My research focuses on several aspects of animal cognition and behaviour. I have a keen interest in understanding the proximate mechanisms underlying cooperation and the factors that might influence social relationships within and across species (e.g. human-animal relationship). Although I have worked with non-human primates in the past conducting field studies in Africa, in 2007, I started to shift my interests towards dogs and together with Ludwig Huber and Zsófia Virányi, we established the Clever Dog Lab (www.cleverdoglab.at). However, when investigating dogs, one important question that always comes up is whether dogs’ cognitive abilities are due to the effect of domestication. To explore this question, together with Zsófia Virányi and Kurt Kotrschal, I have established the Wolf Science Center, where wolves and dogs are raised and kept under similar conditions allowing us to study the effect of domestication on dogs’ cognition and behaviour without the confounding factor of different experiences. In recent years, fieldwork has caught up again and we have started to expand our research to free-ranging populations of wolves and dogs to understand how their socio-ecology influences their skills.
- 2021-2024: Principal-investigator (with Sabine Tebbich & Sarah Marshall-Pescini) Proximate mechanisms underlying problem solving abilities in dogs and wolves (FWF)(€ 400.000)
- 2018-2021: Principal-investigator (with Sarah Brosnan, USA) Animals’ understanding of the partner’s role in cooperation. Funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF)(€ 400.000)
- 2017-2025: Doctoral College “CogCom2: Cognition and Communication 2” (FWF): Eavesdropping in wolves and dogs
- 2020-2024: Joint International Project: Co-investigator (with Sarah Marshall-Pescini (PI) Malgorzata Pilot, Polish Academy of Science): Testing the Domestication Syndrome hypothesis in free-ranging domestic dogs. (FWF I-5052) (€ 683.000)
- 2020-2024: Co-Investigator (with Sarah Marshall-Pescini (PI), Marco Apollonio, University of Sassari): 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)
- Understanding the Proximate Mechanisms of Canine Cooperation. ERC Starting grant (EU)
- Can nutrition reduce cognitive aging in pet dogs. Funded by a company.
I am teaching a Journal Club at the Wolf Science Center and classes in ‘Animal Behaviour’, ‘Canine Evolution, Behavior and Cognition’ and a practical methods class ‘Into Science’ in the framework of the IMHAI. Lehre Moreover, I am supervising bachelor, master and PhD students.
I also give regular seminars for dog trainers and help organize the educational programs at the Wolf Science Center.
Habilitation at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.
Title: Social monitoring in domestic dogs
PhD at the University of Pennsylvania (Department of Psychology), USA
Thesis title: The strategies employed by sooty mangabeys in a socially complex world
Masters at the University of Bayreuth (Department of Animal Physiology), Germany
Thesis title: Social system of female sooty mangabeys
Assistant Professor at the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna; Head of Wolf Science Center
Employed as University Assistant at the Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Medical University Vienna, and University of Vienna
Project leader, Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Austrian Science Fond, ‘Cognitive tools and emotional context in canine cooperation’.
Co-Director of the Wolf Science Center; involves the responsibility for the research station including financial as well as administrative issues
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Neurobiology and Cognition, University of Vienna, Austrian Science Fond, ‘Understanding and use of social relationships’
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Neurobiology and Cognition, University of Vienna, European Community’s Sixth Framework Programme: NEST 012929, ‘Evolution, Development and Intentional Control of Imitation’. I was employed as the main researcher in this project and responsible for the design, the conducting and the analyses of experiments in marmosets, keas and dogs.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Konrad-Lorenz Institute for Ethology, Gruenau, Austria. During 5 months I carried out several experiments concerning the individual learning ability of ravens and how learning speed relates to personality.
Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Employed as technical assistant to summarize empirical and theoretical data about differences in female-female relationships between chimpanzees and bonobos.
Prizes and awards
- Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology 2012 in the area of animal learning and behavior, comparative. American Psychological Association (APA)
- Förderpreis der Stadt Wien 2010 (Research award of the City of Vienna)
- Young Investigator Award 2010 of the University of Vienna
- Nominated as a ‘Rising star 2009’ of the Association for Psychological Science (APS);
- Focus of Excellence 2008 of the University of Vienna