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Sarah Marshall-Pescini, PhD, Priv.-Doz.

Konrad-Lorenz-Institut of Ethology
WG Domestication
Department of Interdisciplinary Life Sciences
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Dörfles 48
A-2115 Ernstbrunn

T +43 (1) 25077 0
Email Sarah Marshall




My research is focused on social behaviour and cognition. I started initially with investigating mechanisms relating to social learning in various primates (baboons, macacques and chimpanzees), and later turned my attention to dogs.
Since working at the Wolf Science, I have been particularly interested in comparing wolves' and dogs' social behaviour with conspecifics, and investigating what factors may be driving the difference we have observed. To better understand these aspects I have been particularly keen to expand our studies to free-living dogs and wolves in various locations (Italy and Marocco in particular).

Current Projects

  • 2020-2024: Joint International Project: Principle investigator (with Friederike Range; Malgorzata Pilot, Polish Academy of Science): Testing the Domestication Syndrome hypothesis in free-ranging domestic dogs. (FWF I-5052) (€ 683.000)
  • 2020-2024: Principle investigator (with Marco Apollonio, University of Sassari and Friederike Range): Urbanization of a top predator: are wolves and humans adapting to life in close proximity? WWTF- Vienna Science and Technology Fund (ESR20-009) (€ 650.000) 
  • 2021-2024: Co-investigator (with Sabine Tebbich & Friederike Range) Proximate mechanisms underlying problem solving abilities in dogs and wolves (FWF ) (€ 400.000).
  • 2020: Conflict management in wolves and dogs (Niederösterrich Sicence Grant) (€ 14.000)
  • 2016-2020: Principle investigator (with Friederike Range & Tobias Deschner): A new look at domestication: the role of oxytocin in wolves’ and dogs’ social relationships with conspecific and human partners. WWTF- Vienna Science and Technology Fund (CS15-018) (€ 600.000)

Completed Projects

  • 2016-2019 with Martina Lazzaroni and Friederike Range ‘The effect of human socialization on problem solving abilities of canines; are dogs socially more dependent than wolves?’ Austrian Academy of Sciences (€ 112.000)
  • 2012-2014 with Dr. Cafazzo, Friederike Range & Zsófia Virányi, Wolf Science Centre (WSC), Vienna ‘Peace-making and conflict management in wolves and domestic dogs’. FWF- Meitner Programme -Project nr. BM1400-B19 (€ 160.000).


Since joining the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna I have been teaching classes in the 'Animal Behaviour', 'Canine Evolution, Behavior and Cognition' and 'Into Science' courses, in the framework of the MA in IMHAI.

Curriculum Vitae

Public outreach and Education

Most of my outreach work has been in presenting our work at workshops and/or conference for dog trainers/workers in Italy. I normally attend between 2 and 4 of such events each year.

Education and Qualifications


Habilitation Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna


Italian State Habilitation for the Associate Professor, in Comparative Psychology and Zoology.

This is a peer-reviewed process which allows successful candidate to subsequently apply for relevant positions at Italian University in the ‘habilitated’ disciplines.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Psychobiology, University of Milan, Milan, Italy. “Relational and Environmental factors affecting pet dogs’ performance in socio-cognitive tasks”.
Supervised by Professor Prato-Previde, Biomedical Sciences and Technology Department, University of Milan.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Psychology, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, U.K.

“Observational Learning in Chimpanzees using Naturalistic Experimental tasks." The research project was carried out on Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Uganda.

Supervised by Professor Whiten, School of Psychology, St. Andrews University.


Master of Arts (MA), Psychology University of St. Andrews, Scotland, U.K.

Thesis title: “Social learning and imitation in captive stump-tail macaques” (Professor Whiten)
First class distinction obtained for the dissertation.



Senior scientist Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria


Senior Post-doctoral scientist, Comparative Cognition, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, Wolf Science Centre, Ernstbrunn, Austria, March ERC Funded research- CanCoop: principle investigator Friederike Range PhD ERC Grant Agreement n. [311870]
Supervision and development of novel research paradigms for the investigation of cooperation, prosociality and inequity aversion and the underlying emotional, physiological and cognitive mechanisms in wolves, pack dogs and pet dogs.


Post-doctoral grant ("assegno di ricerca"), University of Milan, Biomedical Sciences and Technology Department. Co-founder of a Dog Cognition Lab of the University of Milan. Funded by a Post-doctoral fellowship I obtained from the University of Milan.

Project involving social cognition in dogs and human infants.
Supervision of PhD, and Master students, on social cognition projects at the Lab
Lab management