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Ariana Strandburg-Peshkin

Group Leader

astrandburg at

I study the mechanisms and consequences of collective behavior in biological and social systems. I am especially interested in understanding how animal groups make collective decisions and coordinate collective action, and in particular how these processes are affected by the social relationships between group members and the communication strategies they employ. I work across a range of study systems to tackle these questions, in close collaboration with researchers across a variety of disciplines.

Originally from Chicago, I did my undergraduate degree in Physics at Swarthmore College, then did my PhD in Quantitative and Computational Biology at Princeton University. I then moved across the pond to Europe, where I held post doc positions at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Zurich before moving to Konstanz in 2018. When not working, I enjoy traveling (especially via Swiss transit), cooking, eating, riding my bicycle, and learning German.


Vlad Demartsev

Postdoc (Humboldt Fellow)

vdemartsev at

I am a behavioural ecologist interested mainly in the topics of mammalian vocal communication in social settings. For the past 9 years, I have focused on the interplay between different aspects of the social environment with different aspects of signalling tactics and signal structure. I have investigated how the presence, composition and attentive state of conspecific audience affect individuals` signalling behaviour. On the flip side, I have explored how individuals` are able to maximize their gain from signalling and reach a more abundant and attentive audience by correctly timing their signalling events and also producing signals which are more effective in gaining and maintaining audience attention.

Currently, I am in the process of conceptually and methodologically developing a project dealing with the motivational phase of vocal signalling in an attempt to detect the animals' preparations and intentions to vocalize. Additionally, I am also interested in investigating animals’ ability to maintain continuous vocal interactions which include multiple interactions turns and dynamic informational content.  I have a very strong preference for field-based, experimental studies, as they allow us to witness animal behaviour in its natural ecological and biological contexts. 


Gabriella Gall

Postdoc (Zukunftskolleg Fellow)

gabriella.gall at

My current research aims to understand how differences in early experiences can affect an individual’s ability to coordinate effectively with group members later in life and whether and if so, how these differences ultimately affect individual fitness. I address these questions using two study systems, the domestic chicken and the common pheasant, and make use of the fact that both species are highly vocal and use acoustic signals to coordinate group activities. This work is in close collaboration with Prof Madden (University of Exeter) and Prof Radford (University of Bristol).

I completed my PhD on meerkat group coordination and decision-making at the University of Zurich, after which I studied the effect of anthropogenic disturbances on the social cohesion of California ground squirrels in collaboration with Dr Smith at Mills College. I also did a postdoc with Dr Meroz at Tel Aviv University to study the self-organisation of mutually shading sunflower plants. When not at work I love everything related to the arts and crafts and always appreciate a donation of wine-corks.


Nico Gradwohl

Postdoc (CASCB)

nico.gradwohl at

My current work addresses how consensus formation in human groups is affected by the ways in which individuals shape their communication networks over time. Relying on online group-experiments, we ask to what degree individuals seek out the opinions of different or similar others. Thereby, we are especially interested in whether minorities can create communication structures that convince individuals who are actually the majority to adopt the minority opinion. I am currently working on an interdisciplinary endeavor together with Helge Giese and Ari, including both psychologists and biologists.

After having completed my M.Sc., I am about to receive my PhD in Psychology, which I did in Wolfgang Gaissmaier’s working group on Social Psychology and Decision Sciences at the University of Konstanz. I am fascinated by the various ways in which human decision making is affected by the presence of others. Thereby, my main interest circles around the strategies that individuals use to navigate their complex social surroundings, requiring us to manage competition for limited resources, integrate the information available and coordinate our actions with others.


Julian Zimmermann


jzimmermann at

I am a physicist stumbling into the exciting field of animal ecology. In all generality, my research is about adapting machine- and deep-learning methods to scientific domains, such as bioacoustics.

Originally from Berlin, I have a somewhat scattered cv where I started as a trained audio technician, worked briefly in the film industry, and then studied physics, where I did a Bachelor's and Master's thesis in Geophysics. Then, I completed my doctorate in nonlinear quantum optics and collective many-body effects in nanoparticles. After a PostDoc at ETH Zurich, where I led the machine-learning team in the Nanostructures and Ultrafast X-ray Science group of Daniela Rupp, I am now working on representation learning of animal vocalizations.

The questions I am trying to answer are primarily concerned with finding a measure for similarity in animal vocalization (For example, for unsupervised classification of call types, subsequent identification of individuals, or sorting calls w.r.t. external levels of threat), where I use techniques from self-supervised learning.

When not sitting in front of a PC, I spend my remaining time with my family, where my daughter recently discovered that she is the boss of it all.


