Our Team

We’re a diverse bunch, from field biologists, fish nerds, artists, computational ethologists, theoreticians, and neuroanatomists. Whatever our expertise, we are all fascinated by the evolution and mechanisms of animal behaviour, and go out of our way to observe our systems and species in their natural settings.

Someone once told me this part of of the website should be more serious, but I’m not into that. If you’d like to join this rabble, drop a line to ajordan@ab.mpg.de and we can discuss opportunities.

Alex Jordan

Like a drunk captain at the helm of a pirate vessel on the seven seas, Alex steers the lab ship, and wishes he looked just a little more like Keira Knightley. You can learn more about Alex here.

POSTDOCS

Aneesh Bose

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Aneesh comes from a background of flipping rocks and bothering the inhabitants he finds underneath. Often this occurs during their most intimate and private times of life. He continues this, now underwater and en masse with machine vision and other scary things.

Aneesh’s work looks at social structure, reproductive behaviour, and ecotoxicology in Tanganyika cichlids. He is funded by a Humboldt Foundation Postdoctoral fellowship, and a Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour grant. Aneesh’s website.

Erin McCallum

Erin is like a migratory bird, sheltering in the Southern German Alps outside her typical UD50% range in Sweden. Since she brings drugs for the fish everyone is chilled out so it’s all good.

She’s a behavioural ecologist and ecotoxicologist interested in understanding the causes and consequences of anthropogenic stressors for aquatic wildlife. Working both in the lab and field, I strive to understand how stressors, particularly pollutants, affect animals across multiple levels of biological organization. https://www.erinsmccallum.com/

Kaz Uyehara

The collective behaviour of plants? Sounds like Monsanto have been up to their old GMO tricks, mixing genes that ought not be mixed. Or is it all organic?

Kaz is asking how flowering plants alter their posture in response to shading, and how this affects fitness outcomes in social settings. He is funded by an HFSP Young Investigators grant to the Peleg, Meroz, and Jordan labs.

PHD STUDENTS

Anja Wegner

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At any given point in time, Anja is likely to be somewhere in the physical world supplying fish with hot pink sculptures, and somewhere in the conceptual world between art and science.

Anja’s project explores the relationship between social behaviour and physical structure, but does so from the perspective of art, architecture, and the co-existence of humans and non-human animals. She is funded TBA21-Academy and the Max Planck Institute.

Etienne Lein

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Etienne is mad for fish brains, like some kind of piscine zombie. He also loves social structure and interaction networks, and has many dear enemies. For some reason he has zero web presence, so on searching for him you instead find the second best Welsh footballer holding a chicken.

Etienne’s PhD focuses on the evolution of social behaviour in the Lamprologine cichlids of Lake Tanganyika, incorporating elements of cognition, neuroanatomy, and behaviour. He is funded by the Max Planck Institute.

Ian Etheredge

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Ian is a Renaissance man, combining insights and techniques from Da Vinci, Darwin, Turing, and Bob Ross to paint a picture of biological beauty like no other. He also sometimes (often) wears cowboy boots to the lab, so we’ve elected him a safety officer for setting such a good footwear example.

Ian studies social interactions from a physical perspective, asking how the characteristics of motion and posture can give us insight into the evolution of reproductive signalling in guppies.

Ma Bin

Bin has taken to quantitative analysis like a fish to water. Which is ironic since he can’t swim. And is not a fish. Also I don’t know what irony is.

He studies the ways social contexts affect behaviour and autonomic stress responses in social cichlids. Bin is funded by the CSC.

Paul Nührenberg

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Paul only joined the lab because of the martial arts links we have, so we randomly attack him in the hallways, typically with Wu-Tang samples. He re-encodes them as semi-sentient automatons, which causes all sorts of problems for basic lab management.

Paul is looking for signatures of evolution along social and behavioural axes in the adaptive radiation of Tanganyikan cichlids.

MASTERS STUDENTS

Shehide Gashi

Brains make behaviour, and behaviour shapes brains. And Vine leaves make Sarma. Follow me?

Sylvia Garza

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Sylvia joined the lab before it even existed, all the way back in 2013, when the Texas sun had to be fought off with strong Tequila. Now we’ve come all the way to Konstanz, where the German cold has to be fought off with strong Schnapps. So, not much has changed.

Sylvi’s work asks how male Trichonephila spiders navigate on the webs of much larger and more dangerous cannibalistic females.

Zoë Goverts

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I have seen a card certifying that Zoe is a divemaster, despite her apparent difficulties figuring out how to correctly wear a mask. That means she has actual qualifications and could get paid money to swim around in nice places. Instead she will be spending her time watching fish fight over territory boundaries, and is unlikely to receive any financial payoff. Different strokes I suppose.

Zoe works on home range and territorial behaviour of Mediterranean wrasse.

Myriam Knöpfle

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Like the best of us, Myriam sometimes suffers from seasickness. Does that stop her swimming around madly after fish in Corsica hoping they touch each other softly? No sir it does not. Kudos.

Myri is exploring tactile stimulation as a strategy to increase access to food in a producer-scrounger relationship.

Lukas Koch

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Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the bowers and pits of the Lamrologine cichlids and Ocellated Wrasse might be. Lukas knows, but he mostly speaks to fish so we have no idea.

Lukasi studies how behavioural elements of construction have diverged across the Lamprologine cichlids.

Giacomo May

Giacomo squeezes in some analysis of animal behaviour and movement when he’s been fouled out of his games in the 3rd 4th Division Basketball league.

Julien Bouvet

This Lyonnais comes equipped with all the tools to get to bottom of the relationship between social complexity and social behaviour.

Rolf Walter

Ever had that feeling that something is creeping up right behind you about to pounce? Rolf is trying to figure out whether fish feel the same… his project asks how social groups respond to predator threats.

