News Release

World Congress on Behavioural Science at Bielefeld University

Top international academics at Behaviour 2023

Meeting Announcement

Bielefeld University

University hosts world congress on behavioural research

image: Professors Dr Barbara Caspers and Dr Oliver Krüger are responsible for organising Behaviour 2023, which will be hosted by Bielefeld University this summer. view more 

Credit: Bielefeld University/M. Adamski

The focus of the world’s largest conference on behavioural research, due to take place in a few days from 14 to 20 August at Bielefeld University, is on animal behavior – its changes and backgrounds. Over 800 registered participants, including top academics from a broad spectrum of fields – from ethology to behavioural genetics to anthropology – will share their research and areas of expertise at Behaviour 2023. The multidisciplinary and international congress is the biennial main conference of the International Council of Ethologists (IEC).

Grundtext Can individualisation help animal species cope with climate change? And what kinds of selection pressures may actually improve the cognitive ability of a species? A variety of current issues will be addressed during the congress in the 38 symposia and 56 general sessions scheduled: classic topics such as plasticity, social behaviour, and communication, but also emerging topics such as microbiome research, emotions in animals, and meta-analyses with large data sets. ‘We are delighted to be bringing together so many outstanding academics with their exciting research topics here at Behaviour 2023 in Bielefeld and are looking forward to the scientific exchange,’ says Professor Dr Oliver Krüger, head of Behavioural Research at the Bielefeld University’s Faculty of Biology. Krüger is spokesperson for the conference organising team together with Professor Dr Barbara Caspers.

Caspers will also be taking part as one of the plenary speakers. One of the topics of her lecture will be the ability of zebra finches to recognise close relatives by smell. Other plenary speakers include the director of the Department for the Ecology of Animal Societies at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour and Alexander von Humboldt Professor at the University of Konstanz Dr Meg Crofoot, behavioural ecologist and conservation biologist Professor Stotra Chakrabarti PhD from Macalester College, Saint Paul (USA), Professor of biosciences Julia Saltz PhD from Rice University, Houston (USA), Professor of biology Michael Kasumovic PhD from the University of New South Wales in Sydney (Australia), and Professor of ethology Dr Melissa Bateson from the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution at Newcastle University (UK). The international experts will be providing insights into their research.

38 nations are represented at the congress

The organisers, invited speakers, and participants come from 38 different countries. There will be more than 600 talks and over 150 poster presentations. Besides the 38 symposia, there are also six workshops on the schedule, including sessions on topics such as inclusivity, diversity, and equality in biology. The organisers are actively promoting the concepts of diversity and equality by providing childcare during the conference and adopting a code of conduct, which some members of the team have been trained to implement, in order to make the conference a safe space for everyone. Sustainability is reflected in all aspects of the organisation—including catering, mobility, and waste avoidance by using sustainable products.

The congress programme for participants will be rounded off with excursions, for example to surrounding nature reserves. Various networking and social events are also planned for conference participants, for example on the topics of climate change and bioacoustics. By keeping conference fees comparatively low, the organisers wanted to enable as many academics of all career levels as possible, as well as students, to take part in the congress. 

Public and free part of the congress

On Saturday, 19 August, interested people who are not attending the entire congress will have the opportunity to learn more about behavioural research at a public session. Starting at 7 p.m., the German-language event will take place in the large lecture hall Y-O-111 in the University's Y-building. Dr. Isabelle Szott, behavioural researcher at apopo innovation, from Tanzania will speak on the topic of "Unexpected superheroes: how rats save lives!" and Professor Dr. Fritz Trillmich, behavioural researcher at Bielefeld University, on the topic "Always trouble with the family?" Registration for this public and free part of the congress is not required.

Other cities where this major conference has been held in the past include Newcastle (Great Britain), Cairns (Australia), Estoril (Portugal), and Chicago (USA). Bielefeld played host to the International Ethological Congress, as it was still called at the time, back in 1977, making it one of only two universities in the history of the IEC to succeed in holding the conference for a second time.

Behaviour is staged every two years and is the main conference of the International Council of Ethologists. The conference is supported by various organisations, including the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB), the Ethological Society, and the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB). These organisations run conferences and award scholarships to academics and students.

Behavioural Research at Bielefeld University’s Faculty of Biology

The chair of Behavioural Research at the Faculty of Biology comprises a team of more than 50 academics. They study animal behaviour in the context of Nikolaas Tinbergen’s four-question theory. Bielefeld’s behavioural research is currently known for its laboratory studies on zebra finches and wild guinea pigs, as well as its long-term field studies on birds of prey such as the buzzard and the goshawk, or research on seal species such as the Galapagos sea lion and the Antarctic fur seal. Under Professor Dr Klaus Immelmann, the chair, which was founded on 1 November 1973, has developed into a leading international centre for behavioural research. Professor Dr Oliver Krüger has headed the chair since 2013. In 2020, the field of behavioural ecology was launched and headed by Professor Dr Barbara Caspers, further strengthening the diversity of research topics at Bielefeld University. A current major project is the Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio ‘A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution: Niche Choice, Niche Conformance, Niche Construction (NC³)" (CRC/TRR 212), which was founded in 2018 by Bielefeld University and the University of Münster and is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The research network ‘Individualisation in Changing Environments’ (InChangE) has been running since 2021 in cooperation with the University of Münster. It is funded by the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Culture and Science.

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