Pritish Chakravarty


pchakravarty at

I am an engineer interested in the measurement and analysis of animal behavior. I use on-animal sensors to record animal behavioral data, and analyze these by developing new quantitative methods. These analyses are driven by ecological research questions, where I collaborate closely with behavioral ecologists. Past and ongoing projects include fine-scale foraging strategies and energetics in meerkats, movement patterns of leopard tortoises, and perception and motion of fish in visually noisy environments. My current work focuses on quantifying sleep patterns in the wild across animal species using accelerometers.

A Bengali from Chandigarh, I did a BTech in Chemical Engineering (Hons) from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India. After continuing there as a Research Assistant in Microfluidics, I moved to Switzerland to do an MSc in Bioengineering (minor in Biomedical Technologies) from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); my Master thesis was done partly at the Swiss BioMotion Lab and partly at the Stanford BioMotion Lab. I then did a PhD in Measurement and Analysis of Animal Behavior from EPFL. Following that, I did two postdocs, one at the University of Zurich and another at the University of Cambridge. In the past, I would devote my spare time and energy to table tennis, squash, guitar-playing and singing-songwriting, but now these have been supplanted by reading and meditation.


Emily Grout

PhD Student

egrout at

I am interested in the behavioural ecology of social mammals, with a focus on field-based data collection. My undergraduate degree was in Zoology at the University of Bristol, where I continued as a masters by research student. For my masters, I studied alloparental care in a habituated population of wild dwarf mongooses in South Africa at the Dwarf Mongoose Research Project. I collected detailed observations of adult-pup interactions to assess the different types of alloparental activities which are exhibited and whether dominance status, sex and age influenced variation between these caring tasks.

For my PhD, I will be studying communication and collective movement of white-nosed coatis, which live in forested areas in the Americas. I will be recording acoustic and movement data from the majority of coati group members using custom built collars to analyse how group cohesion is coordinated and maintained through acoustic communication. I am excited to be combining detailed field-based observations with new tracking technologies to answer questions about the mechanisms underlying collective movement in social mammals.


Pranav Minasandra

PhD Student (DAAD Fellow)

pminasandra at

I am fascinated by behaviours exhibited by animal collectives, such as movement and synchronisation. I am also intrigued by computational and theoretical methods in biology, and love handling interesting datasets. My Master's and Bachelor's, both in biology, were completed in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. There, I worked on grouping in blackbuck, collective track formation by herbivores, and several other problems. In collaboration with Ari, during my master's I studied behavioural dynamics using accelerometry of spotted hyenas.

My PhD addresses a variety of questions, from the synchronisation of circadian rhythms in spotted hyenas to the dynamics of behaviour at the fine scale across species and the validity of information theoretic methods in the study of behaviour.


Sharaj Kunjar

Technical Assistant

skunjar at

Hey there! I’m Sharaj (they/them). My interests are at the interface of complex systems and computational social sciences. More specifically, I love studying the interplay of individual level decision-making and collective behavior to observe critical transitions and emergent social structures. My current work involves analyzing movement and vocalization datasets of meerkat groups to learn how foraging behavior varies with social and environmental factors.

Prior to this, I studied consensus decision-making dynamics in social networks with Ari and Nico. Through voter models and numerical simulations, we investigated how individuals could use link updating tendencies to bias global consensus outcomes. This was part of my bachelor’s thesis in physics at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Besides academics, I love cooking and engaging in political conversations. I also occasionally sing and play the guitar. Feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to chat!


Amlan Nayak

MSc Student (IISER Mohali)

ms18197 at

I am interested in the collective behavior of animal groups. More specifically, I want to understand how decision-making, information transfer and movement affect the behavioral aspects of animal groups through computational approaches. I am pursuing my BS-MS Dual Degree in Physics from the Indian Institute of Science, Research and Education(IISER) Mohali.

I am currently a student assistant at the group, and my work involves movement and positional datasets of meerkat groups to understand how vigilance is coordinated among the groups. The work is being pursued in collaboration with Pranav and will be the basis for my final year Masters’ Thesis at IISER Mohali.


Rebecca Schaefer (Field Assistant, 2019)

Katja Della Libera (Undergraduate Thesis Student, 2020-2021)

Mathieu Duteil (Postdoc, 2020-2021)

Pauline Toni (Field Assistant, 2021)

Camille Lysemna (Field Assistant, 2021)

Kiran Dhanjal-Adams (Postdoc, 2019-2021)

Mara Thomas (MSc, 2020-2021; Postdoc, 2021)

Baptiste Averly (PhD Student, 2018-2022)
Vivek Hari Sridhar (Postdoc, 2021-2022)

Julián León (Visiting PhD Student, 2021-2022)

Ingerid Helgestad (Research Assistant, 2021-2022)

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