Public Release: 

Humboldt Professorship for animal behaviour scientist Margaret C. Crofoot

University of Konstanz acquires Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for its Collective Behaviour research area

University of Konstanz

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has awarded a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Professorship to the University of Konstanz for the internationally acclaimed animal behaviour expert Professor Margaret C. Crofoot, PhD, a pioneer of the data-based analysis of the collective behaviour of animal groups. The Humboldt Professorship comes with funding in the amount of five million euros, making it the most highly endowed research award in Germany. Its objective is to create financial incentives for international top-level researchers to accept calls to German universities. Over the next eight months, Margaret C. Crofoot will undergo a professional appointment process at the University of Konstanz while deciding upon whether to accept or decline the professorship.

"The Humboldt Professorship for Margaret C. Crofoot represents a major success for Collective Behaviour as one of our university's key research and teaching areas, which is dedicated to the data-based analysis of collective decision-making processes. Working with the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, we are in the process of creating a cutting-edge international research facility to further promote studies in this field, the 'Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives'. With Margaret C. Crofoot joining us, we would achieve our goal of bringing together pioneering Collective Behaviour experts from the fields of Biology, Computer Science, Behavioural Economics and Behavioural Psychology as well as the Social and Decision Sciences", says Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, rector of the University of Konstanz. "At the same time, 'Collective Behaviour' represents one of the University of Konstanz's three Cluster of Excellence initiatives, who have just been invited to submit a full proposal for funding in the context of the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal and State Governments", Rüdiger elaborates.

Margaret C. Crofoot is a pioneer of the relatively young discipline of "Movement Ecology" as well as the investigation of "Collective Behaviour". The biologist explores how animal groups in their natural habitats coordinate their collective movements and decision-making processes. Using GPS technology, Crofoot was able to solve a central fieldwork problem: How can wild animal herds in their entirety - i.e. the individual behaviour of every single animal in the group - be observed in order to understand how collective behaviour emerges from interactions among individuals? Margaret C. Crofoot combines GPS transmitters that are able to record the position and movements of single individuals within an animal group to the second with drone footage of the surrounding vegetation and environmental conditions. On the basis of this data, she can retrace complex decision-making processes among animal collectives. Margaret C. Crofoot's 2017 study of the decision-making behaviour of baboons has elicited particular attention. Using a collection of movement data of one group of baboons, she was able to show, amongst other things, that the group's movements as well as their decisions were not determined solely by the alpha animal, but emerged from the interplay of individual movements of individual animals.

Margaret C. Crofoot currently researches at the University of California, Davis (USA), and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. She is a member of the ICARUS executive board, a space project managed jointly by the University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell. The ICARUS space module, stationed on the International Space Station ISS, will enable the scientists to track animals equipped with special radio transmitters as they traverse the globe.

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Facts:

  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards Alexander von Humboldt Professorship to University of Konstanz for Professor Margaret C. Crofoot, PhD.
  • Highest-endowed research award in Germany worth five million euros.
  • Within eight months of the Humboldt Professorship being awarded, Margaret C. Crofoot may accept the professorship at the University of Konstanz.
  • Research area: Collective Behaviour
  • Involvement in the University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology's new cutting-edge research centre "Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives" as well as the university's proposed Cluster of Excellence "Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour".

Contact

University of Konstanz
Communications and Marketing
49-7531-88-3603
kum@uni-konstanz.de

uni.kn

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