Our Team

We’re a diverse bunch, from computer scientists to neurobiologists to out-and-out field biologists. 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.

Backed up by the analytical might of the Department of Collective Behaviour at the Max Planck Institute, we aim for an integrative and highly-quantitative understanding of behaviour. For details on the specifics of our research projects and what each member is up to, please hop over to our page at collectivebehaviour.com

Alex Jordan


Alex is like the Ninja Turtle, Raphael, in the famous track “Turtle Power“.

Post-doctoral Fellows

Simon Gingins


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.

Sofia Rodriguez-Brenes


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.

PhD Students

R. Ian Etheredge


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.

Etienne Lein


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.

Mariana Rodriguez (co-supervised Hofmann Lab UT Austin)


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.

Shoyo Sato (co-supervised at Giribet Lab Harvard)


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.


Masters Students

Sylvia Garza


Sylvia joined the lab 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.

Jakob Guebel


Jakob works in the Middle-Eastern desert in the summer, where it’s 45 degrees Celsius in the shade. He goes there to study spiders, but come on, there are spiders on the trees outside my office, and we have beer in the fridge. It also seems he cannot swim.

Fritz Francisco


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.

Paul Nührenberg


Paul only joined the lab because of my martial arts background, so I oblige by randomly attacking him in the hallways, typically with Wu-Tang samples. The photo is not of him, but rather a google image search result of what he will no doubt look like upon graduation.



Elina Rittelman


Rosanna Stolberg


Tim Singer


Karina Weiler


Ann-Kathrin Pöhl



Lab Alumni

Jian Zhao


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.

Melanie Wickert


Melanie is like some nosey neighbour always listening in to family feuds. She is prying into the social lives of group-living cichlids to find out who is dating whom. One would think she would have enough going on to leave them to their privacy but apparently not.

Jacqueline Dettinger


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


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


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.