between the sexes. The aim of current studies is to elucidate the role of intra- and intersexual relationships in the contexts of competition and cooperation. Behavioural observations and corresponding endocrinological data are used to investigate underlying mechanisms of mate competition and male mating strategies in relation to social parameters such as age, dominance status, and kinship.
In the beginning of 2016 I established a new bonobo research site at Kokolopori in collaboration with Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) and Vie Sauvage. Through insights from this new site I hope to contribute to a better understanding of behavioural diversity within bonobos. Currently we are able to follow two habituated neighboring bonobo communities daily. Given the existence of two habituated communities with high range overlap, initial research will focus on the study of the poorly understood intercommunity relationships in bonobos (research projects). This is done in collaboration with Barbara Fruth and Gottfried Hohmann (LuiKotale), Tobias Deschner, and the Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversite at the University of Kisangani.
In addition to exploring these questions, my current work takes a more comparative approach, as I am convinced we can infer more about processes and selective pressures in our evolutionary past by comparing chimpanzees and bonobos, than by studying a single species. I collaborate with chimpanzees researchers such as Christophe Boesch (Taï), Kevin Langergraber (Ngogo) and Catherine Crockford (Budongo, Taï). Furthermore, I established with Roman Wittig (Budongo, Taï) and Cedric Girard-Buttoz an identical data collection protocol for the bonobo site, LuiKotale, and the chimpanzee site, Taï.
The work is currently supported by:
Professional and public service
Ad hoc reviewer:
- Folia Primatologica
- Behavioural Processes
- Animal cognition
- Animal Behaviour
- Psychological Science
- Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
- The Leakey Foundation (Award check no. 2507)
- Basler Stiftung für biologische Forschung
- Swiss National Science Foundation (PBSKP3_145844)
- Wenner-Gren Foundation (Gr. 8914)
- National Geographic Research Grant (GEFNE119-14)
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (GA1427)
Collaboration with visual artist Emanuel Mathias on a project named "The Primatologist archive"
|2006 –2011||PhD student at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig|
Dissertation title: Dominance, competition and cooperation in bonobos: a male perspective
|2009||Diploma in Secondary and Higher Education|
|2005||Studies in Secondary and Higher Education|
|2003||Diploma work at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore|
Thesis title: Ovarian development, dominance and the determintion of future queens in a primitively eusocial wasp (Ropalidia marginata)
|1999 –2002||Studies in Zoology, University of Zürich|
|1996 –1998||Basic Studies in Biology, University of Zürich|
|2004||Local administrator of MPI research field site in Kongo (DRC)|
|2005/06||Biology teacher at KZO (Highschool Zürcher Oberland)|
|2003||Field assistant for Uni Zürich and for Vogelwarte Sempach|
|Since 2003||Group and school class guide for Zoo Zürich|
|2004||Field site administration, MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology|
Dr. Fruth and Dr. Hohmann, Ethnobotany and Bonobos, Kongo (DRC)
|2003||Field assistance, Vogelwarte Sempach|
Bird Migration across the Sahara, Mauretania
|2003||Field assistance, University of Zürich|
Prof. U. Reyer, local adaptation in newt larvae, Switzerland
|1998||Field assistance, University of Zürich|
Prof. Wehner, Navigation in Desert Ants, Tunisia
- Förderpreis des Förderkreises des Deutschen Primatenzentrums
Deshpande SA, Sumana A, Surbeck M, and Gadagkar R. (2006). Wasp who would be queen: A comparative study of two primitively eusocial species. Current Science 91(3):332-336.
Van Buskirk J, Muller C, Portmann A, and Surbeck M. (2002). A test of the risk allocation hypothesis: Tadpole responses to temporal change in predation risk. Behavioral Ecology 13(4):526-530.