Johannes Windorfer (MSc)

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Johannes likes Karaoke and biological architecture. An unnatural mix, just like his experiments with reversed chirality. Johannes is now an MSc student at Uni Neuchatel, but is back in the lab with us working on his thesis project.

Tim Singer

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Tim was at a McDonalds late one night when some rough folks came through. Huddling close to his friends for protection he realised that risk can fundamentally alter social relationships, and so studies the same process in fish. He wants to know how landscapes of fear affect social network structure.

Matze Stiehler

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Matze wondered if Octopus prefer one arm over another, but thought that was too easy with only eight arms to worry about, so instead focuses on the hundreds of urchin appendages used for navigation. He asks whether the navigation decisions of urchins depend sensory input or motor output of the tube feet.

Ana Zaalishvili

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Can you figure out the hierarchy in this murky underwater picture? I can’t, but Ana has a few more tricks up her sleeve to determine the mechanistic basis of underwater hierarchy. In fish though.

Ana looks at how social hierarchies form and develop over time in Tanganyikan cichlids.

BACHELORS STUDENTS

Karina Weiler

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This facial expression is exactly the sort of thing a human would do in a mirror. Doing it underwater is a bit clever, and Karina aims to find out if fish can do exactly that.

Jan Oberkofler

Florian Kaempf

Too many memes have addled Florian’s brain, and he has become convinced he is Thor. Ah, just as long as he keeps watching fish contests, and doesn’t electrocute anything, I guess it’s fine.

Charlotte Ackermann

Friends, affiliated folks, and co-supervised students

Mariana Rodriguez (Affiliated PhD Hofmann Lab UT Austin)

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Mariana “Mad Dog” Rodriguez is a PhD student in the Hofmann Lab that was simply too good to leave behind in the badlands of Texas, so we bring her to the Alps to cool off when we can.

Amir Haluts (Affliated PhD Gov Lab Weizmann)

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Spiders are scary for some folks, but the sort of physics and maths in some of Amir’s presentations are downright terrifying. He takes it slow though, so we get there in the end…

Shoyo Sato (Affiliated PhD Giribet Lab Harvard)

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Shoyo decided to forgo a prestigious research institute like the Max Planck and has now ended up at a university no one has ever heard of… Harland I think, or perhaps Karvard? Anyway, he remains an affiliate lab member and studies the evolution of social behaviour in spiders.

Ash Parker (Extended network – Baier Lab, MPI Neurobiology)

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Talk about a common name… I can’t find the real Ash Parker anywhere on the web. Probably because she’s sitting in dark rooms waiting for baby cichlids to open their eyes and explore the world.

Qiaoyi Liang (Extended network – Baldwin Lab, MPI Ornithology)

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In the institutional sense, Qiaoyi is a sister from another mister… well in this case miss. Or Frau. Actually it’s doctor in Maude’s case, but that doesn’t rhyme. Anyway you get the idea. Maybe.

Lab Alumni

Jakob Gübel (MSc)

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Paco gave up work in the Middle-Eastern desert in the summer, where it’s 45 degrees Celsius in the shade, to torment male and female cichlids by temporarily removing their precious shells. He may feel aggrieved by the fact that fishes are so comfortable in the water while he, it seems, cannot swim, preferring instead to clamber up stone walls like Gollum.

Huy Nguyen (MSc)

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Huy aims to be the bridge between warring factions on the battlefront of Lamprologine cichlid behaviour. He looks up for it.

Rosanna Stolberg (BSc)

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How do you feel when you see another human? Rosie is super-personable, and probably has all sorts of dopaminergic activity throughout her mesolimbic reward system when she sees a conspecific. Some of us are more like Van Morrison. Fish are the same we think, and Rosie aims to find out.

Simon Gingins (Affiliated Postdoc Couzin Lab)

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Like all good Swiss, Simon endeavours to accelerate down hills as quickly as he can manage. Luckily his diving does not follow the same pattern, and he manages to stay within safe limits and get back to the surface to show us his fantastic photos.

Fritz Francisco (MSc)

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Fritz  got too drunk at a pirate metal gig one night, and we found him the next morning in our labs attempting to finish his set with a guitar crudely constructed from old nets and a drum kit of empty food containers. It actually sounded pretty good so we kept him.

Anka Pöhl (Intern)

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Anka is looking for fish in a dried our riverbed full of hippos, but at least she has a giant telephoto lens so might be able to spot something without being eaten.

Sofia Rodriguez-Brenes (Postdoc)

Sofia is a field biologist, and one of the best around. She is also the only person I know to take an umbrella into the most dangerous rainforest in the world.

Jian Zhao (PhD)

Jian is like a Mother Gaia for fish, wanting to ensure all are fed and nurtured in the best possible way. By using robots. And laser beams.

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Manuel Wildner (co-advised with Prof Oliver Deussen, Uni Konstanz Computer Science)

Manuel makes video games with fish, but the incentive structure kind of sucks. At least there are no micro-transactions.

Jacqueline Dettinger (BSc)

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Paradoxically, Jacqueline is simultaneously our most junior and most senior member, being one of the first people to join the lab when we started in Konstanz. She puts fish in dark rooms and watches their every move with infra-red cameras. Creepy.

Ivo Neufert (BSc)

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Ivo loves Shakira and was in the front row of her concert as a younger man. He plays with conditional mating strategies. Enough said.

Kai Schleifer (BSc)

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What can I say. Times are tough and children are cheaper to employ than adults. Also Kai has a sweet blue/red eye dichromatism, which scares the hell out of other kids and may explain why he hangs around the spider lab so much.

Elina Rittelman (BSc)

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Ever had a dream where fish had little swords and shields and went to war with each other? No? Well Elina has.

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